News Column

Manziel Stays on Pace in Cleveland's QB Race

August 12, 2014

By Jim Corbett, @ByJimCorbett, USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Manziel is living up to the hype but will it be enough to get the starting quarterback job? (AP)
Johnny Manziel is living up to the hype but will it be enough to get the starting quarterback job? (AP)

Johnny Manziel made the play of Monday's rainy Cleveland Browns practice.

During 11-on-11 team drills, the rookie quarterback bootlegged to the right. Spotting wide-open receiver Anthony Armstrong downfield, Manziel roped a sidearm strike while moving laterally. His tight spiral seemed to have radar lock as it hummed past two defenders for a 35-yard touchdown -- no matter that the play was negated by an official's whistle.

It was classic Johnny Football, a sequence underscoring why he has every chance to win an ultratight competition with incumbent starting quarterback Brian Hoyer. Such creativity and elusiveness allow Manziel to find throwing lanes on the move, even when he has vacated the pocket, which also opens possibilities down the field.

Browns coach Mike Pettine reiterated Monday that Hoyer is the starter, saying it probably would be a few days until he names the starting quarterback for Monday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Browns general manager Ray Farmer said all the headlines Manziel generated on social media during the offseason now have been overshadowed by the leap the 22nd pick in May's draft has taken in training camp.

Manziel has gone from living it up to living up to the talents that made him the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

"I feel good that he's putting in the time, effort and energy to be the best pro he can be," Farmer told USA TODAY Sports. "And he takes football serious. The big part of what matters is that he is preparing and looking to grow, looking to be the best quarterback -- the best leader -- for this team he can be."

Farmer has been impressed by Manziel's preseason focus.

"What's different about him is that it's not about Johnny, it's about the Browns," Farmer said. "And that's what we really like about him. He's a team person, trying to make sure the team does the right things so the team benefits.

"He's going to be all right. He's taken the right steps to put himself in position to have long-term success."

Yet Farmer also is upbeat about Hoyer, who looked solid in Saturday's preseason game against the Detroit Lions in his first game action since tearing an anterior cruciate ligament last October.

"I like what he's doing," Farmer said of the sixth-year pro. "He's going to make good decisions with the football. And those good decisions can result in big and good plays. ...

"Inevitably, regardless of who starts, both guys are capable of helping us win football games."

Farmer doesn't sense the players are taking sides about who should be their leader.

"I don't think there's a rift," Farmer said. "In any competition, you're going to find people who like Pepsi and people who like Coke. ... The three people making the quarterback decision are (Pettine), (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan and (quarterbacks coach) Dowell Loggains.

"My lane is to get guys here to create these type of controversies, make decisions tough on coaches, find players we think can help us win."

Hoyer threw an interception Monday due to a poor overthrow, but the man with the brace on his right knee is standing firm.

"This is my team until someone tells me otherwise," Hoyer said. "You come out here and try to be the best quarterback you can. You just ignore all the noise, the hype."

But the Manziel buzz is steadily growing louder.

"I need to continue to just improve everything I can in a short amount of time," Manziel said when asked how he handles the competition with Hoyer. "At the end of the day, it's just play football. Go out, go through your reads and execute and move the ball down the field. And score points.

"Whoever does that the best is obviously going to have the better chance."



Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY


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