Monday, 28 July 2014

Brian and Johnny - Football Conundrum

The Cleveland Browns are in an enviable position at this moment in time in the AFC North Division of the NFL. They are a young team that has struggled for several years and ended up 4-12 last season. They were not helped by the injury sustained to quarterback Brian Hoyer when he showed maturity and much needed stability for a side that suffered with Brandon Weeden as a starting QB the season previously.

Yet during the 2014 draft they hit the jackpot so to speak by grabbing vaunted draft prospect and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in the first round. Questions then began to circulate that would Johnny Football be the starter for the Browns.

Critics and pundits have long had an opinion that Manziel whilst talented will not be able to translate to the professional level due to his size and lack of arm strength.  Yet Manziel does win football matches as his play in the Bowl victory versus Duke can testify.  However, will Manziel have the same protection as he was afforded at Texas A&M.

The opinion after four days of training camp appears to be that Brian Hoyer will hold onto the starting job following his recovery from a season ending knee injury.  Hoyer is a game manager and a good reader of pressure from defence and rushing linebackers.

The reason we mention about game management is because the Browns are in a position where for once they have to think long term instead of a short term failure.  The AFC North is in a state of flux currently, the Ravens are still suffering a Super Bowl hangover and are now crippled by the max contract they gave to Joe Flacco as well as the suspension given to Ray Rice. The Pittsburgh Steelers are relying on their defence to make plays whilst Big Ben learns Todd Haley's comet of a play book. And the Cincinnati Bengals who have been to he playoffs for three consecutive years remain an uninspiring bunch.

Looking at the schedule the Browns have to play, six games versus those division rivals, they also face the AFC South, NFC South and two very winnable games versus the Oakland Raiders at home and the Buffalo Bills away. They probably get the four better teams at home; New Orleans, Tampa, Indy and Houston, a fortuitous slice of luck from the scheduling computer. They could easily be 5-3 or 4-4 after the first eight games which would be good progress as they would have more wins or as many as last year.

To achieve this they need to give Hoyer the keys; he has greater accuracy with his arm, shows composure in the pocket and is not afraid to use his feet if necessary.  The reason to utilise Manziel is due to his mobility and capability of running plays as the running backs of the Browns depth chart does not inspire confidence.  Yet if Hoyer is making first downs and the play calling for Ben Tate or Chris Ogbonnaya is correct, then things may happen.

In spite of the Josh Gordon suspension hanging over the team, there is talent at their disposal.  Tight end Jordan Cameron is a stud in waiting and made some big plays throughout the season, though petered out near the end of his rookie season. Yet three wide receivers in Miles Austin, Travis Benjamin and Nate Burleson are no slouches at all.

The answer should be an obvious one, let the veteran guide the ship and if he finds it hard to stay afloat let the young whippersnapper off his leash.  Perhaps Manziel could be the first substitution QB the guy who comes on in last quarter to make big plays, stretch defences and cause panic.  Hoyer has to be used as the man to keep games close, as people forget the Browns defence is better than their record suggests.

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