Pettine: Hoyer still ahead in QB race

Mike Pettine didn't clarify anything final about the Cleveland Browns' quarterback competition, but he did verify that people's eyes do not deceive them.

Brian Hoyer is ahead, but Johnny Manziel is coming on, Pettine said in a conference call Sunday.

"We put Brian out there with the ones, and that was for a reason," Pettine said of the preseason opener in Detroit on Saturday. "Because he was ahead, because of his edge in experience and the lead he had with the playbook. And he's done nothing to have that taken away from him.

"But Johnny has made some improvement, a lot of improvement. He's come in, and the things where he was behind in the spring, I think he's got a pretty firm grasp on. As we said before, it was him versus the playbook, and he's handling it well.

"He's really gone from one extreme to the other, and I think he's handled it well.

"Brian on the other hand has been solid."

Pettine said he had not yet decided who would start the second preseason game in Washington and added he expected both would get first-team reps in practice this week.

But this second game takes on large importance given Pettine's plan to name the starter before the third game.

"I would like it decided before then," he said. "I'm not going to say that that's 1,000 percent etched in stone. But I would like it before then."

With no clear-cut leader, whoever plays best against the Redksins might start the season opener. Pettine plans to give the starter the bulk of the practice time and game reps for the third game, then rest him for the fourth game and get him ready for Pittsburgh.

"If there was a clear-cut favorite at this point, it would probably mean that one of them wasn't playing very well," Pettine said. "It's a good problem to have, having two guys that we think are both capable of being NFL starters."

Pettine had good words for both after he reviewed their play on video. He said both were solid, that Hoyer got 24 plays and Manziel 25, and that although both had plays they'd want back, both were efficient.

"There was reason for both to be nervous, and I think they both settled in quickly and operated efficiently," Pettine said.

He also reiterated two points: He wants to know his starter before the third preseason game, and he still believes it's not ideal for a rookie to start right away -- although he knows a team can win with a rookie.

"You've seen everything," Pettine said, "but I've always felt that it's the ideal situation that the rookie gets the chance to sit behind someone and learn."