Brian Hoyer 'acting like he is the starting QB that has taken us to five playoffs'

Cleveland Browns Pro Bowler Joe Thomas still views the North Olmsted native as one of the team's undisputed leaders.
MCT Regional News
Jul 30, 2014

Browns All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas knows Brian Hoyer has started only four games as an NFL quarterback, but Thomas still views the North Olmsted native as one of the team's undisputed leaders.

"He has less starts than probably almost any rookie that's out there starting right now, but he commands a level of respect because of the way he goes about doing his business the right way and acting like he is the starting quarterback that has taken us to five playoffs," Thomas said Monday after the third full-squad practice of training camp. "I think it's that attitude and that swagger that demands respect, and he also goes and backs it up out on the field. He throws the ball to the right person. He's doing things and getting everybody on the same page. That's just as much the role of a quarterback as throwing touchdown passes."

Thomas is right about Hoyer's mindset.

"I expect to be the starting quarterback," Hoyer said Friday on the eve of camp opening. "I always prepare like I am the starter whether or not I am."

Hoyer, who spent three seasons as the backup to New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady, has established himself as the favorite to win the starting quarterback job heading into the Sept. 7 season opener at Pittsburgh. Still, Hoyer must hold off rookie Johnny Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in this year's NFL Draft.

After reviewing film from Sunday's practice, Browns coach Mike Pettine offered a brief summary about his thoughts on recent performances from the two quarterbacks.

"Brian, I thought, was sharper than he was the first day," Pettine said Monday. "Manziel was inconsistent, did some good things and then probably did some things he would have taken back."

So far, Hoyer appears poised to maintain his lead. He had the better practice Monday, too.

"He's the ultimate competitor, and no matter if we drafted a quarterback No. 1 overall, I knew that in his mind, he expects to win the job because that's the type of competitor he is and the type of quarterback," said Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler. "He's a lot like [Patriots star] Tom Brady. When you look at the way he competes and the way he demands the most out of everybody around him, it's no coincidence that those guys played together and [Hoyer] has a lot of those same mental attributes and that's a great thing for a quarterback to have."

When Hoyer got the biggest break of his career last season, he led the Browns to consecutive wins in September before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 3. Thomas hasn't forgotten.

"I don't know how the competition is going to pile up, but what I saw from Brian last year in the few games that he played and what I saw from him in the way he works and studies and throws the ball, what I've already seen from him out here now is exactly what I expected," Thomas said. "He's every bit one of the best competitors in the NFL and he's just waiting for his opportunity to take a team and win a lot of games and be the difference maker a quarterback has to be."

Thomas is optimistic about Manziel as well, insisting he has conducted himself well around his teammates and coaches.

"Johnny is kind of a quiet guy around the facility," Thomas said. "I'm sure it's hard for most people to believe that with the kind of personality that he's built up. But he's kind of quiet. He does things the right way. You look at his notebook and he's got all sorts of good notes. He sits in the front next to the coach, and he's just focused on his job when he's here."

A reporter reminded Thomas about the scene involving Manziel as practice started Sunday. Manziel donned neon-yellow cleats at the beginning of the session but was quickly forced to change them because, Pettine said, the Browns' policy is to wear team-issued equipment.

"I guess things like that you don't want to see," Thomas said. "But I didn't even notice. I guess it's not a big deal."

Asked if Manziel's partying this offseason turned anyone off, Thomas said, "I didn't really pay attention to any of that stuff because it's going to matter what he does on the field. That's going to determine his legacy."

But the bottom line is Hoyer has the respect of the locker room and Manziel is still trying to earn it.

"You don't walk in and because of what you did in college, you just have the respect of everybody," Thomas said. "It's a process of earning that respect, and it's going to happen on the field. Doing the right things when you're in the classroom and all that stuff is great, but the respect in the NFL gets earned when you're on the field in the preseason, when you're scrimmaging, being a leader, making the right plays. Those are how you're going to earn respect when you're a rookie."

