AFC North: Cleveland Browns

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BEREA, Ohio -- This was not exactly a quarterback competition that inspired belief.

But at least it's over. That alone is a positive step for the Cleveland Browns.

Naming Brian Hoyer the Browns' starter Wednesday heading into the regular season fills three large needs:
  • It allows Hoyer to concentrate on preparing, which is what he does best. He can focus on the regular season, prepare to play and forget the competition.
  • It allows Johnny Manziel to take a step back, assess where he is and concentrate on learning the nuances and finer points of an NFL offense. Rex Grossman is there to help.
  • It ends this competition that seemed to be strangling the life out of both players. Coach Mike Pettine had good and logical reasons for doing things the way he did, but in the end, this one was turning south in a hurry. It needed to end.

Naming Hoyer the starter makes sense. He didn't play great in either preseason game, but he did have some good practices when more often than not he seemed better prepared and suited than Manziel to run this offense. That would seem to indicate he was pressing in games.

Freed from the weight of trying to win a job and instead playing just to win a game, Hoyer can relax and -- the Browns hope -- revert to the form he showed last season.

Hoyer's play against Washington was, by his own admission, embarrassing.

He needs to be better, not miss an open receiver in the end zone, not force throws and not rush them. He's at his best when he's prepared, on time and decisive.

It's up to him to live up to the faith and belief Pettine has shown in him. It's up to him to play well.

Manziel brings the hype and the attitude and the did-he-really-do-that college stats. But he was behind in grasping the offense. And it showed in practice, it showed in Washington and -- despite some illogical praise that came his way after the game -- it showed in Detroit.

He's at the point where he makes one read and runs.

If the Browns wanted to run a fast-paced offense like Manziel ran at Texas A&M, he might be ready to play. Instead, the Browns are running a verbiage-heavy, structured system.

Debate all you want whether that takes away Manziel's strengths. It's what the Browns are doing.

Kyle Shanahan repeatedly has said NFL defenses quickly will realize what a quarterback does well and take that away. Shanahan also said Manziel's strength -- his elusiveness -- could become his greatest weakness.

Manziel no doubt finds himself in an uncomfortable spot being the backup. It's understandable. But it also allows him the chance to grow and learn and get better while he waits. It's a chance too many Browns quarterbacks before him didn't have, and they suffered because of it.

Hoyer had done so much right as he came back from his knee injury. He attacked his rehab, begged to be let loose in the offseason and studied the new playbook like mad.

But the drafting of Manziel was a game-changer for him, and he showed he felt the pressure that goes with being the guy who has to hold off the phenom. It's a tough spot, especially for someone trying to lead his hometown team. He didn't exactly thrive in the fishbowl, but he has survived.

Theoretically, the Browns now could have the best of two worlds.

If Hoyer can channel what Tom Brady taught him and win one or two or three games before the bye, the outcry for Manziel will cease. The team will be able to just go play, Hoyer will be able to relax, Manziel can soak in knowledge and the team will be winning.

If Hoyer doesn't get things together and the Browns don't win, well, Manziel is there, ready and waiting and, hopefully by the time he plays, able.

The best-case scenario for the Browns? That the 22nd name in the draft isn't added to that quarterback jersey in Tennessee the week after the team's bye.
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It’s not fair to make too much out of Johnny Manziel’s gesture to the Washington Redskins' bench.

Manziel
It’s a gesture many have used.

But it is fair to say it matters, and it should matter. The Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback did what he did in a nationally televised game with many watching to see how he played. Coach Mike Pettine explained why it matters to him.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Pettine said. “We talk about ‘Play like a Brown.’ We want our guys to act like a Brown. We want to be a first-class organization. We have hundreds, thousands of kids who have come to our training camp practices. That type of behavior is unacceptable.”

Spot on.

Pettine then added something that is obvious about the camera-ready Manziel: “He should know more than anyone that all eyes are on him.”

Manziel will be fined and life will go on. His teammates will rally around him.

But it matters.

And here’s why.

Manziel plays in a city that raised Jesse Owens, who went on to win gold medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin in front of Adolf Hitler.

He plays in a city that was home to Larry Doby, the first African-American in the American League who dealt with constant and bitter racism.

He plays in a city that was home to Jim Brown, who overcame racism and spoke out against it throughout his career.

All of them dealt with far more than Manziel does on the field, and they handled it with dignity and pride, not with a junior high gesture.

