The most important storyline in the Cleveland Browns preseason opener against the Detroit Lions this past Saturday was the much-publicized quarterback battle between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. Though we’ve heard all about who was taking reps with the starters in practice and how they’ve each looked, this was the first chance to see both the vet (Hoyer) and the rookie (Manziel) in live-game action.
After the final whistle blew Saturday night, it seemed the biggest takeaway was that we really didn’t see either take a stranglehold on the competition. Both Hoyer and Manziel had their share of solid plays, and neither looked overwhelmed at all. Though each had a couple throws they’d likely want back, neither QB turned the ball over, and both were able to lead scoring drives.
At the end of the day, both Hoyer and Manziel earned “good, not great” reviews for their performance against Detroit. As a result, there still doesn’t appear to be a clear winner in the Browns’ latest quarterback competition.
Throughout camp this week, each QB is getting time with the ones as the team preps for their Monday night preseason game against the Washington Redskins next week. No starter has been named for said game just yet, but if you ask me, it should be Manziel.
Let me be clear, this is not because I believe he’s ahead in the competition by any sort of margin. I also don’t think he’s miles behind Hoyer either. At the same time, if said contest is as close as everyone is reporting, the team needs to do their due diligence and get a look at Manziel with the starters in a live-game scenario.
If Hoyer gets all the time with the starting offense against Washington, then this competition has been over for a while. It wouldn’t make any sense to make it appear as though each player is getting an equal shot at the starting gig if only one of them is getting all the time with the ones in the preseason. And while Manziel didn’t do anything Saturday night that helped him take the edge in the competition, Hoyer also hasn’t appeared to be the runaway leader either.
The only way to get a good look at what Cleveland has in their popular rookie is to put him out there with your best offensive players. While he looked decent with the backups on Saturday, he was also working against the Lions’ second-team defense. He needs just as much time playing with a starting offense as he does playing against a starting defense. Only then will the Browns have a fair competition on their hands.
If things looked lopsided this past weekend, then it would be an entirely different story. Had Hoyer put together a few touchdown drives while Manziel looked unprepared and inexperienced, then you continue business as usual and give Hoyer the majority of the starting time. However, this wasn’t the case, and the competition appears closer than ever.
Of course, there are ways to handle this without necessarily starting Manziel Monday. The Browns could let Hoyer start the first quarter and Manziel have come in for the second, while keeping the rest of the starting offense out there for each. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the scenario we end up seeing.
The bottom line, though, is Manziel needs to get time in with the ones in a live-game scenario in order to give him a real shot at winning the starting QB job. With all the ground he’s been making up in the past few weeks, he’s definitely earned the opportunity to show the Browns what he can do.