Prior to the start of training camp, we gave you lists of things Brian Hoyer had to do and Johnny Manziel had to do to win the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback job. Their first preseason game is Saturday in Detroit, and the lists need adjusting. Here is what Hoyer and Manziel need to do in the next two games to win the job:
For Hoyer ...
Avoid mistakes. Turnovers are the fastest way to lose the job. Hoyer threw two interceptions in the final practice before Saturday's game, and those are mistakes he can’t afford to make. No coach wants a quarterback to turn the ball over, but in Hoyer's situation, with the much-hyped rookie breathing down his neck, mistakes are more glaring. It's almost unfair because Hoyer threw three interceptions in his win over Minnesota last season, but he is celebrated because he won. Which is what matters. If Hoyer puts 14 points on the board and turns the ball over once, it might not matter. But if his turnovers lead to points for Detroit and the offense doesn't score . . .
Play like a veteran. Hoyer's been around. He understands reads, progressions, reading defenses and calling protections. It's his advantage, because he's a smart player who learned under the best. Experience and knowledge are two areas he has the edge over Manziel. Poise and presence are his strengths.
Win the job. Enjoy the competition. Don't worry about it. Play smart, but play aggressively and make plays. Nobody who plays scared succeeds. Hoyer can't let the hoopla affect him. It may sound simple, but it’s very difficult to ignore the reality that Ford Field is sold out in large part because they want to see the guy trying to take his job. Hoyer took a huge step from Day 1 to Day 2 of training camp, then leveled off. His play never got to the point of bad, but while he was fighting to return from a knee injury, Manziel was learning every day. Hoyer seemed to bounce forward early this week, but the interceptions on Thursday followed. It's still his job. Play like it.
For Manziel ...
Go through progressions. It's still unclear whether Manziel checked one receiver and then ran in the scrimmage, or whether he had a series of progressions but saw things break down. Most NFL quarterbacks are far more successful when they make something happen in the natural flow, not when they force it. Playing in the pocket and making throws like he made in the scrimmage to Gary Barnidge will be important for him.
Play to his strengths. The extra dimension Manziel brings is his ability to move. But even he admitted that he has to refine that skill and "control that and make it a positive thing going forward instead of a thing that's considered somewhat wild." That's very succinctly and well put. Manziel acknowledges he only knows a small portion of the playbook and he's struggling with some play calls -- which means his knowledge, though getting better, is limited. Playing to his strengths the same way Hoyer plays to his will make Manziel the best he can be.
Build on the momentum. There's no doubt that Manziel was at a different level beginning with Tuesday's practice. The last three days in practice he completed 43 of 68 (63 percent) passes -- the stats are unofficial, of course. But before that, he was not even at 50 percent. That shows Manziel is doing better with the plays the second time around. It shows he has a better understanding. But it's also practice. Game speed, even in preseason, is different. Manziel will have a huge advantage in that he’ll be going against backups playing vanilla coverage, but he’ll be throwing to backups. That being said, the backups on the Lions are trying just as hard to win a job as Manziel is. If he can build on the past three days and show it in the game, it will be a significant statement.