The decision took no one by surprise, because
He did so, first, by leading the Cleveland Browns on the winning drive and producing the winning points in the final minute in their 31-27 victory against the Minnesota Vikings last weekend.
He did so, second, by confirming what coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner knew all along – that he could process plays and make decisions on where to go with the ball and deliver it in rapid-fire succession.
Hoyer might very well have received the chance to make his second start at quarterback for the Browns, against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, on the sheer strength of the outcome of his first.
What Hoyer did was help make the Browns’ offense function much better than it did in the previous two games. He helped the offensive line block better. He helped the receivers gain separation from defenders better, which, in turn, went a long way toward allowing him to throw for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
And he did it with speed – the mental speed that translated to faster execution.
Where does it come from? It was a mindset that was instilled in Hoyer during his days at Michigan State, and was reinforced during his three years with the New England Patriots (2009-2011) and last season with the Arizona Cardinals.
“Try to get your pre-snap read, confirm it after the snap, and if you can do that and you know the play well enough, you should know kind of the general vicinity to where to be looking,” he said. “Sometimes, a play requires you to go to your third or fourth option. But a lot of times, if you have a good pre-snap indication of what’s going to happen, and then you can kind of confirm that when the ball is snapped, you can kind of get over there quick and get the ball out. And this offense gives you a lot of options to get the ball out quick and get it to guys and let them be the playmakers.”
He hears that proverbial “mental clock” ticking on each pass play, but he doesn’t obsess over it. He can’t afford to because then it becomes a distraction.
But Hoyer also is constantly aware that the faster he chooses where to throw, the better it is for the men trying to keep him upright. He seeks to develop a rhythm and a sense of timing that allows him to do things in a hurry while trying not to be hurried.
“Sometimes, you have to to let a play develop,” he said. “But, for the most part, if you can get it out ‘one, two, three … hitch, hitch, throw,’ usually that’s kind of the timing.”
Maintaining an up-tempo pace has its drawbacks. On occasion, it can lead to errant throws, which is what happened on Hoyer’s three interceptions against the Vikings.
Regardless of how long it takes for the ball to leave his hands, he fully understands that the release must follow the correct decision on where it should go. Since his first offseason practice with the Browns, Hoyer has impressed coaches and the team’s other decision-makers with his decision-making.
“I think that’s the most important thing,” he said. “If you don’t know where to throw the football, it doesn’t matter how well you can throw it or how accurate you are. That’s definitely the most important thing in my mind, knowing what to do and make the right decisions.
“And, obviously, I had a few poor decisions last week. You try to learn from them and move on, and hopefully, when that situation arises, you don’t make the same mistake.”
If Hoyer can continue to build upon what he did against the Vikings, continue to do more right than wrong, he could conceivably remain the starter for the rest of the season.
He also could conceivably convince the Browns’ hierarchy that they don’t need to focus on finding their franchise quarterback in next year’s draft, that they have a more than capable answer in him.
“I think any time you go out there, you want to put your best foot forward, you’re building your résumé,” Hoyer said. “In this profession, practicing only gets you so far, preseason only gets you so far. When you go out on the field in a regular-season game, that’s your résumé.”
But that’s as far as he’ll go in acknowledging the opportunity that has presented itself.
For Hoyer, this week and any additional starts he might make are all about the ability to keep his focus strictly on each opponent.
“And, for me, right now my main focus is Cincinnati,” Hoyer said. “They have an excellent defense, scheme and player-wise. There’s not a guy across the board that you don’t know about.”
Depending on how things go on Sunday and beyond, opponents could eventually start saying the same thing about Hoyer.
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