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Injuries to Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer leave Browns with uncertainty at QB


As the Browns eye their regular season finale at Baltimore, one thing is certain about the quarterback position: Duke Johnson Jr. won't be available.

For now, the rest remains unclear, as veteran Brian Hoyer is considered "day to day" with a shoulder injury after taking a hard hit during the fourth quarter of the Browns' loss to the Carolina Panthers. Connor Shaw, who has spent the entire season on the practice squad, will see increased repetitions in practice this week, and the Browns will explore other options at the position, coach Mike Pettine said on a Monday conference call.

Pettine said he wasn't sure when he'd be able to settle on a starter for a game Cleveland needs to win to finish .500. A Browns win would also severely damage the Ravens' playoff hopes.

"We have one week left," Pettine said. "We're going to focus all our energy and effort into that one. When we're done from that one, we're going to focus all our effort and energy into next season. There's a lot to soak in.

"We're going to evaluate everything we've done in our football operations from A to Z and quarterback's going to be a big part of it."

Manziel was ruled out for Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury he suffered during the second quarter against the Panthers. Though Manziel was considered to be the Browns' emergency option for the second half against the Panthers, his injury will take several weeks to heal, Pettine said, who labeled it "pretty significant."

The injury occurred early in the second quarter when Manziel slipped while throwing a slant to Josh Gordon. It flared up and ultimately sidelined him after he took a hard hit on a scramble later in the quarter.

Manziel finished his rookie season 18-of-35 for 175 yards and two interceptions to go along with 29 rushing yards and a touchdown.

"He's made strides," Pettine said. "I know it was a lot to throw at him as a rookie just coming from the system in which he played in. I just think it's difficult, sometimes, to evaluate the player when you're not necessarily playing at a high level around him. There were times that I think that we made both Brian and Johnny look very average to below average because we were missing some assignments or doing some things technically wrong around them."

Hoyer took a handful of hard hits in his first relief appearance of the season, but none was harder than Kawann Short's sack on the Browns' final drive of the game. The Browns called a timeout to let Hoyer catch his breath, and he ultimately finished the game, but soreness flared up Monday, Pettine said.

Hoyer was 7-of-13 for 134 yards -- the majority coming on an 81-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron -- and an interception in a little more than a half against the Panthers. On the season, he's completed 55 percent of his passes for 3,326 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

"(Offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan in my helmet said you need to be able to get up, you have no other choice. I just couldn't breathe," Hoyer said Sunday. "The guy hit me, and pinged me and when you have all of that mass come down on you, it's hard to breath for a second or two."

The Browns, perhaps, would have been limited in their options without Manziel and Hoyer against the Panthers, but a week's notice will allow Shaw, an undrafted rookie, to receive extensive repetitions with the team's active players. Shaw's responsibilities throughout the season have centered on preparing the defense for the upcoming opposing quarterback. He's taken on a variety of roles and styles, including Carolina's Cam Newton this past week.

In the preseason, Shaw completed 8-of-9 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown pass against the Washington Redskins. He's yet to be officially elevated from the practice squad.

A three-year starter at South Carolina, Shaw led the Gamecocks to three consecutive 11-win seasons. He completed better than 65 percent of his passes for 5,851 yards and 55 touchdowns with just 14 interceptions. He averaged more than 500 yards on the ground in his three seasons as a starter and finished his career with 18 rushing touchdowns.

"He's been outstanding for us all year. He's done everything we've asked. He's a guy that is very similar to what you saw at South Carolina: He's not the biggest guy, he's not the fastest guy, he's not the strongest guy, but he just found a way to be productive. His strength lies in his competitiveness.

"I wouldn't be surprised … if he does have to play that he goes out there and plays well … It wouldn't come as a surprise because we all know what type of kid he is."

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