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Brian Hoyer's one bad game reopens conversation about Johnny Football

Oct 23, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Had to happen: And in his ninth start for the Browns – sixth this season -- Brian Hoyer stunk. For the first time. Not just for one quarter, or two, or three. For the whole game.

And there was no miraculous comeback.

And the Browns lost to winless Jacksonville, 24-6, dropping their record to 3-3, joining the ranks of – egads! – the lowly Seattle Seahawks.

And the sky began to fall.

And the conversation was reopened.

“When does Johnny Football get in?”

This is what it’s like to be Brian Hoyer in the immediate days after your first clunker.

You’re angry about your worst game ever – at any level of football. You can’t wait to erase the memory of missing Jordan Cameron in the end zone. You can’t wait to delve into the gameplan for the Oakland Raiders, the next challenge.

And all around you, the conversation and debate starts again about Johnny Manziel. When will he get his chance? Will the Johnny Package be put in for the Oakland game? And if he goes in and actually does something positive this time, will the coaches keep him in?

“There’s overreaction when you win. There’s overreaction when you lose, and especially at the quarterback position,” Hoyer said. “When you win, you’re the hero. When you lose, you’re the goat. I think that’s just the way it goes. That’s the way this league kind of has become. It comes with the territory. It’s something that I knew going into it that’s the way it is.

“There’s not much you can do about it. You worry about what you can control, and that’s what’s going on in this building. The outside noise you just kind of try to block out, whether it’s good or bad. Sometimes, you can get caught up when people are patting you on your back. It feels good, and yeah maybe you want to check and see what they’re saying, but if you’re going to do that you better be able to take it when they’re saying bad stuff, too.”

Dealing with it: In one game, Hoyer was transformed from comeback player-of-the-year candidate to the walking dead.

“Three weeks ago everyone was saying Tom Brady was done with,” Hoyer said. “He’s the greatest quarterback of all time. He had one bad game, and people are throwing him under the bus.

“I think when you see that even the great ones have bad games you know you’re going to have a few. Yeah, it sucks. You don’t want to go out there and not perform well. Obviously, we prepare our butts off all week to go out there and execute and play the best of our ability, but sometimes you have a situation where you don’t play great, and the other team plays well. It’s a bad combination.

“For me, really of all the games I’ve ever played, that was the worst I’ve ever felt after one. That’s just something that you have to deal with, learning on the job. It’s not always going to be perfect, and you’re not always going to win the game. The games you lose, yeah you might have played well, but for the first time in my career in the NFL I played a really bad game. It sucks. I take a lot on myself, and that’s why I probably wasn’t very pleasant to be around for the past two days.”

The Brady example only goes so far.

Brady is Brady, a winner of three Super Bowls and arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. Hoyer, or course, is just trying to establish himself as a viable starting quarterback who can not only withstand the rigors of a full season but also take a team to the playoffs.

And Brady’s heir-apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, isn’t the most famous, most talked about, most loved by network TV cameras quarterback to enter the NFL since Tim Tebow.

Brady doesn’t have Johnny Manziel nipping at his ankles.

Hoyer’s hole card: Who had Zach Mettenberger making his first NFL start before Johnny Manziel?

The Titans announced on Wednesday that they were turning over their team to Mettenberger, who was the 10th quarterback taken in the 2014 draft.

On Sunday, the Raiders come to town with Derek Carr making his seventh consecutive start. Carr was the fourth quarterback taken, No. 36 overall.

Last week, the Browns lost to Jacksonville with Blake Bortles making his fourth consecutive start. Bortles was the first quarterback taken, No. 3 overall.

Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater will make his third start for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Bridgewater was the third quarterback taken, No. 32 overall.

This is the time of year when teams with losing, veteran quarterbacks can’t resist taking a look at the hotshots they have waiting in the wings.

But so far, Manziel, the second quarterback taken, No. 22 overall, has appeared in two games for a total of three plays.

Hoyer has a few things going for him. At 3-3, he has the Browns poised to make a run at division contention. The Ravens (5-2) are only 1 ½ games ahead, and they beat the Browns by only two points. And Hoyer has the firm backing of his head coach, Mike Pettine, who was an admirer of his work when Pettine game-planned Hoyer as defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills a year ago.

