The Cleveland Browns have picked a starting quarterback. Brian Hoyer is the man who’ll lead the team into opening week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that’s great. He’s a local guy whose dream is to help the team he rooted for as a kid win it all.
However, the QB battle was just one problem the Browns needed to deal with. A bigger one, it appears, is who exactly the QB is going to throw the ball to.
Cleveland’s wideout woes were brought up last week, as training camp was reportedly a drop-fest. After last Monday’s preseason game against the Washington Redskins, it’s looking like things may be worse than originally thought.
The biggest takeaway from the game was how shoddy both Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel looked, but some of this was due to major struggles from their receivers. Balls were dropped at an astounding rate. Josh Gordon, who will likely miss much of, if not all the upcoming season, loafed his way through the game while catching one of five passes targets. Tight end Jordan Cameron, seen as the main focus of Cleveland’s passing game this year, failed to catch all three balls thrown his way. Andrew Hawkins missed a touchdown catch in the first quarter. You could argue it was a bad pass by Hoyer, but you could also argue Hawkins still should’ve caught it.
Now, while Hoyer begins official preparations as the Browns starting quarterback, he has to be wondering just who’s going to be catching his passes. Unfortunately, part of the blame for such a miserable looking passing game is GM Ray Farmer’s decision to ignore a glaring hole on the team throughout the offseason.
Farmer reportedly came into this past May’s NFL Draft knowing Cleveland might be without Gordon for the entire 2014 season thanks to a failed drug test. Regardless, draft weekend came and went without the Browns selecting a single wideout. Highly touted prospects were there for the taking, yet Farmer decided to take a different route with every pick, something which will no doubt be brought up multiple times if the passing game struggles badly this year.
Some help was brought in via free agency, as the Browns picked up Miles Austin and Earl Bennett over the summer. However, Austin has injury concerns and Bennett was cut about a month after signing with the team. Cleveland also acquired Nate Burleson in April, but he’s struggled to stay healthy throughout the entire offseason and may not even make the final roster.
Farmer preached after the draft that there was no concern regarding depth at wideout, and the team would have “plenty of opportunities” to add receivers to the team. Well, the season starts in just over two weeks, and the only opportunity he seems to have cashed in on is Austin. Farmer brought in several undrafted free agents, but each seems to have only shown flashes of potential in practice and not much else.
Luckily, the Browns did put a lot of focus on improving an embarrassingly poor running game, signing Ben Tate and drafting Terrance West. At the same time, since opposing defenses won’t see any receivers they need to pay special attention to, it will allow them to stack the box and bring extra pressure to limit the effectiveness of Cleveland’s rushers.
The Browns can try and run the ball all game long if they want, but eventually they’ll need to have some semblance of a passing game. At the moment, it appears there aren’t too many threats in that department, something Farmer may regret big time if it results in the team floundering again this season.