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Breaking Down Brian Hoyer's Recent Struggles Within the Browns Offense

Will Burge@WillBurgeContributor INovember 19, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 16:  Brian Hoyer #6 of the Cleveland Browns walks off the field after losing the Houston Texans 23-7 at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 16, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

For a team like the Cleveland Browns to win games the quarterback must not only be efficient, but he must also make a few plays. The Browns were already at a talent deficiency to begin with and then were missing Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon and Pro Bowl center Alex Mack. While Sunday's loss wasn't all Brian Hoyer's fault he definitely let his team down.

Hoyer has been better than expected this season. Early in the year he climbed as high as fifth in the NFL in quarterback rating. Lately it has been a different story, however.

Hoyer is now 20th in the league in quarterback rating and tied for 21st in passing touchdowns. He is also dead-last in completion percentage among starting quarterbacks.

It is no secret that Hoyer needs a strong run game and thrives using the play-action pass. He does usually make good decisions with the ball, which makes up for the natural skills and ability he lacks.

Long story short: Hoyer thinks his way to victories and does not have a large margin for error.

On Sunday Hoyer was not his normal self. He threw into double and triple coverage on multiple occasions and missed easy throws he normally makes. He needs to be better for the Browns to win, and he knows that.

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"There were a few where they were just off a little bit, a little maybe high," Hoyer told the media on Monday. "You’ve got to connect on those. We talk about getting in manageable situation. Some second-down throws where I could have been better.”

Missing wide-open receivers is something that quarterbacks cannot do. Hoyer did too much of that in the loss to the Houston Texans. The worst part was he was not even under duress a majority of the time.

Let's take a look at three throws from that game Hoyer would probably love to have back.

Play 1

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

This is early in the first quarter, and the Browns are lined up in the shotgun formation. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel is circled because he will be the intended receiver.

The inside receiver on the top of the formation will run a streak down the sidelines. This is designed to open up a hitch-and-go for Gabriel down the seam. This is attacking the middle of the defense.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Hoyer has plenty of time and a good pocket to throw from. The outside receiver on the top has drawn the cornerback, and the safety over the top is turning the wrong way.

Gabriel will now turn out of his hitch-and-go pattern and run straight up the seam. It is a throw that will require touch but is usually an easy completion in the NFL when the receiver is this wide open.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Hoyer overthrows Gabriel by six yards and nearly has the ball intercepted. He also has a wide-open checkdown option underneath the defense which he chooses not to take.

Play 2

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

This time Hoyer is under center, and the Browns are in a running formation. Andrew Hawkins is on the top of the screen circled because he will be the intended wide receiver.

He has a large cushion from the cornerbacks and will run a simple out route. This is a timing pattern. Hoyer should release the ball before Hawkins makes his break, and if he is going to miss this throw it needs to be wide toward the sidelines where no one can catch it.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Hawkins still has a huge cushion, and this should be a very easy completion. Hoyer is already late on this play, however. He should be releasing the ball right now and instead is just starting his motion.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Hawkins is still wide open, but Hoyer misses the throw badly. He also misses to the inside, and the cornerback nearly intercepts the pass.

This should have been a simple pitch-and-catch, and the throw was vastly off target. Look at Hoyer's feet after the throw. He is off balance and leaking to his left. That indicates he did not set his feet properly, and that led to the errant throw.

Play 3

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

This was the Browns' last-gasp effort to get back into the game. They were down by 13 with 6:58 to play and threatening to score. This is a 3rd-and-9 situation.

Hoyer will once again be looking for Gabriel on an out route. The other receiver to the top will run an in route to help clear out the defenders.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

This time Hoyer is releasing the throw before Gabriel's break, which is exactly how this is supposed to be executed. Quarterbacks in the NFL throw receivers open; they don't throw to open receivers.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

The throw lands a solid four yards in front of Gabriel, and he has no shot at a catch. There was no pressure, the route was fine and the receiver was open. Hoyer just missed the throw.

It was just one of those days. In fact, Hoyer missed 30 throws that day. He finished 20-of-50 for 330 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

These days happen to quarterbacks. It doesn't matter how good they are. Unfortunately for Hoyer he is not afforded much room for error.

He is playing for a contract and has a first-round pick breathing down his neck from the bench. Not to mention he was quarterbacking a first-place team in a city that hadn't seen that in over 20 years.

Sure, everyone has bad days. Hoyer knows he can't afford another like Sunday's loss though. If he does play that poorly again he may find himself on the bench watching Johnny Manziel trying to overcome all the Browns' injuries.

All quotes were acquired firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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