“I don’t even think about it to be honest with you,” Hoyer said of the elephant in the room. “I know what goes into my preparation. I know that talking to my coaches, that’s the farthest thing on my mind. Yeah, I don’t doubt that (Pettine) has my back. I also know that if you have one bad game, I think that people are just going to be calling for your job already. That’s just the way it goes. But I know within this building I feel more than comfortable.”

Just to be safe, I would suggest to Hoyer not to have another game like the last one.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns' rookie backs said three's a crowd -- so who sits now?

Oct 22, 2014 -- 3:18pm

By Tony Grossi |


Extra Points …

Wait and see: If restoring the running game is the key to everything the Browns do on offense, then the major decisions of the practice week are these:

* Who plays center and right guard?

* What’s the rotation at running back?

The short answers are we won’t know until the end of the week. As usual, coach Mike Pettine will choose his best option based on performance at practice.

Here are the options considered for each decision:

Center and right guard

Nick McDonald is the Alex Mack replacement-in-training, but Pettine indicated on Wednesday that it still might be too soon to expect the center to make his first start with a new club. McDonald came off a reserve list last week after finishing off rehab of a wrist injury. Pettine disclosed that McDonald took reps last week mostly on the scout team.

“In limited reps he got last week, more scout team than anything else, he looked like he was getting back into it,” Pettine said. “That’s a lot to ask to put him right back in there. We do have that three-week window (to activate McDonald). I don’t want the circumstances to accelerate that. You want a guy to be ready when he’s ready. It’s something we’ll evaluate at end of the week.”

If McDonald is not ready, John Greco would make his second career start at center. Right guard then becomes a question.

The Browns could give Paul McQuistan another try or give Vinston Painter his first start in a regular game. Painter has appeared in two games on special teams.

Running back

Pettine confirmed coaches have discussed the merits of reducing the workload to two – feature back Ben Tate and a backup.

So after rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell both spoke on the difficulty of finding a rhythm in a three-back rotation, one will pay the price and probably not see the field on Sunday.

“It’s still going to play out during practice this week,” Pettine said. “That’s something we did discuss and have a plan for the week practice-wise. Then we’ll revisit it at the end, and then make a decision on how we’re going to substitute those guys.

“It is a luxury to have, the three backs. To me, every week’s diferent. We’ll look at some different things. I don’t want to lock it in and say we’re set on three.”

Wildcat redux?: When I asked Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano about exhuming the Wildcat – the gimmick offense that propelled his Miami Dolphins team from 1-15 to 11-5 in 2008 – he laughed.

“Any time I show up anyplace I guess there’s that rumor going around,” Sparano said on a conference call. “That’s what they are, rumors. We’re going to do whatever’s in the best interest of the Oakland Raiders to try to win a football game.”

Don’t laugh.

Sparano used the Wildcat in the 2008 season as a means of getting backs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown on the field together. It took the NFL by storm and was effective simply because nobody else was doing it and defenses couldn’t prepare for it in the early going.

Even His Eminence, Bill Belichick, was blindsided. Sparano debuted the Wildcat in Game 3 and rolled up 216 rushing yards against Belichick’s befuddled Patriots in an epic 38-13 shellacking. (Belichick won the rematch nine weeks later, 48-28, as Sparano expected a Wildcat-prevent defense and had Chad Pennington throw 41 times.)

As NFL defenses saw more of the Wildcat and prepared for it at practice, the offense returned to the cold storage tank. Some day, it will be back.

The perfect storm could be approaching to warrant a cameo appearance.

The Raiders are 0-6. They have a rookie quarterback learning the ropes. Their feature back, Darren McFadden, was exposed to the Wildcat at Arkansas. And free agent pickup Maurice Jones-Drew is closer than ever to being 100 percent after early-season hand surgery.

Further, the Raiders’ conventional running game has sputtered to the tune of 69.3 yards per game. And did I mention the Browns’ historic problems defending the run? They check in this week ranked dead last, yielding an average of 155.5 yards on the ground.

So, beware the Wildcat. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Brownie bits: Nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis. Pettine said that while Rubin did receive a second opinion on his ankle injury, surgery was never a serious option … Nickel back K’Waun Williams (concussion) also returned on a limited basis … We all jumped the gun on Pettine’s appearance at linebacker Khalil Mack’s pre-draft pro day last March in Buffalo, where Pettine last worked and still had a home. Mack has been surprisingly stout against the run, but has yet to record a sack in six games … Did Raiders QB Derek Carr see anything helpful on film of fellow rookie Blake Bortles’ victory over the Browns last week? “Some lady did have a funny Blake Bortles face picture in the back of the end zone,” he said. “So I took a picture and sent that to him.”


