Brian Hoyer is on a roll, and the Browns aren’t about to stop it.
Coach Rob Chudzinski ended any mystery — if there was any — on Monday by naming Hoyer the starting quarterback for Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills. With two wins in two starts since replacing injured Brandon Weeden, Hoyer is the first Browns QB to win his first two starts since Mark Rypien in 1994.
Chudzinski said Weeden has been cleared to play after being sidelined with a sprained right thumb, but the first-year coach is sticking with Hoyer, who led the Browns to a 17-6 win over Cincinnati on Sunday. Chudzinski declined to make Hoyer his starter for the remainder of the season and said he will continue to evaluate the position “week to week.”
But it’s clear the Browns (2-2) believe in Hoyer, who followed up a road win at Minnesota last week by beating the Bengals in his first start at home.
“He played well again yesterday and for the past two weeks,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, we’ve been able to win in those games and in a short week we’ll get ready and be ready to play Thursday.”
Hoyer does not have Weeden’s high-powered arm, but he has shown composure and control in the pocket and made enough big plays to keep the first-down markers moving. Against the Bengals, he completed 25 of 38 passes for 269 yards and two TDs.
“I think he improved from the week before,” Chudzinski said. “His decisions were very good. Just in talking him this morning, there were a few throws he would like to have made better. But you look at the drives — we had some long drives we were able to string together because some of the things he did on third down, the decisions he was making and the guys were rallying around him.”
The Cleveland-area kid has Browns fans buzzing and his teammates are behind him.
“He’s done a good job,” Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. “I don’t know how to characterize it. He’s making the big throws, he’s getting the ball out of his hand when there’s nothing there. He’s doing a good job for us.”
With the Browns leading 10-6, Hoyer led the Browns on a 91-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard TD pass to Chris Ogbonnaya with 4:59 left. The score essentially finished the Bengals, but when he returned to the bench, Hoyer spent a few moments encouraging Cleveland’s defensive players to put the game away.
“He’s really, really confident,” said cornerback Joe Haden, who contained Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. “He comes to the sideline talking to the ‘D’ all in our face, smacking me on the butt like, ‘Joe let’s go.’ He just has a really good spirit and he’s very confident.”
Chudzinski said Hoyer is embracing the leadership role, part of the responsibility of being a No. 1 quarterback.
“He’s doing his job and that’s where all that starts,” Chudzinski said.
Browns waive Hardesty
The Browns waived running back Montario Hardesty, whose NFL career has been plagued by injuries.
A second-round pick in 2010, Hardesty was placed on injured reserve in August after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The operation came just days after he sprained his thumb catching a snap from center during practice after he had missed part of training camp with a leg injury.
Also, the Browns released wide receiver Josh Cooper. Cleveland claimed running back and kick returner Fozzy Whitaker on waivers from San Diego.