- Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer
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BEREA, Ohio -- Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Nothing at all. Just keep moving.
That may as well have been the theme following the Cleveland Browns' training camp practice Monday, as coach Mike Pettine said it was simply “part of the plan” to give Johnny Manziel all of the first-team reps the first practice after the team’s scrimmage.
“We wanted to work them both in,” Pettine said of Manziel and Brian Hoyer, “and it’s part of our process.”
That may be 100 percent true. But as the Browns head to the first preseason game, Pettine would only say that there’s a “more than reasonable chance” Hoyer starts in Detroit rather than virtually guaranteeing it -- which he did earlier.
In the day-to-day drama that is life with Manziel and the Browns -- wow, he rolled out nicely after that handoff! -- the practice move with Manziel means something to all but the head coach. If, for instance, a starting wide receiver or linebacker suddenly found himself taking second-team snaps through an entire practice, it would be noteworthy. That it’s the second-team quarterback taking snaps with the starters makes it more noteworthy, and that it’s Manziel takes it close to Tim Tebow frenzy.
Manziel did not have an especially great practice. His best completion was a deep post to Travis Benjamin that Joe Haden inexplicably did not break up, though he was there for the underthrown ball. Manziel later threw an interception and had an unwise decision to throw across the field and across his body in a two-minute drill. Three passes were dropped, but he also didn’t sniff the end zone on the two-minute drill and unofficially finished 6-for-17 in all his team work. Hoyer, meanwhile, finished strong, with a touchdown up the hashmark to rookie Willie Snead and an effective final two-minute drill that had him throwing into the end zone prior to a field goal.
The growth process continues, with Manziel at times stumbling through practice when he can’t really run around to make a ton of plays.
The most encouraging thing that came out about Manziel happened when Pettine said that he has made his biggest improvement with the playbook, calling the plays, getting out of the huddle and making his reads. That was one of Manziel’s biggest challenges as he transitions from college to the pros, and if he’s grasping that and not making mental mistakes over and over, it’s a good sign.
But a few years back, Brady Quinn was the celebrated Browns draft pick taken 22nd overall. He created quite a buzz with a strong first preseason game. A few days later, one of the then-assistant coaches rolled his eyes at the buzz and pointed out Quinn had been given a total of six plays to run, which hardly made him regular-season worthy.
What does that mean for Manziel, who continues to stress he’s not thinking in terms of any kind of gap with Hoyer? Sticking with the facts, it means he made some plays with his feet in the scrimmage when he threw a touchdown pass that was ruled incomplete and two days later was spending his entire practice with the starters.
Move along, please.