WFNY’s State of the Browns: Quarterbacks

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The season is just 100 days away. Enthusiasm is growing with each 140-character update from OTAs. The Cleveland Browns have had a very busy offseason in terms of the roster, coaching staff, and front office. Making big splashes both in free agency and the draft, they’ve completely revamped the roster. Each week from today to the beginning of training camp, I will examine the state of one position on the Cleveland Browns. The first position I will look at is the highly talked about group under center.

The quarterback position has been a constant turnstile of players since the team’s return in 1999 where the Browns have seen twenty quarterbacks start under center. The position was a major focus for the Browns this offseason resulting in the addition of three new players. The Browns drafted Johnny Manziel, signed Tyler Thigpen, and also signed undrafted free agent Connor Shaw. These three will be added to the incumbent starter Brian Hoyer.

Projected Depth Chart

Notable Quarterback Transactions

Additions
1. Johnny Manziel (Draft)
2. Tyler Thigpen (Free Agency)
3. Connor Shaw (Undrafted Free Agent)
Subtractions
1. Brandon Weeden (Cut; signed by DAL)
2. Jason Campbell (Cut; signed by CIN)
3. Alex Tanney (Cut; YouTube)

Brian Hoyer

The Browns played their best football last season when quarterback Brian Hoyer was under center. In the three games he started last season, Hoyer threw for five touchdowns, 615 passing yards, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 82.6. The biggest number above all of the numbers he put up last season is three wins and zero losses. He has the leadership that for many years the team has been looking for in their signal caller. The team had more energy and emotion during the three games that Hoyer played in last season.

Hoyer’s biggest strengths are his intelligence, leadership, and pocket awareness. Hoyer consistently made the right decision during his stint at quarterback last season. He did not try to make the big play, but the smart play. His leadership was shown through how the whole team played while he was the quarterback. The Brown had fire because they knew they had a competent quarterback who could lead them to a win. Another positive part of Hoyer’s game is his awareness of the rush and when to get rid of the ball. He did not hold on to the ball for very long because he made quick decisions.

The biggest questions with Brian Hoyer are his ability to stay healthy and sustain his good play. Hoyer only played in three games before his season-ending injury. He has not started a sixteen game season yet in his career. He has a total of four games in which he has started in his career. He does not have the track record to show if he can sustain the level he played at last season. No one has any real knowledge of how good he can be in a full season. So to put all your faith in him to take the Browns to the playoffs is a little foolish. But in terms of next season, he is expected to be the starting quarterback for the season opener versus the Steelers. Hoyer, though, will need to beat out newcomer Johnny Manziel during the preseason to be able to stay in front of him in the depth chart. But for now, head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer say that Hoyer is the is their starter.

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Johnny Manziel

With the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. He was the most publicized player in the draft and the top quarterback on many experts’ boards. Johnny Manziel was the 2012 Heisman trophy winner and was one of the most exciting players in college. The Browns selected him in the hope of finally finding their franchise quarterback who can lead them out of their consistent losing.

Johnny Manziel has many skills, but his improvisation, accuracy, and leadership are the skills that make him “Johnny Football.” Manziel’s greatest asset is his ability to make a play out of nothing and get out of trouble. He is a very good athlete who can wiggle through an incoming pass rush to make a big run or throw down field. With this great improvisation is his ability to accurately throw the ball to the target. He is very accurate when he is moving and out of the pocket. Last season, he improved his accuracy when throwing in the pocket. He is good at not throwing to the receiver but anticipating and throwing to the area where the receiver can make yards after the catch. His leadership has been shown throughout his career at Texas A&M. He has the passion and fire to motivate his teammates in the most important part of the game. Manziel is well liked by his teammates and in college he was the leader in turning around the Aggie program.