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Tony Grossi's Scouting Report: Oakland Raiders

Oct 22, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



                        Browns vs. Oakland Raiders

                        Sunday, 4:25 p.m., in FirstEnergy Stadium

Record: 0-6.

Last game: Lost to Arizona Cardinals, 24-13, Oct. 18, in Oakland, CA.

Coach: Tony Sparano, 0-2, (interim); 29-34 overall.

Series record: Raiders lead, 13-9 (counting postseason).

Last meeting: Browns won, 20-17, Dec. 2, 2012, in Oakland.

League rankings: Offense is 32nd overall (32nd rushing, 26th passing), defense is 22nd (29th rushing, 11th passing) and turnover differential is minus-4.

Offensive overview: With rookie Derek Carr entrenched as the starting quarterback, Sparano has tried to scale back the offense. Carr has quietly put together a decent start to his career (8 touchdowns v. 5 interceptions), but you’d never know it looking at the offense’s rankings – 32nd in total yards, 32nd in rushing and 31st in points. The rushing figure sabotages everything because offensive coordinator Greg Olson would like to use the running game to set up play-action, like his former mentor Jon Gruden. Free agent Maurice Jones-Drew was signed to wrestle away the feature back role from Darren McFadden, but hand surgery cost him time and now he is a backup. McFadden (3.8 yards a rush) is not the player he was three years ago. The team’s longest run of 41 yards was produced by Carr. Despite the unproductive running game, Carr’s pass protection has been outstanding (four sacks in 199 dropbacks). He leans on veteran wideout James Jones (30 receptions) and gets big plays from 6-4 wideout Andre Holmes (16.8-yard average), who can go up and get the throw-it-up balls, but can also break a QB’s heart with drops.

Defensive overview: Jason Tarver was retained as defensive coordinator after Dennis Allen was fired, but some subtle changes have emerged since Sparano assumed the job as interim coach. Downsizing the gameplan has resulted in more players being rotated in with the hope of keeping the unit fresher and faster. It has a terrible time getting off the field. Opponents are converted a league-high 52.8 percent of third downs. That figure would be higher if not for three kneeldowns among the Raiders’ 40 “stops.” Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has been an ironman, seldom leaving the field, and is flying all over against the run but has yet to produce a sack in the pass rush. Like most teams, they show 3-4 and 4-3 looks and sometimes have standup ends rush the quarterback while other linemen drop back into zone coverage. The defense is loaded with minimum-wage veterans on their second or third team who aren’t the players they were with their first teams, such as end LaMarr Woodley, end Justin Tuck and cornerback Carlos Rogers. But don’t count Charles Woodson in that group. At 38, the free safety is still covering a lot of ground and making plays from sideline to sideline.

Special teams overview: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski is 5 of 6 on field goals with a long of 53 yards and ranks 25th with 15 touchbacks. Janikowski lost trust in punter Marquette King as the holder and a recent change resulted in backup quarterback Matt Schaub taking over the role. King is 30th in gross punting (43.3 yards) and 11th in net (40.4). Rookie TJ Carrie is 10th in punt return average (9.4 yards) and had a 60-yard return last week erased by penalty. Carrie recently assumed kick returns, too, and has a 24.3 average. The coverage teams have yielded a 29-yard punt return and a kickoff return of 44 yards.

Players to watch:

1. Quarterback Derek Carr: Not a sack waiting to happen like his older brother David was, he’s completing 60.5 percent of his passes, has 8 touchdowns v. 5 interceptions and has managed a decent passer rating of 80.9 through his first six starts.

2. Free safety Charles Woodson: The 2009 NFL defensive player of the year, his 13 defensive touchdowns are tied for the most in league history. He is the league’s active leader with 58 career interceptions and needs one Pick 6 to tie Rod Woodson’s career record of 12.

3. Wide receiver Andre Holmes: At 6-4, he has a wide catching radius and can come down with jump balls. He is a big play threat with a 16.8-yard receiving average and three touchdowns.