Manziel is friends with LeBron James, who competes as hard as anyone and has never done anything like that on the basketball court.

Finally, Manziel is teammates with Joe Thomas, who has played every down of every game since he was drafted and made the Pro Bowl every year. He has lived through all the 10-loss seasons, yet he has shown up every season committed and dedicated to the team. He never complains, never makes a show of himself -- despite living through annual shenanigans year after year after year.

Manziel's gesture matters because he couldn’t get through his second preseason game without a classless act. He’s competitive. He has done and said a lot right since he started camp. But that gesture will be among the more remembered things of his first training camp. He can absolutely put it behind him with how he acts in the future, and he deserves that chance.

But it’s not exactly the best way to start a career.

Nor is it the best way to follow those who paved the way for him.

No coach should face a crisis midway through the preseason, but Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine has one with the team's quarterback position. He must take decisive action, starting with these 10 suggestions:

  1. End this competition nonsense immediately. The incessant attention to every throw, the nonsensical sharing of snaps, the inability of Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel to take the job ... it's all hurting the team. Continuing the silliness might lead to one guy playing well in one quarter of the preseason, but more likely it would lead to more struggles and a schism on the team. What's happening now isn't helping Hoyer or Manziel. End it.
  2. Make Hoyer the starter. Tell him it's his job. Tell him to stop thinking it might not be his job. It's his, and he's the guy. Not because he earned it; he didn't. But he at least has a two-game track record from last season to lean on, has some experience in an NFL offense and understands what it takes to play and act professionally. Let the team start to coalesce behind him and step toward unity. And let the team take a breath and find itself with one quarterback in charge.
  3. Show that Manziel isn't ready. He's especially not ready for Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore, the first three teams the Browns face. The Browns' system is too cumbersome for a guy to learn quickly. Manziel has moved from a spread college system based on speed and running plays quickly to one with play calls longer than the Gettysburg Address. If the Browns wanted Manziel to start immediately, they needed to tailor the offense to him, not fit the proverbial square Manziel peg into the hexagonal Kyle Shanahan/Dowell Loggains hole. Manziel gives every indication that this offense is that complex to him.
  4. [+] EnlargeHoyer
    AP Photo/Evan VucciNaming Brian Hoyer as the Browns' starter could help the team get behind one quarterback in preparation for the season opener.
    Sit Manziel down and talk to him about what it means to be a professional. This isn't a game anymore. Teammates have their livelihoods depending on how he plays and acts. Wagging a middle finger at the Redskins' bench might seem funny to him, but it's not. He might seem like the feisty competitor, but he's not. It's a sign of concern, and Pettine should be credited for not sugarcoating that reality. At this point, Manziel's signature moment with the Browns is an obscene gesture on national TV. Isn't that wonderful?
  5. Explain to Manziel that he's not in College Station anymore. The NFL is full of loud, nasty, belligerent guys who are eager to get under someone's skin and throw him off his game. Manziel's celebrity appearances on the party circuit make him a target of every barb known to the sports world. If he thought Monday night was bad or if he thought other experiences were bad before Monday, what's ahead will be worse. Washington proved it could get into his head.
  6. Stand up and say that the way things have progressed is Pettine's fault. Much as it's the quarterback's job to accept blame and spread credit, it's the same for the head coach. Hindsight says it might have been wiser to name Hoyer the starter heading into camp. There's the assumption that it would have helped him just play and not play like he's wearing a straitjacket. It might help the entire team if the coach simply said he made a mistake, he let the scrutiny get into people's heads and it's his fault.
  7. Then, channel his inner Blunt Force Trauma (his nickname) in a sit-down with Hoyer. Tell Hoyer he wants him to be the guy. Tell Hoyer he's rooting for him. Tell Hoyer he learned behind Tom Brady, for crying out loud. But add that Hoyer must back up his coach and go play. Stop worrying. Just play the way he did last season. If Pettine wants to be touchy-feely, he can remind Hoyer of the note he wrote him after his injury in 2013. Then he can call Hoyer's high school coach, Chuck Kyle of St. Ignatius, and ask Kyle to have the sympathetic father talk with Hoyer.
  8. Don't let a decision be made on anything other than football. Manziel is not a read-option quarterback to be experimented with; he can make plays with his feet and throw on the move. Move the pocket. Roll out. Forget the pistol and forget the other nonsense until Manziel proves he understands the game. If the Browns want to make it simple for Manziel as he learns, have at it. What's being thrown at him right now is too much, and it shows.
  9. Don't say the decision is not for the long haul -- something Pettine said last week. Pettine has been wonderful to deal with, but that slip was a head-scratcher. Former Browns general manager Phil Savage used to say that every person in the building had to be on board with the quarterback decision. When the coach says he doesn't want the starter to believe it's his team because he's starting the first game, the quarterback himself can't believe.
  10. Meet with the offense and channel his father, the original Blunt Force Trauma. The message: Take your heads out of the sand and start to play football because we're all in this together. Josh Gordon, you barely look interested on the field. Are you? The other receivers, who were brought here to help. Are you ready? Hoyer is the quarterback. The decision is made. Put your heads into the fresh air, breathe deep and play football.
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LANDOVER, Md. -- What do the Cleveland Browns do after that dismal performance by the two guys competing to start at quarterback?

