Johnny First String? Tracking Manziel’s quest in Browns QB competition

BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns quarterback competition continues, and a few landmarks are directly ahead.

Brian Hoyer is still the more experienced of the competitors, the leader and coach Mike Pettine’s choice to start Saturday’s preseason opener in Detroit.

Johnny Manziel, meanwhile, is getting better every day. It shows in his throws, his demeanor and the way the rookie is carrying himself.

"I feel my comfort level on the field growing every day," Manziel said.

Hoyer will start Saturday. The Browns then have a full practice week ahead before their nationally-televised Aug. 18 second preseason game at Washington. All indications are that both Hoyer and Manziel will run with the first-team offense next week, then Pettine will make a call on a starter.

It’s not going to be an easy decision.

"Those preseason games will carry the most weight," Pettine said. "There’s no substitute for live reps."

A recap of where both quarterbacks and the competition stand:

Hoyer: Hoyer had a few fumbled snaps with a new center while working with the second-team offense Wednesday but overcame a slow start and had his best throws later in practice. His accuracy hasn’t been as consistent over the last week as it was early in camp.

He’s feeling better, though, and not thinking about the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2013 season. Hoyer took an accidental hit on the knee Tuesday, admitted to feeling worried about it but then "felt no pain. I forgot about it. I’m 100 percent."

Manziel: Wednesday was his second chance with the starting offense and his second straight strong practice. Touchdowns have been tough to come by, but Manziel moved the starters and scored in a 7-on-7 session on a short run. Perhaps most importantly, he had his best day throwing from the pocket.

"It’s been a better week," Manziel said. "I just get out there with a lot less clutter. I’m just a lot more comfortable."

Pettine: "They’ve both shown improvement and done a good job of playing to their skill sets."

Where’s Johnny? He’s coming, quickly and not quietly. Manziel has now put together consecutive strong days for the second time in camp — and the second time in five days, really. His body language is better. His confidence is clearly growing. Hoyer still has advantage and won’t go without a fight, but what looked like a sure thing is very much up in the air.

Hoyer starting this weekend’s game is probably both right and something he earned. Next week, however, should be very, very interesting.

Odds Manziel starts season opener: 50/50