Chris Pokorny of SB Nation's Dawgs by Nature was kind enough to extend a BTSC tradition of answering five questions about this week's opponent before the game. Read Dawgs by Nature for all the latest Browns news, and follow them on Twitter @DawgsByNature
I didn't get as close a look at Brian Hoyer as Browns fans did, but our opinions on him as a player seemed to differ greatly. I thought he looked pretty solid before his injury last season. Was that not the case? Why are Browns fans down on him?
"There is certainly a mixture of opinions when it comes to who should start at quarterback, both among the die-hard and the casual fans. When it comes to the support you hear about fans wanting Johnny Manziel to start, though, I think the fans who are vocal by nature play a big role in that. Case in point: before Mike Pettine named a starter in the preseason, we asked our readers who they felt should be named the Week 1 starter against the Steelers. Brian Hoyer emerged with 70% of the votes, but you wouldn't expect that type of outcome based on the headlines and comments you read.
I loved what Hoyer did in the two starts he made in 2013 (I'm not counting the third game where he tore his ACL). The preseason has been a bit shaky from an accuracy standpoint, but he's appeared further along than Johnny Manziel when it comes to the decision-making factor and getting the ball out quickly. I agree with Pettine's decision that Hoyer is the right quarterback to lead this team at the beginning of the season. However, I also understand where other fans are coming from -- those who think Manziel should start. We have a good offensive line, are in need of an extra dimension on offense with Josh Gordon gone, and Hoyer is in the final year of his contract, so Manziel and his mobility wouldn't cripple the team or anything like that. I just prefer to let Manziel get a little more comfortable with the offensive system before he takes the reigns."
Cleveland looks like they're built to live and die by the running game. Considering the growth needed at the quarterback position and Josh Gordon's suspension (I remember last year telling you I would have enthusiastically approved a trade sending Pittsburgh's second-round pick in 2014 for him...not sure if that's good or bad now), a run-based offense seems appropriate. What's a realistic prediction for Cleveland's rushing yards per game this year?
"The roster moves and coaching decisions the Browns made this offseason have been centered around the Browns shifting to a run-attacking approach. All four running backs on the roster this year are new -- that's right, our entire crew of unproductive backs from a year ago were let go. Kyle Shanahan has seen fairly positive results with his zone-blocking schemes in both Houston and Washington, and of course I love to cherry-pick and look at what Alfred Morris was able to do the past two years. Despite the drafting of Terrance West, I think Tate will be utilized as a featured back just like Morris was -- that would mean about 300 carries. Coupled with Tate's 4.7 YPC career average, that comes out to about a 1,400 rushing yard season. That is certainly an optimistic figure given Tate's injury history and never having been a full-time back, so 1,200 yards rushing might be a better answer. The addition of second-round pick Joel Bitonio at left guard is what will help get the Browns' line over the hump from a blocking perspective."
Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson had the cliche "I'm better than you" Twitter war this offseason. I'd put Joe Haden in that category as well, although he doesn't appear to be the same kind of self-marketer his elite peers are. Can we have him? Please? We'll pay for shipping.
"Well, if our receivers play as poorly as they did in training camp and during the preseason, Steelers might feel like they have a couple of 'Joe Hadens' on their roster for a week. Haden definitely likes to market himself, but it's a different approach -- Sherman and Peterson don't care about broadcasting it to the entire country, while Haden stays focused on promoting himself to the Cleveland market. I do wish Haden could deliver a better performance against Antonio Brown, though -- he's one of the few receivers who have been able to get the upper hand on Haden."
Do you feel the loss of T.J. Ward will have a significant impact on the 2014 Cleveland Browns?
"Losing T.J. Ward should not have a significant impact since we replaced him with Donte Whitner. Comparing those two players is like apples and oranges -- Ward became one of the best in the game at coming up in the box to defend the run, while Whitner excels at defending the pass. Most of the Browns' defensive acquisitions this offseason centered around players who could defend the pass well, and that includes cornerback Justin Gilbert, inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey, and Whitner. The idea is to have the front seven rush the quarterback and have trust that our secondary can play physical enough with the receivers to not allow the big play. The run defense will no doubt suffer a little bit, but our defensive line has a deep rotation of quality players who can plug the gap well."
Which receiver (i.e. a player not named Jordan Cameron) has the best chance of leading the Browns in receptions this season?
"Definitely not Miles Austin; I don't know if he can even get separation anymore. The best candidate by far would be Andrew Hawkins, because he'll be used on bubble screens, third downs, and in other areas. Cleveland will find themselves needing a playmaker in the receiving game, and Hawkins is our only receiver who can keep defenders off balance for those quick hitter passes."