BROWNS | The road to 2014

The time for off-season noise if over. Let the games begin.

Dustin Wadsworth, WKYC

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Browns have made plenty of noise during the off-season. It started when last season's head coach, Rob Chudzinski, was fired after a 4-12 record.

That's ancient history now.

After an extensive search and interview process the Browns hired first time NFL Head Coach, Mike Pettine, away from his Defensive Coordinator position with the Buffalo Bills.

Pettine says he will create a culture of accountability as coach of the Browns.

He told the Voice of the Browns, Jim Donovan, the players will pretty much know from day one what is expected of them and that they will be graded continuously on their performance.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam says Mike Pettine is a perfect fit for the team and fans.

Browns fans can also expect to see major improvements at FirstEnergy Stadium once the team takes the field this year.

Then the NFL Draft happened.

The man the Browns drafted second saw his #2 jersey outsell all other rookies, then overtake the rest of the NFL to become the top selling jersey. All before he's even played a single down of pro-football.

Johnny Manziel will not start the pre-season opener but he has found himself at the center of most of the stories leading up to the Browns training camp for his activities off the field.

On the field Manziel's #2 jersey matches his rank on the depth chart at the Quartberback position.

Right now that position is taken by a man who went undrafted. A man who was a back up for a guy named Tom Brady. A man who is returning from a devastating knee injury. None of that matters because the Cleveland area is where this man grew up.

Right now it's Brian Hoyer's team to lead.

Let the games begin.

Hoyer's Team

Brian Hoyer will start Week 1

By: Matthew Florjancic, WKYC

The hometown boy will once again get a chance to lead his hometown team.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, who grew up in North Olmsted, graduated from Cleveland St. Ignatius High School, and completed 57 of 96 passes for 615 yards and five touchdowns against three interceptions in three starts last year has been named the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns' regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Sept. 7.

First-year Browns coach Mike Pettine made the announcement shortly after 8:15 this morning.

"He was the clear leader from the beginning," Pettine said in a release from the team. "We've maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room."

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Hoyer was named the starter despite struggling through the first two games of the preseason.

Overall, Hoyer, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last October, has completed eight of 20 attempts for 108 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in two starts. He has a 57.9 quarterback rating and was sacked on the very first play of Monday night's 24-23 loss at the Washington Redskins.

In the game against Washington, Hoyer completed just two of six throws for 16 yards while alternating series with rookie Johnny Manziel.

"I think Brian's been very poised," Pettine said. "I think he's handled the situation well. He's had a lot of things going on.

"I think a lot of people discount that (injury). Here's a guy coming off of a season-ending knee injury. Really, these are his first, essentially, 20-25 plays of live work back from it, and he's only going to get better."

Pettine and his coaches met Tuesday night to discuss who would start for the Browns in the regular-season opener, and prior to making his decision, he reiterated the importance of making the best choice for the good of the time.

"We want to get the decision right, so that might be the risk-reward with it," Pettine said in a conference call with the media Tuesday. "If we want to make sure that we are diligent with it and do the right thing, then, I don't want to rush it and make it for the sake of making it. Then, you're risking the chemistry and the cohesion if you have the wrong guy there.

"I think it's one of two ways: You can let it play out to see if somebody clear-cut emerges or you can go ahead and name one and get him the maximum number of reps you can. That's something we have to balance, and that's something we're going to discuss, but I agree that if it just goes too late, and it goes beyond next week, and you wait until after the fourth game, then, with really only one week worth of practice, you're definitely at risk of somebody not being ready.

"I wanted those guys to truly compete. Brian's been in the league for a good amount of time, but he really doesn't have that many starts. Even though he was a veteran, he was kind of a veteran rookie just given his sample size. Then, Manziel, obviously a true rookie, you wanted to see. There's a reason we drafted him in the first round. We wanted to see those guys go out there and compete and put them in some adverse situations and see how they reacted."

Who will win?

Manziel vs. Hoyer

By: Matthew Florjancic, WKYC

Honesty is the best policy, and the Cleveland Browns were honest about their expectations of new quarterback Johnny Manziel, whom the team selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft last Thursday.

POLL: Who will be the starting QB in Week 1?

