Browns QB competition, Round One: Hoyer passes, Manziel dashes
DETROIT — The Cleveland Browns played a preseason game Saturday night.
The best news is they get to play three more before starting the ones that count.
Neither quarterback competing for the team’s starting job did much in the way of remarkable or even memorable in the preseason opener in Detriot. Brian Hoyer led the Browns starters on two field goal drives, one against the Detroit Lions second teamers, and rookie Johnny Manziel brought energy with the backups but also failed to bring a touchdown.
So, the battle goes on. After the game, new Browns coach Mike Pettine said no decision has been made on who will start the team’s next preseason game Aug. 18 at Washington.
By the numbers, Hoyer was 6-of-14 for 92 yards. He got 28 of those yards on a pass to fullback MarQueis Gray in the flats when the Lions failed to cover Gray; his most impressive throw was a 22-yard skinny post to Josh Gordon on his third and final series.
Manziel completed his first three passes and finished 7-of-11 for 63 yards over four series. His longest gain through the air came on a swing pass to Charles Johnson that turned into a 15-yard gain on third and 16; Manziel then converted fourth and 1 on a rollout right off a play-action fake, calling his own number instead of throwing to tight end Kyle Auffray.
"Very similar to last weekend’s (intrasquad) scrimmage, I thought both Brian and Johnny did some good things," Pettine said. "They played to their strengths. Brian stepped into some throws, moved the ball…and he had a couple I’m sure he’d like to have back. Johnny made plays with his feet. He moved the ball, too.
"It will be a good tape for us to watch."
The game itself was a yawner — and a 13-12 Lions win thanks to a fourth-quarter comeback. The Lions pulled starting quarterback Matthew Stafford after one series.
Manziel was more Johnny Feet than Johnny Football or anything else, rushing 6 times for 27 yards. His biggest play of the night came on a third and 8 run for 16 up the middle after he didn’t like what he saw down the field.
He left the pocket on that run, and he’s fighting his instincts to run from his college days while trying to learn a new offense. He said he’s operating mostly from the pistol and shotgun because offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan knows he’s most comfortable seeing the field from there.
Asked after the game what he still has to master, Manziel said, "Oh, that list could go on for days."
Manziel seemed to be favoring his shoulder after taking a shot on the first series of the second half. He talked on the sideline with a team trainer, then the trainer and a doctor, but was in on the next series and bounced right up after taking a shot from Lions defensive end Larry Webster after releasing a pass.
"I’m good," Manziel said. "It’s football. It’s physical. I’m fine."
Hoyer threw out of a clean pocket but besides the 22-yarder to Gordon mostly threw short of the chains. One intermediate Hoyer pass along the sideline to Miles Austin should have been caught inside the 10-yard line, but Austin got a bit of redemption two plays later with a 13-yard catch on fourth and 5.
Former Brown C.J. Mosley jumped offsides before a third down play to keep the Browns second drive alive. Three plays and one Hoyer misfire later, the Browns kicked a field goal. The third series ended after Gordon failed to bring in a pass along the back line of the end zone; the Browns would have been penalized had Gordon come down with the ball and would have had to replay the down.
Manziel’s unit went three and out on its only first-half opportunity. On third and one the Browns went with a read option, with Manziel kept the ball going left. He ended up running about 10 yards sideways to gain about half a yard.
The Browns punted, and Manziel said that in retrospect, he should have handed the ball off rather than keep it. He blamed it on timing and pointed to that as one of several areas in which the Browns need to improve.
Plenty was off on this night.
"We have to start somewhere," Manziel said.
A recap of where both quarterbacks and the competition stand…
Hoyer: Hoyer spread the ball around and the Browns moved it, but they didn’t exactly strike fear into future opponents — and Hoyer didn’t make much of a statement in his quest to keep the job he entered camp holding.
A couple Hoyer passes should have been caught; at least two simply should have been thrown better. He was very average.
"There are definitely a couple reads I would like to take back and a few throws, but for the most part it’s good to get out there and play against someone else," Hoyer said. "Like I said, we kind of hurt ourselves. For me, I had a bad read on one third down. We just have to continue to improve when the live bullets are flying. We can’t settle for three points. We’ve got to score touchdowns."
Manziel: He waited his turn and did little in the way of spectacular, but other than seeing a "much faster, quicker" game than he’s used to, Manziel said afterward that almost everything went according to plan. A fumble by running back Dion Lewis after Manziel’s biggest run ended a scoring threat; the Browns got one field goal while Manziel was in.
While Hoyer deflected a question about the competition after the game, Manziel said he’s just focused "on getting better" and if he ends up being "the best guy for this team, we’ll see what happens. I’m just trying to improve, get this team better.
"I want what’s best for the Cleveland Browns."
Pettine: "If the pocket collapses, it’s just instinct for Johnny to run. We’ll have to look at the tape to know what he’s seeing…but he’ll have to adapt somewhat. He can’t always look to run."
Where’s Johnny? He’s still trying to get comfortable, but his words and his body language all week indicated he’s getting better. He clearly needs more game work — he’s not alone amongst the Browns in that — but he admitted that and said he’s continuing to gain confidence.
Manziel is coming. He’s not there — or even close to there — quite yet.