The 2016 preseason had not been anything close to satisfactory for Brian Hoyer, signed this offseason as part of a clear win-now mindset; that is why teams sign veteran No. 2 quarterbacks with winning records as starters rather than pipeline a young prospect.
Veteran No. 2 quarterbacks routinely glisten in preseasons going against backups. But Hoyer had played himself into a spot of roster vulnerability by throwing the only two interceptions in 98 passes by Bears quarterbacks through the first three preseason games. Through those games, Hoyer had the lowest passer rating (44.5) of the four Bears quarterbacks.
Fortunately for the Bears, Hoyer played like an experienced veteran and picked on the Browns to the tune of 12-of-16 passing for 112 yards and a rating of 93.8 in the Bears’ 21-7 win to avoid a winless preseason.
Hoyer had completed less than 50 percent of his passes (46.3), surprising from a quarterback with a 58.1-percent career completion rate. Hoyer viewed the results as part of a process.
“I think you’re just going out, trying to play and get better,” Hoyer said. “There’s really no excuse; it’s just football. I remember one year in Cleveland I was 22-for-27, and other games. ... You’re always striving for perfection and sometimes things happen, you’ve got to react, whether it’s moving on to another guy who’s open or throwing a better ball.”
Hoyer got the start Thursday at Cleveland and directed the offense to a field goal on its second possession, though he appeared to miss opportunities with Cam Meredith and Kevin White for potential red-zone touchdown throws on consecutive passes in the first quarter.
But he then led a touchdown drive with 4-for-4 passing, giving him nine completions in his first 10 attempts — what the Bears needed to see from the player who will be Jay Cutler’s backup.
[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]
Kevin White produces
Not sure how often first-round draft choices and projected starters in the regular season start the final preseason game, but wide receiver Kevin White clearly was a not-ready-for-prime-time player after his missed 2015 season and was meandering through a lackluster preseason.
White was the only player listed on the depth chart as a starter (other than fullback Paul Lasike, the only fullback on the roster) to start in an otherwise throwaway game at the end of preseason. White put the playing time to some use, catching the first two throws to him and fighting for yards after the catch for a 15-yard completion. For the game he caught all four of the passes thrown to him, for 57 total yards — both totals more than his combined production through the first three preseason games.
“Just want to go out here, focus, do my job, don’t have any mental errors, run routes I’m supposed to run and just have fun,” White said.
Leonard Floyd with a good showing
White was not the only Bears top-10 draft pick getting in work against the Browns. Leonard Floyd opened at outside right linebacker and delivered one of the best plays of his presesason by stringing out a tight-end zone sweep by standing up Cleveland No. 2 left tackle Dan France. The Browns scored on the next play when the Bears flipped Floyd over to the defensive left and Cleveland ran a draw to what had been Floyd’s side.
Floyd was able to generate some pressure to the blind side of Cleveland quarterback Robert Griffin III, and coaches used him rushing from both outside and left and as an end in nickel packages when the Bears favor a 4-3 base.
Floyd took a finger to his left eye late in the half but finished with three tackles and a hit on Griffin.
Trouble on special teams
Special teams were a general disaster in an otherwise encouraging outing. Kicker Robbie Gould missed one extra point and had a second one blocked, rookie Daniel Braverman allowed a Cleveland punt to hit and roll some 30 yards for a 75-yard kick, and returner B.J. Daniels allowed a punt to hit his foot, a fumble that the Browns turned into their one touchdown.