Speaking to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton on Monday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said he expects Manziel to compete for the starting job, but has told the former Heisman Trophy winner that he is the backup to starter Brian Hoyer and needs to approach the game as such.

"(Coach) Mike Pettine said it very well, 'I'm telling you right now, you're our backup quarterback and you need to start acting as such,'" Haslam said. "I think there is a Johnny Football aura out there. There's nothing wrong with that. It is what it is, but I think you'll find a guy that's a hard-working, serious guy that doesn't want to be a three-year-in-the-league flash that makes a lot of money off endorsements.

"He's a football player who likes football. He's highly competitive, and I think you'll see a guy who's going to come in here and go to work, hard. We were very frank with him on Friday that that's the expectation. He's the backup quarterback because this is a hard-working, blue-collar town. 'This isn't Hollywood.'

"'We want you to come in here, go to work, and work as hard as anybody on the team.' He's not the starter. Brian Hoyer's the starting quarterback. Johnny's the backup. They'll compete. If Johnny wins the job, fine. If not, Brian will be the quarterback."

Haslam fully expects Manziel to be motivated by more than just the opportunity to compete for a starting quarterback job in the NFL.

"I think you'll see Johnny perform that way," Haslam said. "Johnny wants to win games. He was a little upset that he went 22. He was a little upset that he was the second quarterback taken. I think he comes in with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder to show the people that he's about winning games, not all the other stuff."

In Hoyer, Manziel will compete against a quarterback who started three games for the Browns last fall before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Oct. 3 that cost him the rest of the season.

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It is because of that knee injury that Haslam hoped, but not demanded, general manager Ray Farmer select a quarterback in the draft.

"I thought it was important that we take a quarterback this year because Brian Hoyer, a great guy, a great leader, but he hasn't played that much and is coming off of an injury," Haslam said. "We picked the top-rated quarterback on our board when he was available. That was solely Ray's call, not my call.

"Brian is what you want in a football player. He's what you want in a quarterback. He loves football. He's way ahead of schedule on his rehab. We're doing 7-on-7 right now, and he can do the 7-on-7. Trainers want to be careful and make sure no one falls on him during 11-on-11and falls on his knee, but he'll be full-scale come training camp. It's his job to lose, and I think you'll see him compete and compete hard."

Rookie Mistakes

Getting comfortable with the Browns

By: Matthew Florjancic, WKYC

Now in his second week of a professional football training camp, Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel is starting to find a comfort level with the playbook, and that is resulting in him making plays.

Much like he did at Texas A&M, Manziel has displayed a penchant for extending plays with his feet and throwing accurate passes to wide receivers despite being out of the pocket and on the run.

"We're in a couple weeks now, and it feels a lot more comfortable for me," Manziel said. "There's still a long ways to go for me, obviously, and like I said a week ago, I felt like if I kept working on this stuff, got more and more familiar with a certain play call, a certain formation, a certain concept, then, in due time, I would get better at certain concepts, and there's still a lot more for me to go.

"I think that's still a process of being able to control that and make it a positive thing going forward, instead of a thing that is considered somewhat wild. I think today, in the end zone, I threw a touchdown stepping up, acting like I'm going to take off, keeping my eyes downfield and being able to get the ball to a receiver in the end zone.

"There are times where you have to get out and sometimes, the defense wins. Sometimes, they play the right coverage to our scheme and you have to make something happen when there's nothing there, but at the same time, being smart, not turning the ball over and staying healthy are all the things you have to do to continue to play."

After watching nine practices and one scrimmage, both in person and again on video, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine has seen steady progress from Manziel, which includes him making quicker reads and throwing the ball to its intended targets on time.

"That comes with it," Pettine said. "That's also understanding the play, and then, who he's reading. Am I reading the weak safety? Am I reading the strong safety? Where am I looking to go with this ball? I think that's true of any rookie quarterback that most of the time, you're going to see they're much slower. They have to anticipate. Where you see where (Brian) Hoyer's ahead is his ability to throw a ball before a guy breaks open, but we certainly see Johnny making strides in that direction.

"He understands football, but when you switch offenses and you're going from just a completely different system, it's just like learning a foreign language. You know it in your own terms, but then, you have to find out, 'Okay, how do I translate? What I know was this is now this.' That's just part of the learning curve for everybody, especially rookie quarterbacks."

