The three seasons Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer spent as a reserve for the Patriots from 2009 to 2011 did not transform him into a clone of New England signal-caller Tom Brady.
But it appears some of the positive qualities of Brady — who’s won three of the five Super Bowls he’s been to in his career — rubbed off on Hoyer, who is preparing to face the Saints in Cleveland on Sunday.
“I think in a way you can see similarities with (Brady’s and Hoyer’s) smarts,” said Saints safety Jairus Byrd, who played in nine games against the Patriots between 2009 and 2013 before signing with New Orleans in March. “Their decision-making ... (is a) similarity.”
All of which begins to hint at why Hoyer could be a tricky match-up for a Saints defense that was No. 2 against the pass in 2013, but then gave up the most net yards (445) in the NFL in Week 1 of the 2014 campaign in a season-opening loss at Atlanta on Sept. 7.
A native of the Cleveland area, the 28-year-old Hoyer heads into his showdown versus the Saints with three wins in four starts with the Browns, whom he joined in 2013 after both a lifetime of cheering for them. He made his first start in the third regular season game after his arrival, winning that contest as well as the next one, completing 55 of his 92 throws for 590 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions (all in his debut).
Hoyer would only increase his totals by four passes, two completions and 25 yards prior to tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the second drive of his fourth start, which Cleveland ultimately won. He sat out the rest of the year as the Browns finished 4-12 and fell short of the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.
Hoyer recovered, but not before Cleveland used a first-round draft selection in May on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Hoyer earned the first-string job at the conclusion of the preseason; but when the Browns found themselves trailing 27-3 in Pittsburgh at halftime last week, it seemed Manziel’s unveiling loomed.
Yet, the Browns stuck with Hoyer, who was 4-of-11 passing for 57 yards at that juncture. He completed 15 of his next 20 passes for 173 yards and led four straight scoring drives as the Browns scored 24 unanswered points to storm back and tie the game at 27. Pittsburgh eventually won on a last-minute field goal.
Nonetheless, quietly, Hoyer emerged from the defeat not having thrown an interception in 99 passing attempts, dating back to the third quarter of his first Browns start. Upon dropping back to pass, he was getting the ball out of his hands in an average 2.59 seconds, according to the website Pro Football Focus.
That was .16 seconds faster than Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose quick throws foiled the Saints’ Week 1 efforts to pressure — or sack — him.
“Matt Ryan ... plays the game the right way at quarterback in my opinion — he gets through his reads and goes through it quick,” Hoyer said this week in a phone call with New Orleans media. “That’s the type of quarterback I feel I can be and am.”
If the Saints don’t want Hoyer to either deliver his best impression of Ryan or extend his pick-less streak, they know they’ll need to cover receivers tighter than they did in Atlanta, which would in turn buy time for the defensive line to rush the QB.
“Covering tighter, he’ll hold the ball,” Vaccaro said. Though he extolled Hoyer’s game-managing abilities, the second-year Saints safety made sure to add, “I expect us to get a lot more pressure this week.”