Ten takeaways from the second open practice of the Cleveland Browns' offseason work, with the caveat that any "concerns" should be minimized because it is May:
Ray Farmer's statement that Brian Hoyer is the best quarterback on the Browns “by a substantial margin” should be taken seriously. Hoyer is better right now. He throws better, looks more confident, throws more accurately and seems more like the guy who has been around longer and in the offense longer. If the opener were in a week, Hoyer would start.
Johnny Manziel makes enough throws to show he has ability. The highlight Tuesday was a 25-yard pass to the sideline that dropped right into the hands of Josh Gordon. The problem is that he doesn’t show the ability often enough.
Manziel needs work. One short slant in five-on-five (no rush) would have hit the guard in the back. He also got under a throw that sailed well out of the end zone. Some of his fundamentals are all over the place -- the difference between him and Hoyer at times on footwork is marked.
Manziel can get lost behind the line when dropping back. He also has a low trajectory on his throws, which means the line might have to create throwing lanes. This doesn’t mean he can’t succeed; Drew Brees can get lost as well. It’s just an observation.
Donte Whitner said this about Manziel: “He looked good. Sometimes he stares some things down out there, and that’s part of being a young guy. He wants to know where to go with the football. But he’s getting better each and every day. He’s throwing the ball very, very accurately. He knows where his checkdown is at all times. ... He’s learning. He’s developing each and every day.”
Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil called Whitner a “follow me or else” leader. “There’s not a lot of them anymore,” O’Neil said. The best definition of being a professional is that it means doing your best when you feel your worst, and Whitner talked of learning early that a guy has to put in work when he’s tired or weary. He’s a guy that seems to really “get it.”
O’Neil also said he wants Whitner to be a physical presence in the middle of the defense. In fact, he encouraged it. “We want to intimidate people,” O’Neil said, adding: “Every great defense in the NFL has an enforcer. So ... he’s ours.” It’s an interesting take in this era of concussions and concussion lawsuits. Because it shows the fine line between football being a fast, physical game and the danger and risks of playing that way.
Whitner did not hide in the least from the “enforcer” role, saying that while teammate Tashaun Gipson is more focused on tackling than big hits, he is more focused on big hits with tackling second. “Thats my game,” Whitner said. “That’s what I like to do.” He added that those who don’t like to get hit shouldn’t play offense, and he’d “take 15 yards to instill some fear in somebody, but we’re going to do it the legal way."
First-round pick Justin Gilbert missed part of the workout with an ice bag on his knee. Coach Mike Pettine said it was "just a bag of ice." Which is kind of like using the term "minor surgery." It’s only minor if it’s someone else. At any rate, Gilbert tweeted Wednesday that he was fine and would be back on the field for the next practice.
Joel Bitonio seems to be setting up shop at left guard. Bitonio played tackle in college, and now gets to start his career between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. Bitonio absolutely looks the part of a guard, and could be a welcome addition to the line.