They can't punt every third down, can't install the single wing in the next two weeks.

But they have a problem. In Monday night's 24-23 loss to the Washington Redskins, the two guys the team is counting on to win the job did next to nothing to help themselves or their team.

This "competition" produced a fiasco beyond almost any reasonable expectation -- on national TV no less -- and it left a head coach looking perplexed.

The veteran plays like he's suffocating under the pressure of Johnny Manziel, and the rookie looks like a rookie.

To add to the mess, the rookie topped his night with a middle-finger gesture to the Redskins bench on national TV.

The end of the world? Hardly. Classy? Absolutely not.

But could it be a sign that perhaps this is all getting to Manziel? Could Brian Hoyer's performance be a sign that this is getting to him, too? Absolutely.

Coach Mike Pettine came down hard on Manziel for his gesture. Appropriately so.

"It does not sit well," Pettine said. "I was informed right after the game and it's disappointing. We talk about being poised and being focused. You have to be able to maintain your poise. That's a big part of all football players, especially the quarterback. We have to keep our composure and that is something we will obviously address with him."

Manziel said he slipped up and he "should have been smarter."

No kidding.

He said he gets endless grief from opposing teams and fans, and Joe Haden said he heard all kinds of disrespectful things directed at Manziel.

Whatever.

Show some class and respect the game. It's not difficult.

This could be simple frustration, getting sick of the barbs -- though Manziel might best get used to them given his profile. It could be the sign of a rookie who's had it all go his way, reacting badly to an offseason that is not unfolding smoothly. It could be the sign of a rookie who for some unknown reason thinks he can get away with something like that.

He won't. The league will weigh in, as he faces a fine of up to $11,025, or 25 percent of his weekly salary if he appeals.

But the bigger challenge facing Pettine now is how Manziel's behavior weighs in on the starting quarterback spot for the season opener.

Hoyer's and Manziel's comments on their play illustrate the way things went.

"It's embarrassing," Hoyer said.

"I don't think I did a very good job today," Manziel said.

Credit both for not hiding behind the "have to review the tape" or the "there were positives to build off" lines.

There really weren't. Not even Manziel's fourth-quarter touchdown -- as big a relief as it was to the offense -- seemed to matter much. The drive was long, penalty-aided and lacked a single impressive throw. Manziel's week started with him being late for a meeting and ended with a middle-finger salute. In between he barely completed 50 percent in practice and played poorly in Washington.

Not good.

Hoyer played in the first half and finished 2-for-6 for 16 yards. He started a drive at the Washington 15 and could not get the ball into the end zone -- overthrowing an open Andrew Hawkins on third down.

"No excuse for it," Hoyer said.

Manziel was just as hard on himself, saying he started the game and "really tried to force everything and not let it fly."

Training camp competitions have ruined quarterbacks, especially in Cleveland. But they are doubly dicey when one of the players has the Q-factor of a Manziel. The holdover feels suffocating pressure, the rookie arrives with fanfare and hoopla. In this case, neither has responded to the pressure. As the competition has droned on and as the incessant attention on the job grew more intense heading into "Monday Night Football," the two wilted.

Now what?

At this point, two options seem the most realistic. One would be to give the job to Hoyer (as poorly as he played) and hope it relaxes him and unites the team behind one guy. Or the Browns can go into the third preseason game and leave it up for grabs and hope somebody actually ... well ... you know ... wins the job.

"Somebody has to be ready," Pettine said.

