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Four Downs: Mike Pettine calls Josh McCown's impact 'tremendous'


1. Mike Pettine calls Josh McCown's impact 'tremendous'

The move to name Johnny Manziel the Browns' starting quarterback moving forward wasn't typical. The player he's replacing, veteran Josh McCown, is still recovering from a rib injury and coming off one of the best stretches of his career.

The wins weren't there, but McCown was as effective as the Browns could have envisioned. He set multiple franchise records in the Browns' overtime victory at Baltimore, played through pain on multiple occasions and tried to will his way back for Cleveland's games at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

All told, he completed 165-of-254 passes for 1,897 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. The impact, though, went far beyond the numbers, Browns coach Mike Pettine said.

"What he did for us is tremendous," Pettine said. "I think a lot of Johnny's success you can trace directly to Josh McCown. He's been tremendous and with Johnny now as the starter we feel like we have the best backup in the league. Guy that's seen it all, we know can come in and can play."

On Monday, when Pettine was posed with a hypothetical question about the conversation he'd have with McCown if he named Manziel the starter, the coach said it probably wouldn't be "an easy one." Ultimately, because of McCown's attitude toward the decision, it wasn't all that difficult, and Pettine came out with even more respect for the veteran.

"I just can't say enough about the character of the kid and him understanding," Pettine said. "At the same time, the competitive part of him, knowing what he's capable of and what he can do for this football team but also having that ability to see the big picture."

McCown was in Manziel's ear throughout Sunday's game at Pittsburgh and was one of his biggest fans in the wake of the 372-yard performance. He's set the tone in a collaborative quarterback room, led by new assistant Kevin O'Connell, that Manziel cited as one of the main reasons why he's made so much progress in Year 2.

"That whole room in general is the reason why I feel like our quarterback play has exceeded what people thought at the beginning of the year," Manziel said. "I have learned an incredible amount and a lot of the success I have had in these games is because of that room in itself."

2. About Johnny Manziel's elbow…

Manziel has been a mainstay on the Browns' injury report since the midpoint of the preseason. A cranky elbow kept him out of Cleveland's final two preseason games and limited the practice he had heading into the season opener.

Manziel has been listed on every injury report this season. At the end of the week, he's been typically listed as probable and his status has rarely been in doubt.

Manziel hadn't been asked about the elbow for months until Tuesday, when he provided an update as he discussed his new role as the Browns' starting quarterback.

"I think last week was probably the best I've thrown the ball in a while," Manziel said. "I feel like I really had a lot of zip on it and being able to put it all around the yard like I wanted to for the most point ... I'm probably on the injury report every week but that's just me maintaining and maintenance and doing treatment to make sure it doesn't flare up and get to where it was."

3. Other injuries of note

Pettine said left guard Joel Bitonio (ankle) has an "outside chance" to be back in the lineup for Cleveland's Monday night game with Baltimore on Nov. 30. Bitonio missed Sunday's game at Pittsburgh and had his spot filled by rookie Cameron Erving.

Defensive back Joe Haden remains in the concussion protocol along with safety Donte Whitner and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel.

The status of defensive lineman Randy Starks, who left Sunday's game early with an injured knee, is uncertain, but Pettine stressed the injury was "nothing serious."

4. Snap counts of note

Some snap counts of note from Sunday's game at Pittsburgh:

-- Rookie DL Xavier Cooper played 56 percent (37) of the defense's snaps.
-- Rookie DB Charles Gaines played 27 snaps in his NFL debut. Pierre Desir (20) and Johnson Bademosi (17) also helped fill the void left by Haden.

-- In his 2015 debut, running back Glenn Winston played seven snaps.

-- Hawkins played 46 snaps and Gabriel played 22. The Browns will need to fill those with other players if one or both are out against the Ravens.

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