Scrimmage opens door for Hoyer, Manziel

BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel was pretty hard on himself when he addressed the media on Thursday.

He used words and phrases such as mental mistakes, 180 degrees different from college and complicated. In a sense, it was refreshing to hear a guy so touted be so critical of himself.

Brian Hoyer, though, just keeps on keeping on, and trying, as he often says, to be the best quarterback he can be for the Cleveland Browns.

They'll get their first and best chance to make their strongest impression Saturday at the University of Akron, as each will get a chance to lead the starting offense against the Browns' starters on defense.

Coach Mike Pettine said he had not decided how the reps would break down, but it would seem each would get a chance at some point against the starting defense. Pettine wants to see one main thing: “Who can step up and make plays in a live situation?”

To date, Hoyer has performed better than Manziel. He’s more decisive and quicker in his reads. He shows an obvious and better understanding of the offense. Hoyer worked all offseason; Manziel had six weeks after the draft and one week of training camp. Hoyer has been in the NFL, Manziel has not.

But Manziel has the “it” element; he’s usually been better in games than he is in practice. That may be true, but Manziel will have the disadvantage that the Browns will limit his improvisation to protect his health and well-being. That might mean Manziel will be able to scramble, but not a lot.

“It still won’t be live,” Pettine said. “Some of the things he was maybe able to escape from in college will be whistled dead in the scrimmage. We always want to protect our guys when we’re going against each other.”

Hoyer’s job is clear: Continue progressing, both in terms of understanding the offense and rehabbing his knee. For Manziel, the task is clearer: Show that he is a gamer, because his practices have been underwhelming. The scrimmage and the games, though, matter more, so if Manziel can get something done in Akron, it might be the first time he’s changed the conversation about the starting quarterback spot.