Injury report: FS Usama Young (knee) is out; DE Justin Tuck (knee) and FB Marcel Reese (knee) missed the last game; DE Lamarr Woodley (undisclosed) left the last game. WR Vincent Brown (hamstring) has missed the last two games.

Small world: Interim head coach Tony Sparano was on the Browns’ coaching staff in 1999 and 2000 … free safety Usama Young played with the Browns in 2011-12.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Brian Hoyer's accuracy has to improve for the Browns to achieve consistency on offense

Oct 21, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Consistently inconsistent: Brian Hoyer has had his moments in this young season, marked mostly by streaky runs of clutch throws during breath-taking comebacks.

He has etched his name in the history books twice in six games, authoring the biggest comeback win on the road in an NFL regular-season game and the largest Browns’ win over the Steelers in 25 years.

But those have been offset by some inexplicable stretches of misfires, rushed throws and bad aim.

There was a 4-of-11 first half in Pittsburgh, and a 5-of-11 first half in the rematch in Cleveland. There was a 9-of-19 first half against New Orleans, and an 8-of-21 first half against Jacksonville, which was followed by an 8-of-20 second half against the Jaguars.

The overall 16-of-41 day in Jacksonville came on the heels of an 8-of-17 effort in the big win over Pittsburgh. So, in the last two games, Hoyer is a 41.3 percent thrower. That is an amazing number.

Hoyer’s season completion mark of 55.8 percent ranks last among NFL starting quarterbacks – lower than Geno Smith’s 57.3 – in a season in which the league average is 63.3. And this in Kyle Shanahan’s “quarterback-friendly” offensive system that has seen past quarterbacks such as Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, Robert Griffin 3 and Kirk Cousins post completion figures of 66.1, 66.7, 67.9, 65.6 and 68.8.

I asked Hoyer if he felt that completion percentage was a relevant statistic.

““Yeah,” he answered. “I mean, you go 16 of 41, regardless if there are batted balls or throwaways, even with those, you’d like to be in the 60s. I think it’s about being efficient. For me, I wasn’t efficient (Sunday) regardless of the situation. You’ve got to be able to get out there and complete the passes.”

The system: Shanahan’s offensive system sets up its quarterback with the wide-zone running scheme. When that gets rolling, the play-action and bootleg misdirection passing game can produce big plays from quarterbacks.

We’ve seen unheralded Browns receivers running wide open in secondaries as Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West took turns having big games – or, at least, big portions of games.

Hoyer, the quarterback, has been the beneficiary of the Browns’ highly-ranked offensive line and running game. So the questions not spoken have been: What happens when the running game is stopped? Can Hoyer make the plays from the pocket?

The answer on Sunday was no. A single play by Hoyer may have stolen that game in Jacksonville on a day in which the Jaguars “wanted it more than the Browns.”

The one play could have come on the pass to Jordan Cameron, open in the back of the end zone on the third-down play preceding the Browns’ second field goal. Or it could have come after Andrew Hawkins’ 65-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter.

But it didn’t come.

Hoyer’s pass for Cameron, which came not from play-action but from the pocket in “empty” formation – no backs – was high and uncatchable.

On Monday, Hoyer attributed “a few missed throws” to lack of patience in the pocket.

“Things felt like they were flying around a little bit more than usual,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to hang in there a little bit longer even when you don’t think you can. It’s something that I need to work on.”

But on the misfire for Cameron, he said, “That wasn’t a thing with the pass rush or anything like that. It was just … I’m trying to look off a safety and I came back to throw to his spot. He kind of … it was kind of that he thought one thing and I thought another. We’ve just got to get on the same page with that, especially on a critical play like that.”

Hoyer was leveled to the ground by Jacksonville tackle Sen’Derrick Marks on the fifth play of the game. I asked him if that hit “accelerated” his mental time clock and caused his impatience.

“No, I think I always have a pretty good clock,” he responded. “I’ll hang in there and take a hit. But I don’t want to be taking sacks. I think sacks set you back. So I always do try to go through progressions pretty quickly and sometimes you get through them a little too quick, where somebody ends up popping up after you’ve already moved on from them. So, it’s just something that comes with repetition and just kind of slowing your mind down a little bit, especially when they are bringing a good pass rush. You still got to just be the same tempo in your mind.”

