Today is the day we begin our annual training camp positional previews for the Cleveland Browns! Following our schedule, we will be focusing on quarterbacks for the next three days before moving on to the running backs/fullbacks later in the week.
Let's start out with a fun fact: in last year's quarterback preview for the Browns, I ran a poll that asked the following: "If the Browns were offered a 5th round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft for Colt McCoy, should they make the trade?" At the time, only 35% of voters said they thought the Browns should jump on such a deal. As it turns out, the Browns got a good deal in the end: they utilized McCoy as a backup for the 2012 season, while still being able to dump McCoy after the season for a 5th-round pick.
This year is a lot different -- a new owner, new coaches, and new backups. The one constant is the man that matters most: Brandon Weeden. We usually split our quarterback preview up into two parts, but this year, Rob Chudzinski is opting to head into training camp with just three quarterbacks on the roster.
1. BRANDON WEEDEN - STARTING QUARTERBACK
Much was made all of last season about Brandon Weeden's age, but I hope that discussion fades in 2013. This guy's arm is not going to fall off any time soon, so that factor should not come into play for however long he is with the team. If Weeden is replaced in 2014, it will be because the new front office and coaching staff gave him an opportunity to succeed, and he did not capitalize well enough.
Fortunately, the offensive mentality that head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are bringing to the table seems to suit Weeden's strengths well. Weeden's best asset is obviously his arm and his ability to sling it down the field. While there were spurts in which Weeden was allowed to let loose in 2012, the gameplan kind of reigned in what he did best.
That's not to say that being allowed to throw downfield will be a cure-all solution for Weeden in his sophomore season. Our offensive line did a very good job at giving Weeden a lot of time to stand in the pocket last season, and while he took advantage of that sometimes, he also missed or was late in making of his throws. I'm fine if Weeden isn't some All-Pro quarterback, but when he is given extended time to find somebody in the pocket, he has to make the opposition pay.
Weeden's starting job is not in jeopardy heading into training camp, despite the fact that the Browns added two veteran backups behind him. He took all of the first-team reps during the offseason programs, and a new head coach isn't going to waste all of those valuable first-team reps only to pull a last-second switcharoo.
Job Security: A+
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. JASON CAMPBELL - BACKUP QUARTERBACK
Since departing from the Washington Redskins in 2009, Jason Campbell's name has been tossed into the mix of potential quarterbacks who could fit in Cleveland a handful of times. When he signed as a free agent a couple of months ago, my first thought was this: he's a backup. That's how I still feel.
Don't get me wrong -- in 2011, I thought Campbell was doing a pretty competent job for the Oakland Raiders. These days, it's hard for any quarterback to look very good in Oakland. Then, he suffered a broken collarbone at the hands of the Browns' defense, the Raiders traded for Carson Palmer, and basically tossed Campbell to the curb. Campbell spent last season as a backup with the Chicago Bears, although he did start one game.
Here is why you don't make the decision to ever outright start Campbell over Weeden: Campbell has been mediocre for his entire NFL career. We're hoping Weeden becomes more than that. If that is going to happen, we have to give Weeden at least another year to see if he can be an asset long-term. In the offseason programs, Campbell has indicated that he plans to head into training camp as if he is in-the-running for a starting role. Campbell has a big arm, but he's not going to suddenly flip a switch to become a Pro Bowler. There are benefits to having veteran backups who need to step in for a spot start, and that's all Campbell is.
Job Security: B-
Final Roster Odds: 95%
3. BRIAN HOYER - BACKUP QUARTERBACK
Brian Hoyer is a native of North Olmsted, OH and attended St. Ignatius High School. Those are areas many Clevelanders are familiar with. When Hoyer was a pitcher for Ignatius' baseball team, I got to see him face my alma mater. It's one of those things where he doesn't know you, but people were well aware of the name "Hoyer."
Hoyer grew up a Browns fan, wanting to become Bernie Kosar. This opportunity is a dream come true for him, and that makes it easy to get behind this "kid" (I say that sarcastically in a sense, because at 27 years old, he is the youngest quarterback on the roster).
Right now, I think it's too quick to make a judgment on what we have in Hoyer, and I'm interested to see if he can turn heads in training camp. This is a guy who has only received one career start (last season for the Cardinals), but also had to be good enough to warrant a couple of years behind Tom Brady as his backup, and has quite a few supporters in the media and in general manager Michael Lombardi. Here is what Lombardi said about Hoyer back in 2011:
I think Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are starters. I’ve said this many times: If I would have taken the GM job of the 49ers, I would have gone after Brian Hoyer, because I think he has all the traits and characteristics. If I were the Cleveland Browns, I’d rather have Brian Hoyer behind center than Colt McCoy. I think he’s got all the traits you need, in terms of leadership, toughness, the arm strength, the ability to move the team.
That's some pretty high praise, eh? I imagine that Lombardi's expectations for Hoyer have tamed since then, but that he'd also be happy to nudge Chudzinski to give Hoyer a shot if Weeden were to look absolutely awful in 2013. Unlike Campbell, Hoyer hasn't received that full-time shot to start that would make me want to shoot the idea down right away. The real competition at quarterback in training camp won't be for the starting role, but for the No. 2 role between Campbell and Hoyer.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
Feel free to discuss your thoughts on the Browns' quarterbacks below. Because of my confidence in Weeden being the starter for 2013, our poll asks who you think will be the team's No. 2 quarterback by the start of the regular season.