Well, somebody has to line up for the first snap.
Examining the Cleveland Browns' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

The old Tyler Thigpen experiment didn't go too well. Connor Shaw seems like a practice squad candidate.

Running backs (3)

There hasn't been an Isaiah Crowell sighting in days. Dion Lewis' fumble in Detroit won't help him. Ogbonnaya has great value on special teams, as his touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return showed.

Fullbacks (2)

Gray can do things, but it's looking like he may make it as a hybrid tight end/fullback if he sticks.

Wide receivers (5)

We’ll assume that Josh Gordon is suspended. If he’s not, add him and remove Johnson. Willie Snead made strides in practice, but needs to do better.

Tight ends (3)

The Browns are well fortified with the three tight ends they have.

Offensive linemen (9)

Wallace has been impressive playing behind Thomas. The right guard competition between Gilkey and Greco seems to have turned solidly in Greco's favor.

Defensive linemen (7)

Bryant's wrist injury, which may need surgery, is troubling to a unit that started camp with good numbers. How that plays out will be interesting.

Linebackers (8)

Mingo has played consistently well. Martin has flashed in some practices. Sheard is a linebacker who will also play with his hand down. A sixth receiver would mean the Browns keep just seven linebackers, but if it's eight the decision comes down to Justin Staples or Diles.

Cornerbacks (6)

Losing Skrine to his thumb injury is not good, but it does give Gilbert more time on the field. He has been the most impressive rookie on the team in camp.

Safeties (4)

The Browns clearly were concerned about safety depth, so they signed 30-something Leonhard. That bumps Johnson Bademosi, an aggressive player who has made some mistakes. Poyer started in Gipson's absence and got a ton of reps. The coaches must like him. But Josh Aubrey is another guy playing well; if he forces his way on the team, the Browns might keep one less linebacker or fullback.

Specialists (3)

No need to change anything here from last season, as all were strong and dependable contributors.
The endless debate and discussion about the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks -- wait ... Johnny clipped his nails today!” -- obscures one troubling reality about the offense no matter who plays quarterback.

So far in this camp, the Browns have been offensively challenged.

Or challenged offensively.

Both are true.

Manziel
 
Hoyer
 The offense did not score a touchdown in a scrimmage and did not score a touchdown in the first preseason game -- and that when the Browns played two quarterbacks competing to start for three quarters while the Lions played their backups.

There have been chances. A bad call cost Johnny Manziel in the scrimmage and a fumble cost him in Detroit. A dropped pass and two overthrows cost Brian Hoyer against the Lions.

But the Browns have been a team of “what ifs” and “yeah, buts” the past six seasons, when they have combined to lose 69 games -- 11. 5 per season.

As in yeah but they’d have been good if Greg Little didn’t drop all those passes.

Or in yeah but Brandon Weeden is only a rookie.

Or what if they hadn’t traded Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

Yeah buts and what ifs have done nothing but get coaches fired, players released and new systems started.

The wash-rinse-repeat cycle the Browns have been on for so many years continues as new coach Mike Pettine brings a new offensive system. He's trying to balance getting one of two quarterbacks ready to play while he works without any knowledge of whether or for how long he’ll have his best playmaker on the field. Oh ... there’s also the consideration that the blocking scheme for the running game is a complete overhaul.

This isn’t to say it can’t come together by opening day. But it is extremely challenging and difficult, as the Browns are showing this training camp and as they’ve shown in so many prior camps.

Even Manziel admitted the offense needs to find itself, and he sounded like a guy who understands that a touchdown might be a mental relief.

“We haven’t done it yet,” Manziel said, “so that’s what we need to do. That’s the goal for every group that’s out there is to score points.”

The Browns have some pieces. The offensive line seems to be made for Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. Ben Tate and Terrance West have shown ability. Josh Gordon, when he plays, is as good as any receiver in the league.

But learning a new system is difficult for any group of players. Trying to mesh on the fly can be frustrating.

It’s overstating it to say first guy to get a touchdown with the offense is the regular-season starter -- but not by much.
A day-by-day and honest look at Johnny Manziel's first training camp with the Cleveland Browns:

Manziel
THE WORK: More of the same inconsistencies. A good deep pass to Andrew Hawkins, another good crossing route to Miles Austin. Then there were bounced throws in the red zone, and an interception across his body in the red zone. Manziel’s least inconsistent moments came in the post-practice media gathering, when he very adeptly and insightfully assessed where he is and where he needs to go. While Manziel sounded like a guy who doesn’t think he’s there yet, it’s tough not to believe he internally is seething to start the opener.

