NFL Nation: Merrill Hoge

Browns' Brian Hoyer OK with his role

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
6:50
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Brian Hoyer spent a couple of weeks with the Steelers in 2012 when the team needed quarterback depth because of injuries.

One of his fondest memories from his brief time in Pittsburgh is when he ran into defensive coordinator and fellow Ohio native Dick LeBeau shortly after the Steelers released him.

Hoyer
"He said, ‘It was great to have you here. If I can ever help you with anything you let me know,' " Hoyer recalled late Wednesday afternoon during a conference call with the Pittsburgh media. "I don't know if that offer is still on the table now that I'm the Browns quarterback but what a great guy and a great coach."

That offer is likely suspended until further notice and LeBeau will be anything but helpful to Hoyer on Sunday when the AFC North rivals meet at Heinz Field.

Hoyer will start in the 1 p.m. ET game, though the Steelers are also expecting to see Johnny Manziel.

That the journeyman is already sharing time at quarterback reflects how tenuous Hoyer's hold on the starting job is with Manziel considered the quarterback of the future.

One thing that the Browns probably love about Hoyer is his maturity and how he has dealt with Manziel mania. Hoyer praised Manziel's work with ethic on Wednesday and said he has no problem ceding snaps to the former Heisman Trophy winner if it benefits the team.

"If it can help us win then that's all I care about," Hoyer said. "Obviously you want to be the guy on the field but if there's a certain situation that they think (Manziel) helps us win that's what this game is all about. It's the ultimate team sport."

Hoyer has seemingly been the ultimate team player since the Browns took Manziel in the first round of the draft.

He has blended in, something that is impossible for the polarizing Manziel to do -- ESPN NFL analyst Merrill Hoge ripped Johnny Football on Wednesday -- and adjusted to the circumstances that changed radically after the draft.

"I've eliminated watching ESPN, NFL Network, going on line, going on social media, reading the newspaper and it's actually made my life pretty simple," Hoyer said. "It's like you're living in the '60s or the '70s, you're not getting caught up in it."
Merril Hoge blasted Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel on Wednesday.

In every possible way.

Manziel
Hoge, a former Pittsburgh Steelers running back appearing on Pittsburgh radio station WDVE, said Manziel looked lost in the preseason and "has no business being on the field" in the Browns' season opener in Pittsburgh.

Hoge, who is also an NFL analyst for ESPN, added Manziel has no quality that translates to being a first-round draft pick.

He even referred to Manziel as a "juvenile punk," as evidenced by his text to Browns quarterback coach Dowell Loggains on draft night that he wanted to join the Browns and "wreck this league," though the actual language was more profane.

"That didn't just burn players; it infuriates coaches," Hoge said. "It told you, too, that he's a juvenile punk. He was like that, and he's still like that."

Browns coach Mike Pettine was very clear in saying Brian Hoyer will have the team's support as the starter, and won't have a quick hook. Hoge thinks that helps the Browns, because he does not believe Manziel is ready.

Manziel shrugged when asked about Hoge and pointed out many people support him and some do not.

"Stuff pops up on my phone and I happened to see something," Manziel said of Hoge's latest over-the-top rant. "He's been in the opposite corner of me for a while now so all I can really do is go out and try to prove him wrong. He's entitled to every bit of his opinion."

Pettine said he did not want to get in the habit of responding to every criticism.

"I just know," Pettine said, "that in the age that we're in of sensationalism a lot of times people that want to be heard have to make bold statements in order to bring attention to themselves. I think that's something that's a regular occurrence in this league."

Hoge pretty much lit up the Browns' rookie, saying he shows no understanding of concepts of play structure or the structure of an offense. He said he watched all of Manziel's preseason runs, and on every one "he could have thrown the football had he understood where he was supposed to go in the structure of the play."

He also criticized Manziel's arm, saying it's not strong and that against the Bears he could not throw a deep corner.

Hoge even implied criticism of owner Jimmy Haslam, saying the Rooney family would never interfere with anything in Pittsburgh, but that with some teams an owner expresses his positive opinion because he watched a player on "SportsCenter."

