November 26, 2014

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Browns QBs Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer to split time with starting offense vs. Washington

Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer pass during practice Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer pass during practice Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

BEREA — ESPN and Johnny Football fans can stop worrying.

Rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel will get plenty of quality time with the Browns’ starting offense against Washington on “Monday Night Football.”

He just might not start.

Coach Mike Pettine said Tuesday incumbent Brian Hoyer and Manziel will share time with the first team Monday night in Washington. He plans to decide on a starter Thursday during the players’ day off after meeting with coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.

“The bottom line is that they both should get close to equal reps with the ones no matter who starts,” Pettine said. “Johnny’s going to get reps with the ones.

“Just to me, the factor of starting the game I think is a little bit overblown in this situation because we’re going to try to balance the reps with the ones. It’s a little overrated who trots out there for the first time.”

Hoyer started the preseason opener Saturday in Detroit, took the first-team snaps Monday and remains listed first on the depth chart. He and Manziel have been alternating practice days with the ones since last week, so it was Manziel’s turn Tuesday.

Pettine said Sunday there’s no “clear-cut favorite” and Loggains said Tuesday there’s “not a leader” in the competition. Pettine was asked how important it is for him to stay true to the depth chart in picking the man to open vs. Washington.

“I don’t know if I can just answer that until we sit down with everybody involved in the decision on the off day,” he said. “We’re all going to have an opinion on how we want to handle it, but it’s not going to be anything earth-shattering.”

Pettine isn’t sure how the snaps will be split. Hoyer and Manziel could play a quarter each in the first half, alternate series or alternate after every other series.

“There are a lot of options on the table and we have to get that sorted out how we want to do it,” he said. “It’s hard to get in a rhythm if it is by series, so that will be one of the things we’ll discuss.”

Pettine wants to name a starter for Week 1 of the regular season next week.

“We’re on schedule,” he said.

Monday night is the last chance for the quarterbacks to state their case.

“The bottom line is we want to see who leads the team and gets us in the end zone the most,” Loggains said. “Both of those guys have done a really good job and I’m excited to see the process as it goes on.”

Manziel has the momentum in the competition and could be a good outing Monday night from heading to Pittsburgh on Sept. 7 as the starter. Loggains doesn’t think Hoyer’s hearing the size-15 footsteps.

“Not at all,” Loggains said. “Johnny’s done a great job and Brian’s done a great job helping him. I haven’t seen the pressure affect Brian one way or the other.”

Loggains spoke to Browns reporters for the first time. They were his first public comments since telling an Arkansas radio station in May that Manziel texted him during the draft: “Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together.”

Manziel hasn’t said anything nearly as boastful since being drafted No. 22. He’s been humble throughout training camp in news conferences, putting the team before himself.

“We just talked about being a pro and getting in the playbook and working hard every day,” Loggains said. “He’s a pro. He comes to work every day. He’s been phenomenal as far as being on top of the details. He understands he has a long way to go and work like every other rookie in this league does.

“He’s been really good in the room, learning the playbook and studying.”

Loggains said Manziel has the talent to throw from the pocket, but it’s his varied skill set that makes him special.

“The fine line with coaching Johnny is, you can’t take the best part of him away, and that’s his ability to extend plays with his legs,” Loggains said. “And there’s a fine line of going through your progressions and making plays with your legs, and I thought he did an exceptional job in the game of doing that.

“He had the one long scramble and then he had another one where he was about to start scrambling and out of the corner of his eyes he gets his fourth guy on the progression, makes a good play throwing it to Terrance (West). It tells you where he’s getting in his growth as a quarterback.”

ESPN has every reason to believe millions of eyes will tune in to see Manziel. Not only is his jersey the top seller on NFL.com, the Browns-Lions game — Manziel’s pro debut — set ratings and viewership records for a preseason game on NFL Network.

It drew a 1.81 rating and was watched by an average of 2.82 million viewers, the highest number in 11 seasons on NFL Network by 750,000 viewers.

“It’s not a surprise to hear that,” Pettine said. “I think the phenomenon still surprises all of us. We want attention on this team because we’re a good football team and we’re winning games. It’s nice to have the media attention here, but we want to get to the point where it’s for the right reasons.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.

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