GOOD THROW: The crossing route to Austin was a good throw, with zip. It also showed what Manziel said after -- that in college he could drop back and take a second look to find a receiver. In the pros, he needs to drop, read and throw. Which is what he did on this throw.

BAD THROW: On a rollout right in the red zone, Manziel chose to throw back against his body to the middle of the field. The pass was intercepted by Royce Adams, a second-year defensive back from Purdue.

THE WORD: “I look at this game Monday night as my second game that I've got to play in my career and it's a game where I need to go out and move the ball down the field." -- Manziel, on whether Monday night’s game is crucial.

START CHART: On a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being Manziel certainly starts the opener, we'll take a look at his chances as he goes through camp.

BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel knew how it sounded the second he said it.

So he quickly advised not to take it out of context.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Mark DuncanJohnny Manziel is aiming to show more progress during the Browns' preseason game on Monday night.
But Manziel had a candid admission after the Cleveland Browns' final training camp practice: “I’m not ready for Pittsburgh right now.”

In the Manziel world, which he admitted Saturday includes “chaos,” “overanalysis” and “hype,” this statement could officially be called a doozy.

Except in the real world of what someone means and intends, a little perspective comes in handy. Manziel wasn’t saying he could not be ready to start the Browns' season opener Sept. 8 in Pittsburgh, just that if he had to play the Steelers now, he would not be. He said he has two more weeks of practices and two more games to prepare, and he said he gets more comfortable each week. Too, coach Mike Pettine altered his stance to say that the starting quarterback probably would get playing time in the fourth preseason game, which if it’s Manziel, gives him more playing time to prepare.

As training camp ends and the regular season gets closer, Manziel is doing his best to downplay expectations. In one media gaggle Saturday, he said, “I need to stay in my lane,” and, “I don’t look at it that I was drafted to come in Day 1 and save the franchise,” and learning the offense “is a process,” and “I’ve only played one game,” and “my expectations are not through the roof.”

This is the humble Manziel, the one who is barely noticed behind the scenes at the team’s office. The confident Manziel is in there, but he’s smartly and wisely leaving that guy to show up on the field. The contrast is stark between the guy who appears on every NFL fan’s social media timeline and the guy trying to win a starting job in his first NFL training camp.

If Manziel was upset about not starting the Browns' second preseason game -- at Washington on Monday night -- he didn't show it. Asked about the fact that Brian Hoyer is getting the start, Manziel said, "I'm taking it with the same approach I've had the past three weeks of camp."

This is a guy who handles questions very adeptly. It’s obvious he’s been through the wringer before, and it’s obvious he understands there is a hierarchy in the NFL, one that states young players should not be heard too loudly until they've produced.

Manziel even shrugs off the louder elements of his life -- the constant attention off the field.

“It’s been a constant in my life,” he said. “It’s been the one thing that’s been the most constant in my life for the past two years. So I don't even pay attention to it anymore, I don't ever really see it; it never really even fazes me.”

It will be interesting to see how Manziel reacts if he is not the starter two years after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.

He had one blip in camp when he misread the schedule and was late for a morning meeting, but otherwise, the only complaint about him is the same one fans of Hoyer might have: He hasn't seized the job. Manziel has worked hard, done his best and tried to go from a simple one-side-of-the-field offense to long play calls and much more complex reads.

At this point for both the quarterbacks, what happens Monday night matters the most.