 

Talking running backs

After Ben Tate signed with the Browns in March, he said, "I do feel like I'm a guy who's going to be a top-10, top-eight, top-five running back" in the NFL.

Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery believes it's possible.

"I'm happy he sees himself that way," Montgomery said. "During that process you have to show it on a daily basis and you have to work hard on a daily basis and say, 'That's who I am, that's who I want to be.' We all know talk is cheap. But right now, he's the guy. He's the guy, and he has to set the bar to how he sees himself in the National Football League."

Rookie Terrance West, a third-round draft pick, probably doesn't want to hear his position coach calling Tate "the guy." Tate has taken most of the first-team reps thus far in camp, though West is a threat.

"Terrance West has some shades of Brian Westbrook," Montgomery said. "He can break you down with his right leg. He can break you down with his left leg. He has that Ricky Watters, Walter Payton, lure-you-to-sleep-on-the-sideline move that I can accelerate or play like I'm going to accelerate and come back inside. Those are traits I haven't seen in a while."

Although West has received, it hasn't come from Tate. He raised eyebrows in June by saying he wasn't scared of any other running back on the roster and insisting none of them is close to as good as him.

"I think it's funny," Montgomery said. "I think that's what all of them would say. For him, if that's the way he's going to motivate himself to try to win a job, that's good for him."

Gilbert likes the depth behind Tate and West, too. Undrafted rookie Isaiah Crowell, Chris Ogbonnaya, Dion Lewis and Edwin Baker are fighting to make the team as backups.

"This is the first time I had talent this good as a running backs coach," Montgomery said.

 

Brutally honest

Montgomery spent the past six seasons as the Baltimore Ravens' running backs coach, so he knows exactly how coach John Harbaugh's coaching staff viewed the Browns in recent years.

"When I was at Baltimore, we'd see this team twice a year," Montgomery said. "My expectation was great defense, but they're always going to find a way to give it up on offense at the end."

When Montgomery was asked to elaborate, he summarized the Ravens' general feeling about facing the Browns like this: "It's going to be a dog fight, but if we hang in there long enough, they will find a way to lose the game."

 

Not cleared

The Browns and the agents of guard Jason Pinkston released a statement Monday explaining his absence from training camp. Pinkston has not practiced since camp began Saturday.

"Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston has not been medically cleared to participate in football activities," the statement read. "The team has been in communication with Jason and his representatives and will respect their wishes to not provide any further details at this time."

Asked Sunday if Pinkston would return to the team, Pettine said, "Possibility."

Pinkston started all 16 games at left guard as a rookie in 2011. He played in just six games the following season, missing the final 10 after a blood clot was discovered in his lung. Last season, he dealt with a high-ankle sprain and appeared in just three games.

 

What competition?

If fans didn't believe the Browns had Mitchell Schwartz entrenched as their starting right offensive tackle, then maybe Thomas will convince them.

"There's no competition at all," Thomas said. "He is the starter at right tackle, and I think they've been really, really happy with what he's done so far. I think he's going to be a great fit at right tackle for us in this offense."

 

Loving the pads

Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert takes pride in thriving in press-man coverage, so it's no surprise he stood out Monday with the Browns wearing full pads for the first time this summer and the action becoming more physical.

"Better than the last two days," Gilbert, the eighth overall pick, said of his performance. "Being able to get the hands on the receivers, re-route them at the line, be able to play like I want to play and be more physical at the line of scrimmage."

Gilbert wrestled the ball away from slot receiver Andrew Hawkins for an interception in a one-on-one drill. Gilbert broke up a pass in a seven-on-seven drill and did it again in an 11-on-11 session.

"He's got a lot of stuff to work on, but he's flashed some of the things that we saw coming out of college," Pettine said. "That's one of the reasons we took him where we took him."

When it comes to practicing in pads, at least one notable lineman didn't look forward to it as much as Gilbert.

"For everybody who's probably not a lineman, they love the first day of pads, fans, coaches, everybody," Thomas said. "But even in my eighth year, you got a little bit of butterflies in your stomach before you come out here because this is real football. If you mess up, somebody's going to get smacked."

