The Browns closed the formal part of their offseason program by wrapping up a mandatory minicamp on Thursday, and after practice, new coach Mike Pettine said that when the Browns "put the depth chart together, Brian will be No. 1.
"It's been hard to evaluate because Brian hasn't been able to take the actual 11 on 11 reps. We haven't been in the mode of charting how close (the gap) may be. (In the spring) we really weren't keeping score. We'll be much more apt to do that when we get to training camp."
Hoyer, who tore his ACL during his third start last October, was not cleared for full-speed, 11-on-11 work in the team's organized team activity practices or two minicamps. Pettine has said the Browns expect Hoyer to receive full clearance before training camp.
With Hoyer limited, Manziel got plenty of opportunities to play with the top unit, and Pettine said that will continue in July and August. The Browns open the preseason Aug. 9 in Detroit. They will not practice against another team before then.
"I don't know how even we'll get (the reps) but there will definitely be times Johnny with the (starters), Pettine said. "We have not yet met to go over that. If a guy has a chance to be a starter, I'd think you want to expose him to the starters.
"(Manziel) shouldn't concern himself so much with where Brian is but where he is."
The Browns and Pettine decided to keep both Hoyer and Manziel off limits to the media during minicamp. Training camp, which is open to the public, should bring capacity crowds to see both Manziel, one of the most popular college players in recent memory, and Hoyer, who grew up a short drive from Browns headquarters and attended Browns games with his father as a youngster.
Last month, Browns general manager Ray Farmer told one of the team's radio affiliates that Hoyer was "significantly ahead" of Manziel, something that Pettine downplayed to an extent Thursday when he said Hoyer's lead in the competition is not "insurmountable."
"When Ray made that comment, it was because of the circumstances," Pettine said. "Hoyer had a seven or eight-week head start with the playbook.
"Brian is clearly ahead right now but they will compete and we will decide. The issue for the staff will be when we decide. If you decide too late, nobody's ready for the season opener (Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh). If you do it too soon, it wasn't a true competition."
It sounds like this summer will bring a true competition -- and plenty to watch.