The leash: There is another statistic that speaks to Hoyer’s inconsistency and feeds the perception that he is more inaccurate when throwing from the pocket without the benefit of play-action.

On third downs, Hoyer is a 48.4 percent passer with a QB rating of 67.4. Third downs are generally when the play-action game is rendered ineffective because defenses aren’t going to respect handoffs in those situations.

I asked coach Mike Pettine if Hoyer’s low completion percentage was a concern.

“To me, I know this one severely dropped it, so, I don’t want to put it all (on the Jacksonville game),” he said. “If it becomes a couple more games, still a trend like that, that’s something to look at, but to me, we just looked at his effectiveness and the offense there.

“Sometimes, the completion percentage will be affected, whether you’re trying to throw the ball away or take some more shots downfield where your percentage isn’t going to be as high, but you don’t need to hit as many.

“That’s not something that, to me, is a concern … today.”

In the context of considering playing time for Johnny Manziel, Pettine said, “Nothing has changed … We’re not going to hit the panic button after one loss. We know that while the quarterback position needed to be more productive, it was more symptomatic of the entire offense. Brian is still firmly our starter.”

The statistic that governs that decision is wins and losses. In the meantime, the ones to watch are completion percentage and third-down passing. Hoyer’s have to improve.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns want Terrance West to stop all the dancing, will review rotation at running back

Oct 20, 2014 -- 5:47pm

By Tony Grossi |



Extra Points …

Go north: Terrance West didn’t like the “baby backs” nickname somebody coined for fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell and him after Game 1. If he doesn’t alter his running style in short yardage carries, people might start calling him Terrance East-West.

West failed to convert consecutive short-yardage carries in the first half in Jacksonville because he stuttered-stepped in search of bigger plays. He gained 1 yard on a second-and-2 carry at the Jaguars’ 25-yard line, and then was stacked up for no gain on third-and-1.

On Monday, West repeated a coaching point that the coaches have made to him.

“I was trying to go for the big play,” he said. “When it comes down to it, I should’ve just got the first down.

"If I’d have kept running outside on the (third) down, I’d probably have gotten seven yards more. I just stopped and tried to cut back in and go for the bigger play instead of going for the first down. I ran into the back of my offensive lineman. I wish I could get it back, just got to learn from it and let it be motivation.”

Those failed opportunities turned crucial when Mike Pettine elected to go for it on fourth down rather than try a 42-yard field goal and go up, 9-0. The Jaguars defended the play and converted the turnover on downs into a touchdown and a 7-6 lead at halftime. They never surrendered it.

And West never returned to the field in the second half. The first back in to relieve starter Ben Tate, West totaled 10 offensive snaps – all in the first half. Crowell had 23 and Tate had 41.

West attributed his desire to swing for the fences to his limited play time in the crowded Browns’ backfield.

“On that play right there, I know I’ve got limited reps,” he said. “So I know when I’m in the game, I’m trying to get that big play. I’ve got to go back to the books and take what the defense gives me. I’m a rookie, I’m going to learn from it. Some of the best running backs that ever played the game, they did the same mistakes. It’s all about how you react to it.”

Last week, Pettine remarked about distractions changing based on wins v. losses. The crowded backfield situation is a prime example. When the Browns win, it’s a good problem to have. When they lose, and the backs are stuffed for 2.3 a carry, it’s framed as a problem because none of the backs gets in a rhythm.

Pettine said Monday, “We’ll have discussions this week as to how best to rotate those guys. You can make the argument it’s a good problem to have.”

Upon further review: Pettine was asked if he second-guessed himself for not kicking the field goal to go up, 9-0.

“When it doesn’t work, absolutely,” he said.

Then he elaborated, “I thought we were playing well defensively. It turned out the worst-case scenario for us. The way the game was going and how they were defending us, we didn’t have a great feel for how many more times we’d get down to the 20. When it was second and 1, we made the decision it was four-down mode. You live with it.”

Roster changes: The Browns waived fullback Ray Agnew and replaced him with fullback Kiero Small.

Agnew, one of several undrafted rookies to make the opening day roster, had started all six games. Small, a seventh-round draft pick of Seattle, had been on the practice squad since the Seahawks cut him in July.

“As we talk about often, we’re built on the premise of competition,” Pettine said. “We’ve had Kiero here since the end of training camp. We debated drafting him and hoped we could get him. When he became available we signed him to practice squad. He’s been doing outstanding job for us on scout team and felt it was time to see what he could do.”