While veteran Brian Hoyer was named the starting quarterback for the Browns' preseason opener at the Detroit Lions this Saturday night, Manziel got an opportunity to play with the first-team offense during the early portion of the week.

Pettine said it remains a "possibility" Manziel could see first-team snaps against the Lions.

"I think it's good for me to get in with guys like Joe (Thomas) and like Alex (Mack) that have had experience and done a lot of great things and to run with the ones is a different pace, a different regime really, so getting comfortable is just as important as any group that's out there," Manziel said. "I think it's a great opportunity for me and one where I'm learning a lot from and having fun with.

"I think it will be fun (Saturday), and fun to mix it back up. It will be the first game setting since the last college bowl game, so it will be nice to get back on the field and play a game. Everybody is happy when the season rolls back around and you're out on the field having a live game going on."

Brian Hoyer

Hometown favorite?

By: Matthew Florjancic, WKYC

Preseason or regular season, quarterback competition or not, it does not matter to Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer.

When the Browns have a game on the schedule, Hoyer wants to play as perfectly as he can, and he carries that mindset into Monday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Monday night.

"I play every game like it's a regular-season game," Hoyer said after Saturday's training-camp practice in Berea. "There's really no way to go about it other than that. I think the moment you think that it's just a preseason game is the moment that you're not prepared mentally and all of the sudden, something sneaks up on you and you're losing, 14-0, in the first quarter."

Not only does Hoyer play "every game like it's a regular-season game," but he also practices and studies like it during the week.

"I prepare every game, whether it's preseason, regular season, like I'm going to play the whole game until the coach pulls me out," Hoyer said. "You've got to be prepared to play a football game. Those guys aren't going to hold back on the other side, that's for sure. You've just got to be prepared like you would in a normal situation.

"Obviously, you don't go into the game-planning and things like that, but it's still football. It's like going against our defense every day. We never know what we're going to get, but you go out there and react and play the best you can."

Whether or not Hoyer wants to admit it, there could be more pressure on him heading into the Washington game because first-year coach Mike Pettine has targeted Tuesday as the day in which he will choose -- between Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel -- who will start for the Browns in the regular-season opener at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Sept. 7.

"I think every game is crucial," Hoyer said. "For me, it doesn't change the way I prepare. Like I said, the thing that I try to do is come out and be the best quarterback I can every day, and I'll do the same thing Monday night.

"I think the best quarterback should play, regardless of the situation. It's a situation I dealt with last year when I came in. We kind of said it was a week-to-week thing, so for me, I just want to be the starting quarterback of this team whatever the situation is."

Hoyer was named the starter for the Washington game after completing six of 14 attempts for 92 yards in a 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions in the preseason opener at Ford Field last Saturday.

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Although his completion percentage was not what he wanted it to be, Hoyer averaged 6.57 yards per attempt in his three drives, which was nearly a yard better than Manziel (5.73) managed against Detroit's second and third-team defenses.

And Hoyer is out to improve on those statistics when he again takes the field with the first-team offense on Monday night.

"I think I've played well," Hoyer said. "I think I can play a lot better. There's no doubt about that. I think we're always trying to improve, and for us, things are coming up quick now.

"We play Monday. Then, we come around and play Saturday, so I think, for me, I'm just trying to make big improvements every day. You're to the point where you're trying to play everything perfectly.

"Obviously, we all try to go out and be perfect. The other team's pretty good, too, but you just try to go out and improve all the time. Every day you come out, you either get better or you get worse. There's no in-between, so am I satisfied with how I've played? I think I've played well, but I think I can play a lot better."

Detroit Lions

Johnny's pro debut

By: Matthew Florjancic, WKYC

DETROIT -- No matter how good a defense and special-teams units play, there is no substitute for scoring touchdowns.

And the Cleveland Browns learned that lesson the hard way, as they settled for four field goals, while a last-minute touchdown pass from Kellen Moore to wide receiver Corey Fuller gave the Detroit Lions a 13-12 victory in the 2014 preseason opener at Ford Field.

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With his team down by six points with 2:14 remaining in the game, Moore engineered a four-play, 50-yard scoring drive that was aided by three defensive holding penalties over a series of four plays.

