Hoyer done for season with torn ACL; Browns back to relying on Weeden
Hoyer's journey brought him to Cleveland in 2013, where he entered the season as the third string quarterback behind Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. The Browns looked poised to stick it out with Weeden despite his poor play through two weeks, but a sprained thumb gave the Browns a chance to stick someone else at quarterback without technically "benching" their starter. That someone turned out to be Hoyer, who got the nod over Campbell in large thanks to his intangibles.
So what did Hoyer do? He took an 0-2 team that had yet to put up more than ten points in a game and hung up 37 on the Minnesota Vikings for the team's first win of the year. The next week, he was aided by the Browns' stellar defense to top the Cincinnati Bengals 17-6.
Hoyer was tasked with taking down the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night to get the Browns to their first 3-2 record since 2001. Hoyer started cooking on the second drive of the game, completing a pass to Devone Bess for 12 yards, then another to Bess for 13. On a subsequent scramble which showcased some of Hoyer's surprising athleticism, however, Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso laid down a crunching hit on Hoyer, bending his legs beneath him. Hoyer was immediately writhing in pain on the turf.
The diagnosis for Hoyer is a clean tear of his ACL, and he will miss the remainder of the season. If there is a silver lining, it's that the injury occurred early in the season, giving Hoyer ample time to get ready for 2014. "If you know him, how positive he is, he's already thinking about when he's going to be back," said head coach Rob Chudzinski.
In the meantime, however, the Browns will be forced to go back to Weeden, who helped the team average just 8.0 points per game in his two starts. Granted, Weeden did have a solid game on Thursday night, leading the Browns to a win while posting a 95.3 passer rating. If there's one thing I love about Weeden, it's that he does not hesitate to use his strong arm to heave the ball downfield, which is a nice trait to have with guys like Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, and Travis Benjamin on the team.
That being said, general manager Mike Lombardi has been vocal about his lack of belief in Weeden in the past, so if the team does not have faith in Campbell (it appears that they don't; he was skipped on the depth chart), they could bring in some outside competition for the position. I said just yesterday that I did not think that the Browns would sign Josh Freeman because of how well Hoyer was playing, but with Hoyer out of the picture, Freeman now appears to be a possibility. The Browns are a team to keep an eye on.
Regardless, Hoyer's absence is a downgrade for the entire Browns offense, and is a minor downgrade to the fantasy value of Gordon and Cameron.
The injury comes at such a horrible time, as the Browns had Cleveland's perennially disappointed fans talking about the playoffs, while Hoyer was finally getting - and making the most of - the big opportunity he had always dreamed about. The Browns - who sit at first place in the AFC North - will now make a push for the playoffs with major question marks at quarterback. Hopefully they won't turn out like their last 3-2 team (2001), who finished the year 7-9.