Also, nose tackle Jacobbi McDaniel, who was promoted from the practice squad last week and activated in Jacksonville, Tweeted that he was cut by the Browns on Monday. The Browns had no immediate announcement on that roster move.

Brownie bits: Pettine was asked if he considered using Johnny Manziel to spark the slumbering offense in Jacksonville. “We didn’t,” he said, adding, “It was discussed briefly, but it was a situation where we still wanted to end the game with Brian.”… The center-right guard combination will be under review again this week. Efforts are being made to prepare newly activated Nick McDonald to play center and move John Greco back to right guard. If McDonald needs more time, Greco would stay at center and Vinston Painter would join Paul McQuistan in competition at right guard … Pettine said that nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin sought a second opinion on his ankle injury and surgery has not been ruled out. Rubin's status for this week is uncertain ... This is what West had to say about the 24-6 loss to the previously winless Jaguars: “Yesterday they were the better team. They made a lot more plays than we did. They wanted it more than we did. When you look back at it, we looked like the 0-6 team and they looked like the 3-2 team.”


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Tony Grossi's Take: Always take the points on the road

Oct 19, 2014 -- 7:19pm

By Tony Grossi |




Tony Grossi’s Take on Browns’ 24-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Offense: Skeptics wondered what was more responsible for Brian Hoyer’s success this year – the system’s unstoppable running game or Hoyer himself? This clunker fed the belief that it has been the running game. The Jaguars kept the run game to a 2.3-yard average. Ben Tate had an 18-yard run, and then 18 yards on his 15 other carries. Those stops created third-and-long situations for Hoyer, and he produced his worst game – 25 incompletions in 41 attempts. The offensive line, featuring John Greco at center for the injured Alex Mack and Paul McQuistan at right guard, was handled by Jacksonville’s front eight. When Hoyer’s passes weren’t batted down (four times), he was terribly off the mark, missing an open Jordan Cameron in the end zone early in the game, and turned the ball over twice on a fumble and interception. Another interception was dropped, as were more passes by his receivers than in any other game. Bottom line: Won’t be on Kyle Shanahan’s resume tape.

Defense: Some good, some bad. Three interceptions of Blake Bortles – two by Tashaun Gipson, one by Buster Skrine -- should have been enough to carry the day, but they weren’t. The short-handed defensive front got stampeded by the Jaguars running game. Denard Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback, gashed them for 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts. Bortles had 37 yards on five designed zone-read option keepers. Cecil Shorts didn’t hurt anyone (3 catches for 12 yards on 9 targets), but rookie receiver Allen Robinson shook off Skrine at the 22-yard line to complete a 31-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. Bottom line: Three picks usually win a game.

Special teams: It was a draw except for one error – Jordan Poyer’s fumble of a Jacksonville punt while trying to field it at the 5-yard line. That fourth-quarter foible led to a touchdown to make it a two-score game with about 6 minutes to go. Poyer said he decided to try to field the ball because he felt he could get the offense another 15 yards. Possession-specialist Jim Leonhard normally would be in that spot, but the coaches didn’t feel that Poyer put them at risk of a turnover. Also on that play, Tank Carder jumped offsides. Jabaal Sheard looked like he was all over a block of a Josh Scobee 30-yard field goal, but somehow the ball eluded his outstretched mitts. Bottom line: One killer play in each of the three losses.

Coaching: Mike Pettine tried to be aggressive in eschewing a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 24 late in the first half. It was the wrong thing to do because a field goal there would have given the Browns a 9-0 lead at halftime. On a bad day for an offense and playing against a rookie quarterback, sometimes field goals do win games. It blew up in Pettine’s face as the Jaguars sped downfield for a 7-6 lead. Another questionable call was the hokey attempt in the fourth quarter to draw the Jaguars into a penalty on an apparent punt. The coaches rushed the offense back onto the field to try to draw the Jaguars into an illegal substitution situation, or offsides, or something. The Browns weren’t supposed to snap the ball, but it was snapped and Hoyer was forced to pitch the ball to a surprised Tate, who was crushed for a 2-yard loss near mid-field. Wasted opportunity there, though the Jaguars didn’t capitalize on a bonehead Browns play. Bottom line: Two coaching points for the coaches.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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