Browns Camp Report: Day 13

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
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BEREA, Ohio -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Cleveland Browns training camp:
  • Friday's practice, the last one open to the public (some VIPs will be allowed at a couple more practices), wasn’t exactly glittering. Brian Hoyer looked good, but the Browns seemed to be fighting through the end of the dog days of camp.
  • Coach Mike Pettine offered this explanation for starting Hoyer Monday night against the Redskins: “Because that’s the decision we made.” He wasn’t being flip, just not elaborating much. “We’re making our decisions based on the information we have, based on the body of work and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “There were a lot of factors involved and that’s ultimately, when we hashed it out, the direction we went.”
  • Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil met with the media and offered a few interesting tidbits. Among them: Isaiah Trufant is the starting nickelback, not Buster Skrine. Skrine and Justin Gilbert continue to fight for the starting cornerback spot. … DE Jabaal Sheard and DL Phil Taylor, though not listed as starters, will be “major factors” in the defense. … Gilbert is “on his way to being a great corner.” … LB Craig Robertson has greatly improved his coverage skills.
  • The Browns, led by Pettine, answered the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets and lined up 20-25 players, coaches and front office types to have ice dumped on their heads. Pettine said the team would make a “significant contribution” in the name of O.J. Brigance to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. As for Jets coach Rex Ryan saying he wanted to punch Pettine, the Browns coach quipped: “Anytime you want to go toe to toe, you know where to find me.”
  • Desmond Bryant again missed practice with a wrist injury. Pettine had said he believed it to be minor, but clarified Friday by saying that Bryant was getting a second opinion, which might indicate it’s a little more than minor. Bryant will not play Monday night, and it’s highly unlikely WR Nate Burleson will play (hamstring). Gilbert (shoulder) was back and should play, and TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder) also should play. WR Josh Gordon (hamstring) has a chance to play, but sounds iffy. Skrine left practice with an undisclosed thumb issue.
  • ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden was on hand to watch practice, then sat down with Johnny Manziel for ESPN’s Sunday Conversation.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns ended the last open practice of training camp with a line of folks taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to fight ALS, and with some stone-cold realities facing them as they head toward the rest of preseason.

One is that coach Mike Pettine brought up the dreaded two-quarterback reference, saying he believes the team has two quarterbacks who can win. An adage in the NFL is that when a team has two quarterbacks, it has none. Pettine said he will decide on a starter Tuesday, one day after Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel face the Washington Redskins in the Browns' second preseason game.

[+] EnlargeMike Pettine
AP Photo/Mark DuncanCoach Mike Pettine said the Browns would like to settle on a starting quarterback by Tuesday.
The other reality is the crippling effect that the looming suspension of Josh Gordon will have (the NFL has yet to determine its length). The team's receivers have done little to distinguish themselves when Gordon is not in the lineup, and at the rate things are going Travis Benjamin might be the other starting wideout alongside Miles Austin. With Nate Burleson out with a hamstring, the team’s young receivers have struggled.

The Browns may be bringing in receivers with a front-end loader after the upcoming rounds of roster cuts -- especially if, as expected, Gordon is suspended for the season.

As for the quarterbacks, Friday clearly belonged to Hoyer. Perhaps knowing he'll start Monday vs. the Skins helped him relax, but he had one of his best days in some time. Manziel made some good and some not-so-good throws.

The competition that has droned on all camp will continue through Monday and come to a conclusion Tuesday, according to Pettine. As the coach said, at that point it would be nice if one of the two quarterbacks has stepped forward and seized the job.

If not, “a decision still has to be made,” Pettine said.

He said he’ll do it with input from quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and GM Ray Farmer. But Pettine said there’s a balance between naming the starter and expecting the starter to produce.

“I don’t want whoever the starter is to feel like, ‘If I make one mistake, I’m out,'" Pettine said. "But I also don't want him to feel like, 'I've achieved something, this is my team for the rest of the year.'"

Earlier this week, Loggains spent a lot of time gushing about Manziel and not talking much about Hoyer. Pettine still went with Hoyer as the starter in preseason Game 2, which indicates the head coach may take a more active role in the decision than he said he would.

At least he won't be flipping a coin.
Brian Hoyer won’t be able to say he wasn’t given a fair chance to win the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback job.

Hoyer
Coach Mike Pettine will give Hoyer the start for the second preseason game in a row when the Browns travel to Washington on Monday night.

The most disappointed folks will be those who wanted to see Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel take the field immediately. They will get their wish soon enough, though, as Pettine has promised Hoyer and Manziel will share reps and both will be with the starters.

This decision by the Browns seems to be a clear signal that Hoyer still has to seize the job to win it. To date, that hasn’t happened. Hoyer has not lost the job by any means -- Pettine has pointed that out as well -- but neither he nor Manziel has taken it.

As long as that happens, there will be debate, second-guessing and questioning because the Browns won’t be able to point at one player and say he won the job. With that comes controversy, additional scrutiny and increased pressure -- elements to a quarterback debate that no one with the team wants.

It’s a cycle Browns fans have seen before with no clear-cut starting quarterback victor.