 

Read option surfaces

The Browns installed some of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's read-option plays Monday.

Thomas is a fan.

"It's great," Thomas said. "It can give you huge gashes. It confuses the defense, it gives them something that they have to work on during the week. Even if you only run it a couple times, they'll have to spend 15 or 20 minutes during practice every week to try to prepare for it. We've watched a lot of cutups from when they were running it in Washington, and they had some tremendous gashes and really just had the defense confused.

"It kind of adds a different element to an offense that a lot of teams don't have. With that being said, sometimes it's hard on the [offensive linemen] because we don't know where the ball is. So sometimes the biggest plays are the ones where we don't block anybody or there's a bust or somebody's running through free, but that's the great part of the offense. You don't need to put a hat on every player in order to get the running back through to the second level and to get a good play. A lot of times there's guys running free, but because of the misdirection it's a big hit and the line may not block anybody."

As for the zone-blocking scheme Shanahan uses heavily in the running game, Thomas admitted it's new to him.

"It's totally different," Thomas said. "Every offense that I've been in really in the NFL has relied heavily on gap schemes where you're pulling guards, pulling tackles, downhill running, inside zones, and this is hardly any of that. It's almost all outside zones."

 

Extra points

Browns All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon has hired attorney Maurice Suh, who helped Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman win an appeal of a suspension, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday. Gordon's appeal hearing for his looming suspension is scheduled for Friday. ... The Browns signed wide receiver Marlon Moore, the team announced Monday. The 6-foot, 190-pound Moore is entering his fifth NFL season and has appeared in 43 games with two starts. He has tallied 19 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Moore, 26, appeared in six games with the San Francisco 49ers and eight games with the Miami Dolphins last season, compiling seven catches for 62 yards. ... The Browns waived backup right tackle Chris Faulk. He suffered torn a ACL, PCL and MCL in his right knee in 2012 during a practice at Louisiana State University and just worked his way back to the field. He practiced with the Browns for the first time Saturday. ... The Browns also waived backup kicker Jake Rogers. ... The Browns will not only tackle to the ground Saturday during their scrimmage at the University of Akron, but they'll do the same in Thursday's practice. ... Pettine revealed his former boss and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan refers to Pettine's father, legendary Pennsylvania high school coach Mike Sr., as "the real Coach Pettine." ... The Browns ended practice with Manziel running a team drill as Beastie Boys' Fight for Your Right [to Party] blared from speakers on the field. ... On NFL Network Sunday, Dallas owner Jerry Jones said the Cowboys nearly drafted Manziel 16th overall, as many suspected. "As I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in," Jones said. "It was that close."

Browns All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon has hired attorney Maurice Suh, who helped Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman win an appeal of a suspension, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday. Gordon's appeal hearing for his looming suspension is scheduled for Friday. ... The Browns signed wide receiver Marlon Moore, the team announced Monday. The 6-foot, 190-pound Moore is entering his fifth NFL season and has appeared in 43 games with two starts. He has tallied 19 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Moore, 26, appeared in six games with the San Francisco 49ers and eight games with the Miami Dolphins last season, compiling seven catches for 62 yards. ... The Browns waived backup right tackle Chris Faulk. He suffered torn a ACL, PCL and MCL in his right knee in 2012 during a practice at Louisiana State University and just worked his way back to the field. He practiced with the Browns for the first time Saturday. ... The Browns also waived backup kicker Jake Rogers. ... The Browns will not only tackle to the ground Saturday during their scrimmage at the University of Akron, but they'll do the same in Thursday's practice. ... Pettine revealed his former boss and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan refers to Pettine's father, legendary Pennsylvania high school coach Mike Sr., as "the real Coach Pettine." ... The Browns ended practice with Manziel running a team drill as Beastie Boys' Fight for Your Right [to Party] blared from speakers on the field. ... On NFL Network Sunday, Dallas owner Jerry Jones said the Cowboys nearly drafted Manziel 16th overall, as many suspected. "As I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in," Jones said. "It was that close."

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By NATE ULRICH - The Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

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