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Despite QB Brandon Weeden being cleared to play, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski sticking with Brian Hoyer as starter this week

By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer

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BEREA: With Brian Hoyer igniting the Browns and leading them to a two-game winning streak, it became obvious that he would keep the starting quarterback job even when Brandon Weeden recovered from the sprained right thumb he suffered Sept. 15 in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski made it official Monday, naming Hoyer the starter for Thursday night’s primetime matchup against the Buffalo Bills despite Weeden being medically cleared to play and fully participating in practice. It was the first time this year Weeden was healthy and did not take the first-team reps.

Chudzinski would not commit to Hoyer as the long-term starter, explaining he wants to make a “week-to-week” decision for now. But the bottom line is that Hoyer earned a promotion by going 2-0 as a starter after Weeden went 0-2 and suffered an injury.

“I’d be lying if I said it was the ideal situation,” Weeden said Monday after practice. “I want to be out there. You never draw it up that you’re going to get hurt Week 2 and stuff like this happens. But it’s life. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. I’ve got to do what I can to help this team. I’m treating it like this is still my football team. I’m still involved in the offense and stuff like that. I’m not discouraged. I’m going to keep continuing to prepare like I have been, and if my number’s called, I’m ready to go.”

The Browns (2-2) released their first depth chart with Hoyer listed as the starting quarterback Monday. Hoyer, a North Olmsted native and St. Ignatius High School graduate, did not speak to reporters Monday but is expected to do so today.

Weeden and Jason Campbell share the second spot on the depth chart. Chudzinski would not commit to Weeden as Hoyer’s primary backup against the Bills (2-2) because he wants to work him back into practices this week and see how he responds.

The 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, Weeden did not practice the past two weeks and didn’t start throwing a football again until Friday. Weeden, though, said he could be ready physically and mentally to serve as the No. 2 quarterback Thursday.

“One thing about being a quarterback, whether you’re a backup, starter, third string, you’re a snap away and you’ve got to keep that mindset, you’ve got to prepare like you’re going to play,” Weeden said. “So I’m just going to continue to prepare like I’m the starter, study, come in early, watch the same amount of tape, study the same amount of time, just in case my number’s called.”

Weeden said he talked to Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner about the decision. He vowed to support his teammates despite the circumstances.

“I’m the ultimate team guy,” Weeden said. “I want to win games. I want to be on a team that’s winning games. It makes this business a lot more fun. And Brian’s playing well. The offense is playing well. The defense is playing outstanding. It’s fun to watch. I’m happy for this football team.”

Hoyer has orchestrated fourth-quarter drives and capped them with touchdown passes to guide the Browns to a 17-6 win Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals and a 31-27 triumph Sept. 22 against the Minnesota Vikings. The offense converted 6-of-15 third downs (40 percent) against the Vikings and 9-of-18 third downs (50 percent) against the Bengals.

“He has a way of making plays,” Chudzinski said. “He’s done a good job with the opportunity, and he continues to get better.

Although Hoyer was listed third on the depth chart two weeks ago, Chudzinski gave him the nod over Campbell and thrust him into the starting lineup once Weeden was ruled out. Hoyer has since completed 55-of-92 passes (59.8 percent) for 590 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions. His passer rating is 83.2.

“I think the guys are rallying around him,” Chudzinski said. “He’s doing his job, and that’s where you get the credibility to be able to [lead], and he’s a fiery guy.”

Hoyer also has displayed a knack for bouncing back from lulls and delivering in crunch time this season. In the third quarter, he has completed just 9-of-22 passes (40.9 percent) for 82 yards with two interceptions, posting a passer rating of 13.8. But in the fourth quarter, he has completed 16-of-23 passes (69.6 percent) for 156 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, posting a passer rating of 117.3.

“Brian’s done a nice job for us coming in, providing that spark, had two nice games already making the right throws, getting the ball out on time, doing a good job with the operation, just making sure everybody’s on the same page, good command of the huddle,” Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “We’re 2-0 with Brian right now, so it’s no surprise that he’s going to be the starter on Thursday.”

Weeden has completed 47-of-86 passes (54.7 percent) for 516 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions this season. His passer rating is 62.0. The offense converted 5-of-29 third downs (17.2 percent) in the first two games combined.

Still, Weeden has faith he’ll receive a chance to start again this season.

“That’s my mindset,” Weeden said. “I can’t approach it any other way. If I did, I’d be doing a disservice to myself and doing a disservice to this offense. I’m going to work just as hard as I did in the offseason to win the job. I’m going to keep continuing to work just as hard now as I did Week 1 and Week 2, and then go from there.

“I’m a lot more comfortable than I was last year. I think I played better as limited as my snaps were this year, and my confidence is still high. I still got a lot of confidence in my ability, and I’m not discouraged. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself and start sulking and pouting. That’s just not the way I go about it.”

A shakeup at quarterback usually goes one of two ways.

“It can either be good or bad,” wide receiver Davone Bess said. “Fortunately for us, it’s a good thing right now that [Hoyer is] playing well, and it’s just contagious. This winning thing can become contagious.”

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.


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