The biggest question marks for Johnny Manziel in the NFL are his smaller size and fundamentals. Manziel is a shade above six-feet tall and will be one of the smaller quarterbacks in the NFL. He must be able to see over the line and find the open receiver down field. His smaller build might also lead him to being more injury prone. Manziel has to refine his footwork and decision making in order to be a consistent starting quarterback. He has to get his feet in the right position so that he can put the right zip on the ball and place it in the right place. He also should learn from Brian Hoyer on how not gamble as much for the big play and learn to make the smart play. But he still needs to remain who he is and do the improvisation that made him “Johnny Football.” Johnny Manziel will have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback spot. He will need to outshine Hoyer during the preseason in order to win the job. He fits Kyle Shanahan’s offense very well and this fit could help get him into the starting lineup quicker. Manziel will have a lot of pressure on him to beat out Hoyer, but he seems to not care about the outside noises and so I believe there is a chance that he is in the starting lineup come Week 1.

Tyler Thigpen

The Cleveland Browns were very active in finding quarterbacks and one of the additions they made was Tyler Thigpen in free agency. Tyler Thigpen is experienced quarterback who gives the Browns more depth in the position. He has twelve career starts during his seven years in the NFL. In his career, he has 21 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and passing rating of 72.5. He could be a very valuable backup for the Browns next season.

Tyler Thigpen is a mobile quarterback who fits well into Shanahan’s offensive system (are you sensing a theme?). He gives the Browns another player with NFL experience to have in their depth chart. He could give them someone who could fill in for a start if both players in front of him somehow get hurt. We have seen through the years that the Browns have had to go to their third string quarterback for a start. Thigpen will be battling with undrafted free agent Connor Shaw and any other quarterback they may bring in to compete for the third string quarterback spot. I believe he is the leader in the clubhouse to be the Browns third sting quarterback next season.

Connor Shaw

The Cleveland Browns added another quarterback by signing Connor Shaw of South Carolina after the 2014 NFL Draft. Shaw was a very productive college player at South Carolina. In his senior season, he threw 24 touchdowns, 2447 passing yards, and only one interception. The Gamecocks had winning seasons all four seasons during Shaw’s career. He is—wait for it…—another mobile quarterback who fits Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system.

Shaw is a very athletic quarterback with good accuracy. He can run the Browns offense because his skill set is very applicable to it. Shaw is a tough player who was a very good leader during his time in college. He will be battling with Tyler Thigpen for the third string quarterback spot. Shaw has more upside then Thigpen, but he lacks the experience that Thigpen has in the NFL. Shaw could be a very good project to keep on their roster and let him develop. It will be very interesting to see if the Browns go with the young project or the experienced veteran as their third string quarterback.

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Overview

The Cleveland Browns completely revamped the quarterback position will the additions of Johnny Manziel, Tyler Thigpen, and Connor Shaw. The Browns will have a big battle for their starting quarterback spot. Brian Hoyer was very productive last season before getting hurt. He was 3-0 and had the team rolling at their best. But the team selected Johnny Manziel in the first round of the draft to be the future starting quarterback. Manziel will have a chance to beat out Hoyer with his play in the training camp and preseason games. The decision will probably be made very close to opening game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Overall I think the Browns have improved their quarterback group this offseason. They got rid of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, who both were very lousy last season. The subtraction of these two were very positive for the team because they needed to get players who better fit the new offensive scheme the Browns will be installing. Johnny Manziel gives them a player they hope will end up being the franchise quarterback they have been looking for. He brings talent and leadership to the group that was not there after Hoyer’s season-ending injury. Manziel along with Hoyer give the Browns two very good options to start at quarterback next season.

The biggest questions with both of them are their ability to stay healthy and if they can be productive. Both players have questions about their ability to remain healthy and play a full sixteen game season. Neither player has enough of a track record to know how they will play through a full season. The season will rest on if one of these two quarterbacks can sustain good quarterback play next season. The other quarterbacks, Tyler Thigpen and Connor Shaw, are also very good backups who give the Browns depth in case of injury next season. I believe the Browns are very much improved in this position and have set themselves up to be a better team because of this improvement.

(Diamond Images/Getty Images)

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Minor quibble: Hoyer was 2-0. It’s hard to give him credit for beating Buffalo when they were losing 10-0 when he went out.

    Will Thigpen be the #3 and Shaw relegated to the practice squad, vice versa, or will one not make it?

    I wouldn’t be shocked assuming Hoyer starts if Thigpen serves the Campbell role of being the guy to come in mid-game in case of injury, while Johnny would only come into a game as a starter.