But it’s the way things have gone in the preseason. At this point, it’s almost a matter of default who starts, though who the job defaults to also is a matter of debate.

Is it the rookie because he’s the future investment? Or is it the veteran because of his experience?

A week ago, it seemed like Manziel had momentum going into the preseason opener against Detroit. He was practicing well, completing more than 60 percent of his passes the final three days before the game.

But he has leveled off since, completing 50 percent in this week’s practices (all unofficial numbers, of course).

The Browns are left in a quandary of sorts, having to pick one guy even though one guy has not emerged.

Hoyer getting the second start almost makes it seem as if the team hopes he seizes the job. Pettine has said over and over that in his ideal world a rookie does not start right away.

Hoyer can win the job -- but he has to earn it.

If he doesn’t, he may see it taken from him.

Browns Camp Report: Day 12

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
3:59
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BEREA, Ohio -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Cleveland Browns training camp:
  • The Browns have gone a complete game and a complete scrimmage without a touchdown. Scores have been hard to come by in practice, too. So when the Browns scored two touchdowns it was noteworthy. First, Johnny Manziel found Travis Benjamin on a deep throw. Then Brian Hoyer ran a hurry-up/no-huddle drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Ben Tate. At that point it might have been time to stop the practice and award game balls. Hoyer was sharp and precise on the drive, and finished by making a nice read to find Tate to the left where he made the catch, turned upfield and scored. The absence of scoring and struggle to do so seems far more pronounced when Josh Gordon is not on the practice field, which he wasn't on Wednesday.
  • For whatever it's worth, owner Jimmy Haslam had a lengthy talk with Gordon prior to the start of practice. The owner will occasionally greet players on days he watches, but the timeframe on this discussion qualified it as a lengthy 10 minutes. Photos, too, seemed to show Haslam was speaking with a stern look on his face. Haslam later went and spent a good 20 minutes with coach Mike Pettine, then stalked GM Ray Farmer to talk to him for 10 and then found team president Alec Scheiner for another 10. Nobody knows the topic of discussion, and it all may mean nothing, but none of this was typical. “Just talking about the crazy Cleveland weather,” Pettine said.
  • Benjamin had a big day, catching a deep throw from Manziel and making several other catches. Benjamin is coming back from ACL surgery, and his role in the offense seems to be growing -- especially when Gordon is out. Pettine praised Benjamin's work, and his role as a kick returner is secure. The concern with him continues to be injury given his size and slender frame.
  • As for the rest of the receivers, it’s probably best not to mention them. There were at least five drops, with as many as six. And they were spread among the entire group, which when Gordon is not on the field looks more and more lacking. There have been drops all week after there were several in the loss to Detroit. “It’s just you get into kind of the heat of camp, and you've just got to push guys through it,” he said. “They've got to focus. They've got to make sure they’re looking balls in. I know the one day was the wet day or it was the first time we were trying to handle wet or heavier footballs. I’m not concerned about it.”
  • Manziel went (according to the Great Jason Gibbs of ESPN-Cleveland) 12-20 with a touchdown, unofficially. In three days of practice since the game, he’s 34-for-68. That puts him at 50 percent for the week after he finished last week over 60 percent. ... Pettine said he expects the starters to play for the first half in Washington, though it could be altered by the quick turnaround before the third game. ... Safety Josh Aubrey has rebounded from an ankle injury that ended his 2013 season early with a strong camp. He is pushing Jordan Poyer and Jim Leonhard for one of the backup safety spots. “He's really shown up when we’ve done live work,” Pettine said. ... Cornerback Justin Gilbert was back practicing after missing since last Friday with a shoulder issue. Joe Haden was given the day off, or what shall henceforth be known as the Joe Thomas Honorary Veterans Day Off.

Up Next: The Browns are off Thursday and will conclude training camp with a 9:30 a.m. ET practice on Friday.
A day-by-day and honest look at Johnny Manziel's first training camp with the Cleveland Browns:

Manziel
THE WORK: More of the same. There were plays when Manziel looked very good, plays where he didn’t. After spending Tuesday with the starters, Manziel was back with the twos on Wednesday as the Browns continue to allow Manziel and Brian Hoyer to alternate days with the first unit. Manziel made a few good pocket throws -- especially one to Tarvis Benjamin -- but also struggled in the hurry-up offense. That should be no cause for concern, though. The Browns practiced the hurry-up for the first time.

