The Browns enter their 2014 training camp with a revamped quarterback look. Gone are Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Alex Tanney. The only holdover from last year’s team is Brian Hoyer, who started training camp as the third-string quarterback behind Weeden and Campbell.
After Weeden was injured in the second game of the season, Hoyer started the next three games and the Browns won all three games. However, Hoyer suffered a torn ACL early in the third game and missed the remainder of the season. After Weeden and Campbell combined for one win the rest of the season the Browns decided to overhaul the quarterback position.
Johnny Manziel was drafted in the first round with the 22nd overall pick. He enters training camp behind Hoyer on the depth chart but has a chance to become the opening day starter. Thigpen is a veteran backup who has been in the NFL, while Shaw has a lot of promise joining the Browns as an undrafted free agent rookie from South Carolina.
#2 Johnny Manziel (6-0, 210, 21, Rookie, Texas A&M) – The first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, Manziel has created the most buzz of any of the rookie quarterbacks—mostly due to his off the field exploits. Mike Pettine said that Manziel will battle Hoyer for the starting position in training camp. Much of the anticipation for training camp is to see what Manziel will be able to do as a rookie.
#4 Tyler Thigpen (6-1, 216, 30, 7th season, Coastal Carolina) – Brought in with Vince Young on a tryout basis, Thigpen survived when Young was released after the draft. Thigpen is being regarded as in a battle for the third quarterback position with Shaw. Thigpen has bounced around the NFL and has just one win as a starting quarterback in his career.
#6 Brian Hoyer (6-2, 215, 28, 6th season, Michigan St.) – Hoyer displayed the Browns could be competitive if they just had efficient play at the quarterback position. Hoyer only played two full games before his injury but he showed enough promise to convince the new coaching staff to bring him in as the incumbent despite coming off ACL surgery. Hoyer completed over 59 percent of his passes and threw five touchdowns to three interceptions. His rating was 82.6.
#9 Connor Shaw (6-1, 210, 22, Rookie, South Carolina) – Shaw had a very successful career in college but wasn’t drafted. However, he has impressed the coaches in the OTAs and minicamps and will likely stay on the practice squad for development purposes unless his play is so good in the preseason the coaches feel they can go into the season with two rookie quarterbacks behind Hoyer.
Summary: The coaching staff has said that Hoyer is ahead of Manziel as training camp begins, despite Hoyer coming off ACL surgery and having just four NFL starts in his NFL career. However, the coaches are open to the fact that Manziel could win the starting job by opening day. The feeling is the Browns would be stronger with Hoyer opening the season and bringing Manziel along and possibly easing him into the NFL level with sub-packages built for him, similar to what the 49ers did with Colin Kaepernick in his rookie season.
(Next: We’ll take a look at the running backs)