  • Rudy

    “Overall I think the Browns have improved their quarterback group this offseason.”

    That’s an understatement. As you note, just cutting Weeden and Campbell would have improved the QB situation without even adding anyone else. All of the guys they have brought in look like players. The Browns now have a real QB roster, with several options, something we haven’t seen in a while. Huge upgrade.

  • Bob

    Keep Thigpen as 2nd string for 1 year, let Manziel ride the bench and acclimate to the speed of the game (or until Hoyer and Thigpen go down with injuries) with Shaw on the practice squad.

    Next year have Manziel starting with Hoyer/Shaw as backups + 2 first rounders = SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!

  • mgbode

    agree with the quibble (though official NFL stat is 3-0).

    I think we need to keep Shaw on the roster. If we relegate him to the PS, then he is going to be stolen from us. Teams like the Packers still employ guys like Seneca Wallace afterall.

    we have Hoyer for our veteran leadership, Manziel for our flashy toy, so let’s get a high-upside QB who has proven in college that he is not only mobile, but makes incredibly smart decisions with the football.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Agreed re: Shaw, just wasn’t sure if that’s how he was viewed in general (especially considering he did go undrafted).

  • mgbode

    he is scheme specific and doesn’t have the strongest arm. I think he should have gone 5-7, but obviously NFL teams disagreed with me.

    I think that he can improve his arm strength, but that he is a good QB3 to have on the roster even this season, which is why I am happy that we have him and it would be deflating to me to lose him.

  • BenRM

    I’m not seeing the high upside with Shaw. I liked him in college, but his arm isn’t good. Like, worse than Colt McCoy.

  • BenRM

    I’m not seeing the high upside with Shaw. I liked him in college, but his arm isn’t good. Like, worse than Colt McCoy.

  • RGB

    We should have kept Throwalicious.
    6-4…220…laser, rocket arm…

  • cmm13

    The season is just 100 days away…. better get on those expert analysis articles concerning what Manziel and Hoyer had for lunch over the weekend.

    http://i620.photobucket.com/albums/tt287/shadow_wolf124421/Kuroko-Head-Desk1.gif

  • mgbode

    upside based on him improving his arm strength (which is really core and leg strength as he throws it properly).

  • Backwoods

    I must have totally missed something last year. Maybe I need to watch Hoyer again? I thought he seemed very overmatched with a weak arm who got lucky on a couple broken plays. I thought Campbell looked better than Hoyer. Campbell had his flaws obviously, but the offense looked much more organized with him leading the team. But, hey, that’s why I’m not a GM.

  • steve-o

    It seems like they plan to be cautious with Manziel. If he and Hoyer look about the same, Hoyer is probably the day 1 starter. I think Hoyer is league average at best (or worse with a gimpy knee), so I’d prefer Manziel to win the job hands down. At any rate, whenever Manziel grabs it, he won’t give it back.
    I think the 3rd spot is Shaw’s to lose, especially if Hoyer becomes the backup. Thigpen probably has to be clearly better to win the job.
    This is the best I felt about our QBs since 2007/8 offseason when I mistakenly believed Anderson would just get better and Quinn might not be a bust.

  • matt underwood

    can we please get a copy of johnny manziel’s weekend plans to see if he is in fact doing things to make himself better before offering up a state of the quarterbacks report? apparently this is a pre-requisite based on previous articles.

  • Rudy

    MKC is already on it.

  • 6thCity

    Remember also that his strength coach could of sucked, and was more likely to not be good compared to McCoy’s at Texas.

  • 6thCity

    I rewatched to check my initial emotions about Hoyer as well. What I saw matches up with the article pretty well; it was decision-making, how the defense played while he was starting (noticeably better than with Weeden), and competent arm strength that set him apart. I think he’s got a Ryan or Dalton ceiling, and Wallace floor.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki
  • mgbode
  • RGB
  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    If either of them spend ANY time eating, then they are not getting better at the quarterback position. FACT.

  • cmm13

    Shut down the Internet. Matt wins.

  • Dave

    I would have worded it this way:

    “They got rid of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell,
    who both were very lousy last season. The subtraction of these two were
    very positive for the team because they needed to get quarterbacks who could hit the broadside of a barn.”