Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden's thumb injury will keep him out of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, the team announced Wednesday morning. And in his place, the Browns will start Brian Hoyer, an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State who has started one game in his NFL career. Jason Campbell, the 2005 first-round pick of the Washington Redskins, who has started 71 games in his career, will ride the bench.
Weeden injured his throwing thumb in the fourth quarter of the Browns' 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, and Campbell mopped up, completing one pass for six yards in four attempts.
Hoyer, whose one NFL start came last year amid the Arizona Cardinals' mess at the quarterback position, has completed 57-of-96 passes for 616 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in his career. However, he has long been a favorite of Browns general manager Michael Lombardi, and the Browns gave Hoyer a two-year, $1.965 million contract in May. Hoyer was Tom Brady's backup from 2009 through '11 and spent '12 in the Valley of the Sun.
"I've said this many times: If I would have taken the GM job of the 49ers, I would have gone after Brian Hoyer, because I think he has all the traits and characteristics," Lombardi said in 2011, when he was an analyst with the NFL Network. "If I were the Cleveland Browns, I'd rather have Brian Hoyer behind center than Colt McCoy."
There was some talk before the season that Weeden might not be the de facto starter in his second NFL season. The Browns came into the 2013 season with a new GM in Lombardi, a new head coach in Rob Chudzinski and a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner. Weeden said in May that he was surprised, but not worried, by the Hoyer signing.
Hoyer also has the local-guy angle going for him, if that makes any difference. He was born in North Olmstead, Ohio, and he was a star at St. Ignatius High in Cleveland.
Cleveland's passing game has been less than impressive this year; the Browns rank 30th in passing offense per Football Outsiders' metrics. And while Weeden has been inconsistent at best, the team's struggles in that department are not all his fault. The offensive line has been problematic at best -- according to Pro Football Focus, the Browns have allowed 51 total pressures, by far the most in the league. Cleveland, Miami and Arizona are tied with seven sacks allowed at the bottom of the NFL's rankings. The Browns' 12 quarterback hits allowed is ahead of the Falcons, who rank second with nine. And Cleveland's 32 quarterback hurries allowed is the most in the NFL ahead of Baltimore's 27 hurries allowed.
In addition, Cleveland's receivers haven't exactly helped Weeden out -- only Denver's Eric Decker (five) has more drops through two games this season than Greg Little's three. Hoyer will have receiver Josh Gordon in the fold, as Weeden did not. Gordon is returning from a two-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.