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Stage set for competition to decide Cleveland Browns’ No. 1 quarterback

Posted Mar 17, 2014

Unlike the previous two years, expect the Cleveland Browns to allow a genuine competition to decide their starting quarterback for 2014.

Brian Hoyer can expect to face plenty of competition for starting quarterback job

By jettisoning Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell last week, the Cleveland Browns did not declare that Brian Hoyer has the inside track on their starting quarterback job.

Far from it.

If anything, they opened the door even wider to the competition that will be staged through offseason workouts, training camp, and the preseason schedule to determine the starter.

The departures of Weeden, who signed with the Dallas Cowboys Monday, and Campbell clear room for the arrivals of at least one quarterback via the draft and one or more via trade and/or free agency.

Hoyer can fully expect to have plenty of company in the quarterback meeting room beyond Alex Tanney, the only other player at the position on the roster. He can fully expect to have to show a different set of decision-makers, particularly new coach Mike Pettine and new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, that his impressive work in the two full games he played as a starter last season was indicative of his ability to be successful in the No. 1 role. Hoyer needs to demonstrate, as much as he can before games are played for keeps, that the brief spark he provided is sustainable while also showing there are no lingering effects from the season-ending knee injury he suffered early against Buffalo on Oct. 3.

And he will do so while a rookie – perhaps Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater or Central Florida’s Blake Bortles or Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel or Fresno State’s Derek Carr – and one or more veterans are also trying to win the starting job.

It won’t be like 2012, when Weeden was essentially handed the spot after the Browns made him the 22nd overall pick of the draft. It won’t be like 2013, when Weeden again was essentially handed the spot after the next two quarterbacks on the depth chart, Campbell and Hoyer, seemingly failed to make a strong enough case for a change.

Time will tell what the depth chart will look like this summer, but the makeover will be extreme.

By most accounts, Bridgewater was less than impressive in his performance at Louisville’s pro day Monday. He missed on some throws and wasn’t particularly crisp on others, which was in stark contrast to the remarkably consistent accuracy he showed during his collegiate career.

The impact Bridgewater’s showing will have on his draft stock is debatable. Many analysts view him as the most NFL-ready of any quarterback in the college crop, and it is unlikely their opinions will change on the basis of a single pre-draft workout.

Still, questions were raised as to whether the immense pressure of performing in front of an audience of NFL coaches and player-personnel evaluators – including those from the Houston Texans, who are widely expected to select a quarterback with the top overall pick of the draft – could have gotten the better of Bridgewater. It was the first time he had ever thrown in such an environment because he elected not to throw during last month’s NFL Scouting Combine.

Bortles’ pro day at Central Florida is scheduled for Wednesday. He was the only quarterback among the draft’s so-called “big three” at quarterback (Bridgewater and Manziel are the others) to throw at the Combine, and he drew mostly high marks for his performance. A strong pro-day showing could do plenty to convince the Texans to make him the top choice, something first-year coach Bill O’Brien might very well be inclined to do because of his close ties with Central Florida coach George O’Leary.

Manziel’s personal pro day is scheduled for March 27. Carr, who also didn’t throw at the Combine, is slated to throw at Fresno State’s pro day on Thursday.

The Browns have multiple possibilities for adding quarterbacks in the draft. They could do so with the fourth overall choice. They could wait until their second first-round pick, 26th overall, when Carr is expected to be available. They could use a trade to gain picks and maneuver to a spot somewhere between fourth and 26th to choose a quarterback with the expectation that Bridgewater, Bortles, or Manziel (or all three, plus Carr) would be available below the fourth spot.

It’s also entirely possible the Browns would eschew the idea of going with a quarterback in the first round, and instead grab a wide receiver or a premiere pass-rusher or an offensive lineman, and then land a quarterback in the second or third round.

Either way, the Browns are likely to have a true competition at quarterback this summer.

>>This Road to the Draft segment is driven by Liberty Ford.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.