Brian Hoyer Leading Browns QB Competition Heading into Training Camp

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Brian Hoyer Leading Browns QB Competition Heading into Training Camp
Mark Duncan/Associated Press

By far the most-watched position battle in OTAs for the Cleveland Browns has been the battle at quarterback between Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel.

So far, things aren't exactly going as many expected, because for all the tricks Hoyer may know, there's one he apparently doesn't.

Roll over.

As the Browns wrap up OTAs and get ready for their summer break, head coach Mike Pettine has made it clear that when training camp opens next month, it will be with Hoyer as the starter:

Lindsay Jones of USA Today had more from the first-year head coach:

Brian is securely ahead of him right now. But we will compete, and we'll decide. The issue for us as a staff will be finding the right time to name a starter. If you wait too late, then no one is ready for the opener. If you do it too soon, was it a true competition?

Pettine's comments will undoubtedly cause a stir in some circles, but in reality, they shouldn't.

Hoyer has been limited in OTAs as he recovers from the ACL tear that cut short his 2013 season, but the 28-year-old has reportedly been harping on coaches and trainers to let him do more. When he has been on the practice field, the results have generally been positive:

Manziel, on the other hand, has had some bumps in the road:

According to  of NFL.com, safety Donte Whitner noticed another difference about the pair:

Once again though, this is hardly a surprise. A veteran (even one with Hoyer's relatively limited experience in live game action) should be ahead of a rookie in the middle of June. If he wasn't, it would say more about Hoyer than it does about Manziel.

And Hoyer, for his part, made it clear while speaking with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that he has no intention of giving up the starting job without a fight:

It's going to be a really long year for me. I'll take one week off after we get done and that will be my first time off since the injury. I really only took a day here or there, and with all the hard work I've put in, I'll take one week off and then continue to strengthen my leg and be in the building going over film of all of our passing plays. And I'll also do all of my normal stuff like conditioning work and lifting. I'll use it as my time to gear up for the season. For me it feels like I'm still playing catch-up and doing the rehab thing for the past eight months and trying to be into the preseason mode.

Then there's the not so small matter of the fact that Hoyer wasn't exactly terrible for the Browns last year.

Brian Hoyer 2013 Starts
GS Comp. % PYds/Gm TD INT Rating W-L
3 59.4 205.0 7 6 77.4 3-0

Per Pro Football Reference

Yes, it was only three starts, but in those games, Hoyer captured the imagination of a fanbase. He brought out an emotion in Browns fans so unusual it gave more than a few a panic attack.

It was hope.

Then, of course, Hoyer was injured scrambling against the Buffalo Bills, and as soon as Brandon Weeden retook the field, that hope was replaced with good ol' Cleveland despair.

Uncertainty about Hoyer's knee was no doubt one of the reasons that the Browns traded up in the first round of May's draft to snare the former Heisman Trophy winner at No. 22. The pick energized the fanbase. Season ticket sales spiked. Hope sprung anew.

Then Josh Gordon's suspension news broke (the next day, no less) and back came the despair.

Now, however, it appears at least some Cleveland fans are already growing impatient with Manziel:

Of course, Manziel (as he often does) isn't exactly helping himself in that regard either. In addition to the on-field struggles, there's also been the off-field nonsense that follows Johnny Football around on a regular basis.

The Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas. Whatever exactly this is:

It's creating a perception that Hoyer just wants the job more than Manziel, and ESPN's Ron Jaworski told Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald that the only person who can change that perception is Manziel:

I’m not going to make a big deal of it, but I think as time goes on we’ll see if he quiets things down a little bit. If teammates see him as a committed player on the practice field, they get it. You can’t be 100 mph in football all the time, but he still has to understand perception becomes reality, unfortunately. The mental approach has to be second to none. There are a lot of guys with great talent that bomb. There are also some guys that had marginal talent that excelled because they out-thought their opponents. They out-prepared their opponents. They out-worked their opponents. That’s what separates the quarterbacks at this level to me — that total commitment to be successful.

With that all said, this race is a long way from being decided. For starters, it's not like everything Manziel has done in camp has been a disaster:

Never mind that it's still June. Players haven't even really gotten dirty yet. There's still training camp to come and the preseason after that.

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That's when things are going to get interesting, especially if Manziel has a big game against a scrub defense. Cool heads and clear minds may be prevailing now, but we're talking about a rookie head coach working for a meddlesome owner in a town so desperate to win that fans get woozy at the mention of going 9-7, much less making the playoffs.

If Johnny Football tears it up in August, fans will roar for him to start, especially if Hoyer is anything short of phenomenal.

For now, however, Pettine is not only saying the right things, but doing them. There's no rush at this point. Let the battle play out between the lines, not online or on television.

Jaworski already has a prediction, although it's not for the reason some may think.

“I think Hoyer will be the opener starter,” Jaworski told Schudel at the Browns facility in Berea, Ohio. “I don’t want to put my rookie quarterback against Dick LeBeau’s defense.”

And that may be the most sensible thing I've heard about the matter.

 

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.

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