"You trump coaching," Hoge said. "You trump the evaluations of guys who have been doing it for years. Then you force them (the coaches) in a position that is just brutal. That coaching staff, I feel bad for them. They've got to deal with this."

The Browns obviously saw something different. They have entrusted the backup job to Manziel, which means he is one play away from being on the field.

"If you're the Steelers, you want him on the field," Hoge said. "You really do. Hoyer, listen, he didn't shine and he's nothing special, but he's a lot more dangerous than Johnny Manziel."

Quipped Pettine of Hoge: "Where'd he play?"
One of the larger storylines of the first week of training camp in the AFC West has been the plummeting stock of Tim Tebow in Denver.

It appeared Tebow would be given the opportunity to start when the Broncos tried to trade Kyle Orton to Miami. That deal died during the weekend when Orton couldn’t come to a contract accord with the Dolphins.

Tebow
Days later, it seems like Orton is fully entrenched as Denver’s starter in 2011 (the final year of his contract) and Tebow will likely only get his chance to play if the Broncos struggle badly like last year when he took over for the final three games.

Orton has outplayed Tebow in camp thus far. On “SportsCenter” Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Orton is Denver’s starter and he will not be dealt this year. Reports out of Denver back that up. There’s even a chance Tebow could lose the backup job to Brady Quinn.

It’s been a tough time for Tebow. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge has made it a lot tougher. Hoge has some extremely harsh words for Tebow’s play while on “SportsCenter” on Wednesday.

Hoge said he has studied film of Tebow’s play last year and he is not impressed. Actually, he’s alarmed. Hoge, who never has a problem telling it like it is, said Tebow has the skill set of a player drafted in the sixth or seventh round. Former Denver coach Josh McDaniels drafted Tebow in the first round (No. 25 overall) in 2010.

Hoge said Tebow’s accuracy is “awful” and there is no way he is ready to start in the NFL. Hoge equated it to a Clydesdale running in the Kentucky Derby.

It’s early but all signs point to Tebow not being an impact player in 2011 and one has to wonder when he’ll ever be. Tebow has said he thrives on being counted out. Well, he has a lot of motivation. At this point, it might be the only thing he has going for him.

Cameron Wake apparently still a sleeper

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
1:45
PM ET
Seven weeks ago, I disagreed with the notion some readers supported, that Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake deserved to be considered a legitimate candidate for the Associated Press 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Award.

I don't believe he was a complete enough defender for that prestigious accolade. But the one thing Wake does supremely well is rush the passer.

Even so, Wake barely cracked this week's ESPN.com positional power rankings -- for pass-rushers. We didn't rank players based on run-stuffing or pass-coverage. Just pass-rushing.

Wake didn't get as much respect as I thought he should've.

Wake came in 10th in our power rankings because I rated him fourth. Three panelists didn't put him on their ballots at all. One ranked him ninth. Three ranked him 10th.

For the record, this was my ballot:
  1. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker
  2. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker
  3. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker
  4. Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins outside linebacker
  5. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings defensive end
  6. John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons defensive end
  7. Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears defensive end
  8. Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts defensive end
  9. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker
  10. Chris Long, St. Louis Rams defensive end

Wake finished third in the NFL with 14 sacks. He was the most dangerous edge rusher in the AFC East by a big margin. Opponents had to game plan to stop him.

While I don't lean too heavily on stats while putting together my weekly positional power rankings, there are a handful of numbers you want to look for when it comes to pass-rushers. Sacks are the NFL's only official stats that are applicable. Other figures such as quarterback hits and hurries must be tracked by analytical outfits such as Football Outsiders.

Football Outsiders charted Wake third in the NFL with 15 quarterback hits (not counting sacks) and fourth with 38 hurries.

What more can you say?

Other divergences on my ballot included rating Freeney lower than any other panelist, omitting both Steelers outside linebackers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, and being the lone voter to include Long.

The reason Long made my list was because he was always around the quarterback last year. He had a respectable 10 sacks, but he led the NFL with 41.5 hurries and was tied for sixth with 14 QB hits in the Football Outsiders data.

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