BEREA, Ohio — As the story goes, the Cleveland Browns are having a training camp quarterback competition.
If it’s really going to be a competition, the time is now for Johnny Manziel to make it that.
To make up ground. To keep making progress.
It’s really not fair for every throw and every rep of camp to be judged from the sideline by those who don’t know the play calls, the reads or the situations, but that’s the environment that’s been created. Camp is a week old now, and for most of that week veteran Brian Hoyer has played and carried himself like a veteran.
To this untrained eye, this competition really hasn’t been much of one for much of that week. Hoyer’s been well ahead.
He had his best day Friday, but Manziel has struggled — and it’s shown in his body language. The Browns have said no one’s ahead and that there’s a long way to go. It would be too strong to say Manziel sounded defeated when he talked to the media Thursday, but he was Johnny Humbled much more than he was Johnny Flash.
"It’s me against the playbook," he said.
Another response was: "I’ll play when these coaches decide I’m ready. There’s no rush."
There were still bad Manziel throws on Friday, but if this was a round-by-round competition, Manziel would have won the day; he had his best day when Hoyer had his worst. Manziel had completion streaks. He threw a dart touchdown on a slant on the first play of a red zone 7-on-7 drill and kept going from there. He later ran in a touchdown. He made his best throws in team drills.
More than anything, his body language indicated he was feeling comfortable and confident.
Like it might be game on.
Before camp, Browns coach Mike Pettine said he wanted to have a quarterback before the third preseason game on Aug. 23. That makes sense on several levels, especially because the new trend is for starters to play very little, if at all, in the fourth preseason game.
Considering Hoyer has taken every rep with the first-team offense thus far, Manziel has a long way to go. After Friday’s practice, Pettine said the coaches would meet about rep distribution for Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage.
The preseason schedule puts Manziel on the clock, but it’s all right in front of him. He has this intrasquad scrimmage, then a full work week next week before the Aug. 9 preseason opener in Detroit. He has to earn chances with the starters.
From there, the Browns have a long week before their second preseason game, Aug. 18 at the Redskins. That means the final three preseason games are played in 10 days, leaving little time for practice.
With Hoyer’s experience and most teams playing very vanilla defenses in the preseason, it’s hard to imagine Hoyer falling on his face — or even anything close to that — in the preseason. Hoyer’s been steady, and even on his most inaccurate day of camp Friday he chose the safe route over big mistakes and still gets the ball out of his hand very quickly.
The time is now for Manziel to earn first-team reps and to make the most of them. He’s going to have to do it in practice, and he’s going to have to do it the way he did Friday, by stringing together good throws and good practice periods and turning those into stretches of good practice days, not just flashes.
He’s going to have to love the playbook. And every meeting. And every rep.
Every single one — starting Saturday with a scrimmage in front of a crowd that could be close to 30,000.