BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns have a starting quarterback for their preseason opener in Detroit on Saturday.
More importantly, new Browns coach Mike Pettine said the preseason games will likely be the determining factor in which quarterback starts the Sept. 7 season opener in Pittsburgh.
Pettine’s pick for the preseason debut is Brian Hoyer, who entered camp as the No. 1 quarterback.
"It was his job," Pettine said of Hoyer. "He was the one coming into camp. We did want to mix the groups up as we did, but he’s done nothing to have that taken away from him, so he’ll be out there with the starters."
Rookie Johhny Manziel got the work with the starters on Wednesday for the second time in 10 days of camp. After a slow start and admitted struggles with the playbook, Manziel has come on strong over the last five days.
Pettine called Manziel getting some reps with the No. 1 in Detroit a "possibility." He said both the first and second units would get more reps than usual in the first preseason game because the Browns have work to do.
"New systems," Pettine said. "There’s no substitute for live game reps."
It’s those reps, Pettine said, that will eventually carry the most weight in the final decision. The Browns have been careful thus far to say that neither player is ahead.
"I think more weight will be put on those games because of the live reps," Pettine said. "The practice part will still be important, but I think it’s safe to say that."
Hoyer said getting the starting nod "doesn’t change my mindset. I’ve expected it all along."
Hoyer was 3-0 as a Browns starter last year before suffering a torn ACL. Manziel got plenty of first-team reps in the spring because Hoyer wasn’t fully cleared until just before training camp.
Early in camp, Hoyer’s poise and experience stood out. As Manziel has become more comfortable with the playbook and his surroundings, his body language and his play have improved.
The Browns have a full practice week next week as their second preseason game isn’t until Aug. 18. Pettine has said he wants to have his starters set across the board, not just at quarterback, by the third preseason game on Aug. 23.
"Brian is confident and I think we’ve all seen what Manziel can do," Pettine said. "He’s obviously good with his feet but he’s been better in the pocket than we thought.
"They both have made improvements and have done a good job of playing to their skill sets."