"It was the typical preseason game," Browns coach Mike Pettine said following the loss. "We did some good things. We did some bad things. We learned some lessons in this game. You can't just kick field goals when you get in the red zone. You've got to score touchdowns. If you get a chance to finish a game defensively, you want to be in that situation, and you've got to execute.

QB: Every game counts for Hoyer

"Those were the most valuable lessons we learned. We did some good things running the football, but defensively, we were a little sporadic. We didn't tackle, especially on the perimeter. Some of those penalties? You've got to play confident. They're going to call it tight. That's a good lesson for our guys to see. You've got to be confident. You've got to understand you can't put your hands on guys downfield."

The Browns took a 6-3 lead over the Lions on their first possession of the second quarter, as quarterback Brian Hoyer led an 11-play, 58-yard drive that kicker Billy Cundiff capped off with a 26-yard field goal.

Hoyer completed four passes on the drive, including 22- and 10-yarders to wide receiver Josh Gordon, as well as a 13-yard toss to wideout Miles Austin.

Cleveland added a third field goal when rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel led a seven-play, 26-yard drive that concluded with Cundiff's 41-yarder at the 11:27 mark of the third quarter.

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Although the Browns were able to build an advantage over Detroit, it was the Lions took the early lead, thanks in large part to the play of their special teams.

After kick returner Jeremy Ross returned the opening kickoff 49 yards, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford moved the ball 32 yards in eight plays before the drive stalled at the Cleveland 19-yard line. Kicker Nate Freese responded by converting a 37-yard field goal at the 11:09 mark of the first quarter.

Two possessions later, the Browns put themselves in scoring position when Hoyer engineered a seven-play, 31-yard drive that Cundiff finished off with a 43-yard field goal.

"We've just got to finish," Hoyer said. "You've just got to improve. I don't think it was anything the defense did to us. I think we stopped ourselves. Whatever it is, you've just got to execute."

Washington Redskins

Will the starter emerge?

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

After watching his quarterbacks struggle through a 24-23 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Monday night, first-year Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine agreed with the famous quote from Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Intending to name his starting quarterback one day after the second preseason game in an effort to give either veteran Brian Hoyer or rookie Johnny Manziel enough time to prepare for the regular-season opener at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Sept. 7, Pettine was less than definitive that a decision would be made soon.

"All of the options are still on the table," Pettine said. "It's still something we'd like to do, but we'll see. Whoever gives us the best chance to win the opener will be the starter.

"Somebody has to be ready for the opener."

Hoyer completed just two of his six attempts for 16 yards, while Manziel went seven of 16 for 65 yards and one touchdown, an eight-yard score on a short pass to running back Dion Lewis for the Browns' first offensive score of the preseason.

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"It probably couldn't have been any worse," Hoyer said. "It's disappointing. It's embarrassing. We started off poorly, and it never really changed after that.

"There's no excuses. The first play was messed up, and then, we had a penalty. Then, it just kind of spiraled out of control, and we were never really able to get things going. It's unfortunate, especially with the situation that we're in. You've just got to look at yourself, grade yourself really hard, and get better. That's the only thing you can do."

Much like Hoyer, Manziel was not happy with his play in the loss.

"I don't feel I was incredibly decisive coming out the first few drives," Manziel said. "That's where I feel I've been my best the past couple weeks of practices, picking what side I'm going to, sticking with that, and really throwing the ball. I felt like I came out in the earlier series and tried to force everything and not let it fly like I should have. I need to get better at that and throw the dang ball.

"I don't think I did a very good job. I think there was a lot of room for me to improve, some throws that I wish I would've had back. That (decision is) really up to Coach Pettine and the higher powers more than it is me. I just need to come in every day and continue to try and get better."

According to Pettine, regardless of whether Hoyer or Manziel is in the game, the formula for success remains the same.

"We need to score touchdowns," said Pettine, whose offense has managed just two touchdowns in two preseason games. "We need to move the ball. We need to get first downs. I think we've got to watch the tape. I don't know. Every play tells its own story. We'll have a much better evaluation when we get back."

Fifth-year cornerback Joe Haden added, "That would be a good thing if you had one guy that you know is your quarterback. At the same time, it is a business, and we know what it is. We've got Manziel. We have Hoyer. We have a quarterback competition, so we're just going to take it in stride, and hopefully, by the time the regular season starts, we've got a guy."