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Johnny Manziel takes first-team reps

Posted Aug 4, 2014

Joe Haden weighs in on QB competition and other Monday observations

It came as a surprise, but it was scheduled to happen: Rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel took all the first-team reps in Berea.

“[This] was all a part of the plan,” said Mike Pettine. “It will go back and forth.”

After reviewing the tape of Saturday’s scrimmage in Akron, Pettine was pleased with both of his quarterbacks. Manziel was able to keep plays alive with his feet, while Brian Hoyer looked poised in the pocket.

On Monday, Manziel opened 11-on-11 drills by firing a rocket 40 yards down the right side field to Travis Benjamin. The receiver leapt in the air for the reception, beating coverage from Pro Bowler Joe Haden. The rest of practice from Manziel featured mainly what it’s been since the start of training camp: some good, and some bad.

Hoyer found a rhythm with the second team on Monday, particularly in the two-minute drill to close practice. Hoyer orchestrated the no huddle with ease, finding Anthony Armstrong on several quick hitting passes to set up a 36-yard Billy Cundiff field goal. 

It should be noted that wide receivers and running backs all rotate between the first and second teams. Hoyer was still throwing to Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins, while Jabaal Sheard and Justin Gilbert were members of the Browns’ rotating second string defense.

Although Joe Haden’s been focusing on honing in as a leader of the defense, he’s also been keeping close tabs on the quarterback competition.

“Both of them are doing really positive things, trying to control the offense,” said the Browns’ cornerback. “They are getting a little bit more comfortable. And the defense isn’t really helping out too much. We’re trying to make sure it’s as tough as possible for them. With our offense we have two quarterbacks that can really sling the ball.”

Haden said he can tell Manziel is starting to pick up the offense with more ease and he’s showing plays where he looks like the quarterback he was in college. Many of Haden’s Saturday’s last fall were spent watching Manziel play at Texas A&M. 

“He was a winner,” said Haden. “I liked the way he played with passion and he just was a playmaker. Running around, scrambling around, being able to throw the ball like that. That’s something that a lot of people aren’t able to do. He’s able to extend plays. At the same time he has a really big arm.”

Pettine has not yet declared a starting quarterback for the Lions game on Saturday in Detroit. The coach confirmed it will be a committee decision, between himself, Dowell Loggains and Kyle Shanahan.

Monday practice observations

  • On the very first play of Saturday’s scrimmage, safety Donte Whitner lined up as a blitzer and made his way through the offensive line for a sack. During several plays on Monday, Whitner was lined up next to a blitzing outside linebacker. It seems as if the Browns have big plans to use Whitner as a disruptive force in the backfield.
  • “That’s the thing that coach Pettine does to help us out,” said Haden. “He puts players in a position to make plays. Donte is a really good blitzer and he can cover. So he’s going to have our safeties blitzing. If you’re a good nickel back that can blitz? He’ll have you going.”
  • Haden continued on with his praise of Pettine, reiterating that it feels like he’s been a head coach for a while. Pettine has been installing the defensive play calls in the meeting room with the entire unit.
  • “He’s hands on and makes sure everyone is paying attention,” said Haden. “I really like that.”
  • Willie Snead has taken the lead in terms of most impressive undrafted rookie on offense. The wide receiver from Ball State caught two touchdown passes on Monday, including taking a short pass from Hoyer on a busted coverage 70-yards for a touchdown. Something to also like about Snead’s chances of making the team: he’s been more than servicable as a run blocker on the outside.
  • Fun fact: Willie Snead was Travis Benjamin’s quarterback in high school at Glade Central High School in Belle Glade, FL. Snead was bumped up as a freshman to varsity when Benjamin was a senior.
  • Jordan Cameron is being held out with an AC joint shoulder injury. If it were a regular season game, Cameron likely would've have practiced today. Pettine said the team is still evaluating whether the tight end will suit up against Detroit.