The quarterback: Who’s going to play it? How will he do? Can he be dependable? The questions involved make it easily the most polarizing position in all of sports. We’re constantly comparing the current to the old, the “in their prime” moments of one to another.
For Ohio’s major college program and two professional outfits, the quarterback discussion is all over the map. What role will backups play, who will start, the questions abound. How about we take a quick dip into the Bengals, Buckeyes and Browns signal callers heading into the 2014 season? It’s Wednesday, let’s rumble!
There is no question that Braxton Miller is the undisputed starter heading into 2014. His backup? Well that’s another story.
Coming out of spring the depth chart lists Cardale Jones (6-5 250lbs redshirt sophomore) at number 2 with JT Barrett (6-1 25lbs redshirt freshman) at 3. True freshman Stephen Collier (6-3 215lbs) rounds out the group and may be in line for a red shirt.
According to those who were able to see spring practices, Jones and Barrett both suffered with accuracy issues on their deep throws. Barrett, however, was noticeably solid in the short and underneath game.
I hate to be the one to say it, especially so early, but at some point Braxton Miller will go down during the 2014 season. It may be only for a play or two, maybe even a series, quarter or half. He also may go down for a few games as we saw last year. In that event, the 2014 season cannot be allowed to falter into a 9-3 or 8-4 campaign. Tom Hermann and Urban Meyer have a lot of work ahead of them determining between Barrett and Jones which one is the right guy to plug in and keep the ship moving forward. They don’t have Kenny Guiton to bail them out.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how sharp Miller is early in the season at Navy and against Virginia Tech. The shoulder surgery he underwent over the winter kept him out of spring practices, not just the spring game. His accuracy and velocity in those early games will be a clear indicator of how much work he puts in over the summer while rehabbing.
Down in Cincinnati all eyes are on incumbent starter Andy Dalton. The “red rocket” has been better than efficient in the regular season but has wilted under the pressure of the NFL playoffs in each of his three seasons.
Many thought last years 4200 yard, 33 touchdown season would earn him a new contract ensuring his place behind center for the Bengals for the foreseeable future. It didn’t happen. Dalton enters 2014 playing for a new deal.
To make things interesting the Bengals spent a fifth round draft pick on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. I found it to be an odd pick because I see McCarron as “Dalton Lite”: A game manager who utilizes the playmakers around him, limits his mistakes, leads the offense.
I can’t see a situation where Marvin Lewis decides to pull the plug on Dalton and make a move to McCarron with the exception of one possible scenario. It is more than a little precarious that Lewis has a clone of Dalton sitting on the sideline holding a clipboard. Now look at the stats and see that each season Dalton’s interception total has steadily risen (13 on 2011, 16 in 2012, 2 0 in 2013). Should Dalton continue his upward trend on turnovers and McCarron proves in preseason and camps he can make safer throws while still spreading the ball to the wealth of receivers the Bengals have… what an interesting predicament.
Last but not least, we turn our attention north to Cleveland for the situation involving one “Johnny Football”, Brian Hoyer, head coach Mike Pettine, GM Ray Farmer and even owner Jim Haslam.
When the Browns first drafted Johnny Manziel my thought instantly was “sit him for a year behind Brian Hoyer, let him learn and use him in some specialty roles to get his feet wet.” Then I thought: What happens when the offense is struggling at First Energy Stadium and they bring in Manziel to run a few of his special package of plays and it lights a fire and the offense gets going? Now you have a stadium full of people ready for “Johnny Mania” to officially begin and they’re going to lose their minds with hostility when Brian Hoyer trots back out into the huddle despite him still being the best season long option. So scratch that idea.
Jim Haslam has made the comment that Manziel needs to “start acting like the backup” insinuating he has to earn his role in a southern “tough love” sort of way. Fair enough. General Manager Ray Farmer said after the first mini camp that Hoyer is far ahead of Manziel as it pertains to being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Head coach Mike Pettine hasn’t been as firm, but still says Hoyer is number 1 despite there being an open competition. All very interesting.
Before we get carried away with Manziel, let’s not forget that Brian Hoyer played well before his injury derailed the his season. He also has spent time working behind Tom Brady and with Bill O’Brien in New England. He’s wanted this particular job since he was a little kid. He’s not going away without a fight.
I can’t even begin to imagine how it will all play it out, but if I’m the Browns here’s what I do: I’d let them compete. I’d say exactly the things they’ve been saying about Johnny Manziel because it leaves him nowhere to go but up. Unless he absolutely wows them and makes it virtually impossible to keep him off the field, I’d start Brian Hoyer week 1 in Pittsburgh but I’d make sure people know the competition was a lot closer than expected and all about how we would feel comfortable with Manziel if we need to go to him but right now Hoyer has the experience and “knows the offense a little better” or some cliche line like that.
And then you wait. What are we waiting for? We’ll know it when it happens.
Wrap it up
Speaking of Manziel, is anyone else tired of the obsession with this kids social life? He’s 21 years old, he hangs out with famous people, so? Can you imagine Joe Namath in this era of TMZ and social media? Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
On May 12th the boys went to LA to perform some acoustic songs for the Music Cares benefit paying tribute to Ozzy Osbourne.
The 4 song setlist contained covers of “I Just Want to Celebrate” by Rare Earth, “My Life” by the Beatles, “When a Blind Man Cries” by Deep Purple and “Diary of a Madman” by Ozzy. The video footage from the bands website includes snippets of rehearsal, a Dressing/Tuning Room segment, and clips of each song from the show. Check it out!