GOOD THROW: Manziel stood in the pocket and hit Benjamin in stride on a deep crossing pattern. The ball fell between two defenders as Benjamin raced just past the right hashmark. Given the play involved a dropback, a read and a strong throw, it might have been Manziel’s best of training camp.

BAD THROW: In the hurry-up offense, Manziel had two clunker third-down plays that ended drives. He basically threw the ball away at the end of a rollout, then found nobody open and made a poor throw in the general direction of Terrance West. The mitigating factor was this was the first time he had used the hurry-up.

THE WORD: "Nothing has changed. We’re going to go ahead and meet tomorrow and discuss all positions, but the quarterback one especially tomorrow." Coach Mike Pettine on who will start and how he will handle quarterbacks during Monday’s game in Washington.

START CHART: On a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being Manziel certainly starts the opener, we'll take a look at his chances as he goes through camp.

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For the first time in several days, there were very few questions about the Cleveland Browns' quarterback situation at Mike Pettine’s media get-together.

Pettine will decide who starts the second preseason game in Washington on the team’s off-day on Thursday, though he was clear that Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer would get the same amount of time with the starters. As the competition continues, with each quarterback getting time with the starters on alternating days in practice, other questions linger. Let’s take a stab at some of them:

What does the signing of Rex Grossman mean?

[+] EnlargeDowell Loggains
AP Photo/Mark DuncanCleveland Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains will be part of the group that decides between Brian Hoyer (6) and Johnny Manziel (2).
Grossman stepped into the offense, directed players on where to go, made signals to motion receivers and dropped passes into receivers’ arms. He clearly has the advertised knowledge of the system. But Grossman’s signing had the bees buzzing locally and national that it’s not good for Brian Hoyer, that Grossman isn’t needed if Hoyer starts but he is needed if Manziel starts. Hoyer might not be the best mentor if he doesn’t start, and Grossman would be, so the thinking goes. This led to wild speculation that the Browns might trade Hoyer to Houston, where Bill O’Brien is a Belichick guy leading the ship. Radio chatter was prevalent, and some stories even appeared. “Stories is a good word for them,” coach Mike Pettine said, before adding: “I addressed that yesterday.” That is when he said “absolutely not,” when asked about Hoyer being expendable with Grossman on the team. One other factor: Grossman was the third quarterback in Washington the last two seasons; he’s at the point where he’s happy to be on a roster. Maybe Grossman is simply an upgrade over Tyler Thigpen.

What if nobody wins the job?

The two quarterbacks presently are in the muck. That means they are mucking around together, with neither seizing the job. Kyle Shanahan said early in camp that he fully expected someone to make the decision easy, but that hasn’t happened. They’ve both had good moments and bad moments. If this continues through Monday’s game, the Browns have to decide: Does neither winning the job mean that Hoyer gets it by default, or does it favor Manziel because he’s the hot-shot, first-round draft pick?

What if it’s a tie?

In baseball, a tie goes to the runner. In basketball a tie (up) is a jump ball. In football, a tie goes to overtime. But there is no overtime possible in this competition if Pettine sticks to his plan to name the starter before the third preseason game. If both Hoyer and Manziel play well Monday and they’re both relatively equal the way they were the first game – Hoyer had 92 total yards, Manziel 90 – then does the tie go to the veteran because he’s better able to read defenses like Pittsburgh’s, or does it go to the rookie because he’s the hot-shot, first-round pick.

Does the early schedule matter?

The Browns open at Pittsburgh and at home against New Orleans and Baltimore. It would be tough to find a tougher opening series of games, and Pettine admitted it had to be kept in mind. Would the Browns be reluctant to throw a rookie into that buzzsaw of games?

What about Josh Gordon’s situation?

Take the biggest playmaker out of a lineup and the entire offense suffers. When the biggest playmaker is a receiver, the quarterback suffers. When the remaining receivers play the way the Browns remaining receivers have played the past week or two, the ripple effect is very bad. Defenses can stack the box to stop the run and pressure the quarterback because they don’t fear a playmaker on the outside. Some would say this favors Hoyer because a veteran would be needed to stabilize what’s left of the offense. Other would say Gordon’s absence favors Manziel because the Browns will need someone to create plays, which is his skill.

What matters most? Pettine has said it over and over again: Who gives the Browns the best chance to win?The definition of “best chance to win” will be made by quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Pettine.

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