BEREA, Ohio — During the very first team drill of Wednesday’s practice, the Cleveland Browns scored a live, legitimate touchdown.
Those have been tough to come by, but they came a little more often Wednesday.
With the quarterback competition ongoing in these dog days of training camp, these things get noticed. And scrutinized. Brian Hoyer was back with the first-team offense Wednesday, but it was Johnny Manziel who threw that first touchdown pass on a deep crossing route to speedy receiver Travis Benjamin, who had his busiest and most productive day of camp.
Each quarterback came back with a touchdown pass in a 7-on-7 session. Each should have had at least one more, too, but passes were dropped. Catching the ball has been a big problem in this camp.
Near the end of practice the Browns turned up the tempo and Hoyer led the first group on a prolonged drive using a no-huddle offense and a bunch of short passes. After taking a sack on first-and-goal, Hoyer found Ben Tate in the flats after linebacker Barkevious Mingo slipped and Tate jogged into the end zone.
There was not that much rejoicing, but there could have been. It was a well-earned touchdown. It might be a glimpse of something we’ll see later in regards to the hurry-up look, and after practice Browns coach Mike Pettine pretty much said the team will incorporate more no-huddle stuff as it goes.
"It’s the future of the league," Pettine said of the hurry-up, noting that the Browns defense "can’t see enough of it."
Even defensive coaches like Pettine like touchdowns.
The battle goes on. It was another day dominated by the defense, another day in which each quarterback was good in spots but pretty average overall. The Browns are off Thursday, and Pettine said the plan remains for the coaches to spend that day dividing reps for Monday’s preseason game at Washington and to decide on a starting quarterback.
Hoyer’s been the No. 1 since the start of camp. Manziel has only piloted the No. 1 offense three days in camp. The Browns will practice Friday and Saturday before leaving for Washington. They’ll only have two practices next week before the Aug. 23 preseason game vs. St. Louis, and Pettine has said all along he wants to have a starter named before then.
We’ll be waiting.
A look at where the competition stands . . .
Hoyer: He’s still getting the majority of the reps, still getting the ball out of his hand quickly and, as he said earlier this week, still operating as if this is his team. He’s said the knee injury that ended his 2013 season isn’t even a thought, and he wasn’t touched in last week’s preseason opener in Detroit.
He’s taking his reps every day and waiting for a final answer like the rest of us. Hoyer has probably had a better week throwing the ball in practice this week than he did last week, but that’s just one observation.
The Browns started the final sequence of practice Wednesday with a first-and-10 at the opposing 15. After an 8-yard completion, practice ended with a bad snap, a sack and a desperate Hoyer pass on fourth down from the 17-yard line falling incomplete. The defense won again.
Manziel: He was much better Wednesday with his throws than Tuesday, and that’s a problem because he was with the starters Tuesday and had a chance to make a statement.
He’s still getting comfortable with the offense, the play calls and his surroundings. It’s still obvious that he’s more comfortable on the run and improvising than he is in the pocket, and that’s been a point of emphasis.
"The fine line with coaching Johnny is you can’t take the best part of him away and that is his ability to extend plays with his legs," Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains said Tuesday. "There’s a fine line of going through your progressions and making plays with your legs. I thought he did an exceptional job in the game of doing that.
"He’s finally starting to get into that third and fourth progression."
Where’s Johnny? Not much has changed. He’s nipping at Hoyer’s heels but hasn’t had that one spectacular day — or three straight really good ones — that would indicate he’s passed him.
Manziel will play with the starters on Monday night. Lots of people will be watching.