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Browns quarterback competition is only just beginning

Posted Jul 31, 2014

Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel both making strides in camp

Five days into training camp, the Cleveland Browns’ choice at quarterback between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel is one that’s still completely up in the air.

The quarterbacks themselves, the entire team, and heck, pretty much every sports fan in the country want more clarity on the Browns’ quarterback situation.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has one word for those curious about the Browns: patience.

“You’ve got a rookie quarterback and another quarterback who has really only played in three NFL games,” said Shanahan to reporters on Thursday. “They are both learning new offenses. When one guy has a bad practice I don’t try and say, ‘Alright, he’s back, the other guy is way up.’ It’s early for both of them. As small of patience as coaches tend to have, I’m fighting with myself to have more. I know it’s going to take time.”

Although he’s still getting used to Hoyer’s playing style, Shanahan has been pleased with his 28-year-old quarterback. Nearly every player coming back from an ACL injury takes a few days to shed off some rust, before they completely feel at ease. Hoyer feels like he’s past that part.

Now it’s about mastering the flow of the offense for Hoyer. The fact that he’s seen several different offenses the past few seasons puts both Shanahan and Hoyer at ease.

“For me, it’s just trying to be the best quarterback for this team whether that’s out here or on some keepers and rolling out and making the right decision or whether it’s just handing the ball off and making the right run checks,” said Hoyer.

“There’s something to improve on every day,” continued Hoyer. “There’s a long way to go. A week doesn’t seem like a lot, but in training camp that’s a long time. We’re still building as an offense and as a team. It’s going well and we’ve just got to keep progressing and can’t take steps back.”

Mike Pettine noted in his press conference that Manziel is “slightly ahead” of where the team thought he’d be at this point. But being ahead isn’t good enough for the Texas A&M alum. After playing at an elite level for two seasons in the SEC, Manziel is used to playing mostly mistake free football.

“I’m a rookie,” said Manziel. “I don’t have all of this stuff figured out. I don’t know the ins and outs and every little nook and cranny. Sometimes there’s a little twist on a play and you can go in and forget to say it in the huddle and from that, it changes the whole dynamic.

“But it’s a process for me. It’s not something that I should just come in here and naturally, because I played well in college, just know how to run this offense. It’s a complete 180 [degrees] from what I’ve been used to and it’s going to take time.”

The plan, according to Pettine, is to have Manziel take some first team snaps soon, including extensive work in Saturday’s Family Day scrimmage in Akron. Interestingly, Shanahan said that Manziel taking snaps with solely the second-team thus far is a much bigger deal in the media.

“It’s a big deal perception wise, but from a coaching standpoint, whether it’s the ones or the twos, we rotate all of our receivers, all of our tight ends, we rotate all of our running backs,” Shanahan said. “He’s getting a lot of work with all of those guys.”

Even more fascinating, Shanahan did not rule out using Manziel in packages early on in the season – that is if Manziel is not named the starter. The San Francisco 49ers implemented something similar with Colin Kaepernick in 2012, eventually inserting the scrambling quarterback into the starting lineup, propelling a Super Bowl run. The Browns offensive coordinator said it will all depend on what defenses give them.

Whatever the decision is, the quarterback’s classroom is one of the most tight-knit units in Berea.  

“Johnny’s been great since he’s been here,” said Hoyer. “He’s in the building. He works hard. He studies. We have a really good room. I like all those guys in there, and we enjoy each other in there. We bounce questions off of each other. It’s a good working environment.”

“We have a very friendly, very fun quarterback room,” said Manziel. “I’m obviously learning from [Brian]. He’s a guy that was in a system that demands a lot in New England. He’s a very intelligent guy. He knows his stuff really well.”

Pettine has made it clear he wants to name every starter on the team before the Rams come to town on August 23rd.

So buckle up, because we still have three more weeks of what looks like neck-and-neck competition.

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