As the Browns wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp this afternoon, coach Mike Pettine made it clear that Brian Hoyer has maintained his lead on rookie Johnny Manziel in the team’s quarterback competition, but there’s also plenty of time left for Johnny Football to catch Hoyer.
After all, the season opener at Pittsburgh isn’t until Sept. 7.
Pettine said Hoyer will enter training camp in late July as the No. 1 quarterback on the Browns’ depth chart. That’s when the competition will truly intensify.
“I don't think it's insurmountable,” Pettine said of Hoyer’s lead on Manziel. “Brian is securely ahead of him right now, but we will compete and we will decide. The issue for us as a staff is finding the right time to name a starter. If you wait too late, then nobody's ready for the opener. If you do it too soon, then it wasn't a true competition. That will be part of our discussions as well as far as [deciding], ‘OK, here's the plan. Here's a date that want to go ahead and name him.’
Hoyer has been limited to a simulated version of 11-on-11 drills throughout the spring because the team wants to be cautious as he makes a comeback from the torn right anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last October. When Hoyer has sat out team drills, Manziel has filled in with the starters.
However, when training camp rolls around, Hoyer will be fully cleared for 11-on-11 drills and be given the reins of the first-team offense. Still, that won’t keep the coaching staff from giving Manziel some reps with the starters as well.
“I don't know how even we'll get it, but there will definitely be times when Johnny will be with the ones,” Pettine said. “It would be hard to evaluate if we didn't do that. If there wasn't a competition, then it would just be strictly ones and ones, twos. We haven't met to go over that. [Offensive coordinator] Kyle [Shanahan], [quarterbacks coach] Dowell [Loggains] and I are going to all think of it over the summer and as we get closer, probably at some point get together and figure out how we want to do it.”
Pettine also said fans can expect to watch Hoyer and Manziel play with the starters once preseason games begin in August.
“If a guy has a chance to be a starter, I would think that you'd want to expose him to a starting defense if he was going to be the guy opening day,” Pettine said.
What can Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, do to catch Hoyer?
“He shouldn't concern himself with where Brian is but where he is, but he'll have plenty of tape to study, start to study some opponent tape,” Pettine said. “The more he familiarizes himself with that, the better off he'll be.”
Pettine has said he isn’t worried about Manziel’s persistent partying, but the coaches will certainly pay attention to off-field behavior as the players take a long break until training camp starts. Rookies, though, have a different schedule than veterans. They’ll stay with the Browns next week and then attend the NFL Rookie Symposium the following week in Northeast Ohio.
“It's nervous anytime your entire team is dismissed,” Pettine said. “As a coach, you hear your phone ring and you kind of look at it with one eye, hoping it's not an issue coming up. We talked to them about it. We wanted to make sure that they handled themselves well. The advice was learn the system, stay in shape, stay out of trouble.”
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