For a backup quarterback, rhythm is everything. Unlike players at most other positions that have a chance to stretch and mentally prepare before going into a game, a backup signal-caller may be told on a moment's notice to enter the contest and take meaningful snaps. Without much prep time, these players are often thrown into important situations with the expectation they will run the offense perfectly. Being able to come right in and find that rhythm can be all the difference between a capable backup quarterback and one who struggles to succeed in the NFL.
The Bears made acquiring Brian Hoyer a top priority this past offseason because the team knows how capable he is of being the guy who can come through in a pinch. Now in his ninth pro season, Hoyer has extensive experience, both as a starter and second-stringer. Sitting behind Jay Cutler on the depth chart, the ideal scenario would be that Hoyer is never called upon in the upcoming season. However if he was to enter a game, the Chicago coaching staff and his offensive teammates knows he can run the offense effectively.
Brian Hoyer looked sharp while playing the first half of Thursday night's preseason win in Cleveland.
Hoyer showed why so many have confidence in his abilities in Thursday's preseason finale. After struggling in the first three exhibition games, the quarterback showed the impressive rhythm that made him a sought after free agent. In Chicago's 21-7 victory at Cleveland, Hoyer started and played the entire first half, completing 12 of 16 passes for 112 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions. With quick decision-making and strong poise in the pocket, he was effective in marching the offense down the field for three scoring drives.
"There was a rhythm and we were able to move the ball," Hoyer said following the victory. "There were some good throws. I think (offensive coordinator) Dowell (Loggains) called a pretty good game to begin with – giving me some easy throws. We got the ball in Kevin White's hands, and Cam (Meredith) had some good catches. We just have to get the ball moving. We got the pass interference so we were on the one-yard line and to be able to punch it in was good. There are some other things that we can obviously clean up, but for the most part I thought it was pretty good."
In the first three preseason contests, Hoyer completed only 46 percent of his passes. Versus the Browns, Loggains allowed the quarterback to boost that completion percentage by getting rid of the back quickly. Hoyer threw several short- to medium-range throws, hitting four different targets during his time on the field. He found a strong rapport with wide receivers White and Meredith, who combined for nine catches in that opening half.
Hoyer did stretch the field occasionally, hitting White for a 26-yard gain. The pair also drew a 26-yard pass interference penalty that set up Chicago's first touchdown, while Hoyer overthrew Josh Bellamy on a bomb following an interception.
"It's always a work in progress," Hoyer said of picking up the Chicago offense. "The moment you feel like you've arrived or you have it all figured out, something else is going to happen. The one thing about football is you're never going to go against the same defense. Each play, the outcomes of each play you run or the defense they run, there's always so much that's going on. You've always got to evolve and get better."
The game provided a familiar setting for Hoyer. He grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb just west of Cleveland. Then in 2013 and 2014, Hoyer played for the Browns, starting 16 games over the two seasons for the franchise. "Just to be back in the stadium was fun for me," the quarterback said.
When the regular season opens on September 11, Hoyer will find himself in another place he knows well. Last season, he started nine regular season games and a playoff contest for the Houston Texans. In the offseason, Houston opted to sign a different quarterback, and Hoyer came to Chicago to be Cutler's backup. Nobody knows if he'll see the field in the regular season opener, but thanks in large part to the performance against the Browns on Thursday, Hoyer at least knows he'll be ready if called upon.
"I've played a lot of football the last couple years so I don't think that's anything to be concerned about," Hoyer said. "For me, it's getting in a rhythm with those guys, being in a huddle with them, getting a feel for them and them having a feel. From here on out, I'll just be ready at a moment's notice. That's the role of the backup quarterback."