Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan both talked after Thursday’s practice about the quarterback battle between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. The early indication was that Hoyer was well ahead of Manziel, but that might be a little premature according to Shanahan.
“I don’t think one is any further in front than the other,” Shanahan said after practice Thursday. “I think they’ve both done a good job. Today was our fifth practice and today was a lot more of a run practice with short yardage, goal line, four-minute, backed up. As far as these five practices, usually one day one guy is ahead of the other; the next day the other guy does a better job. I think it’s been back and forth. It’s something that I don’t try to evaluate every day. I just try to coach both of them and get better.
“In my experience, when you’ve been in a situation like this, it usually plays out,” he said. “We’ve been in a week. Hopefully, as these preseason games go, as these practices go, one of them will make the decision easy on us. One will just take off and start playing really well. Usually that answer becomes pretty easy. If they make it tough, I hope it’s because they’re both playing really well.”
Pettine said that Saturday’s scrimmage at the University of Akron will give both quarterbacks a better chance to show what they can do. He also said more weight might be placed on the play during the scrimmage.
“A little bit more just because we’ll try to make it as close to a game day,” Pettine said when asked if more weight will be given to the scrimmage. “Quarterbacks won’t be live, but that type of work, we’ll put the most stock in it where it’s unscripted and it’s less situational.”
Pettine was asked if Manziel would start to get some work with the first team. Through five days of practice, Manziel has yet to work with the first team.
“Yeah. I know Kyle got with (Browns quarterbacks coach) Dowell (Loggains) and I don’t think they finalized it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was sooner than later, just to start to mix things up a little bit.”
Shanahan offered his thoughts on Manziel getting work with the first team.
“That’s something we discuss every day,” he said. “I think that’s a little more overrated, personally. I think it’s a big deal perception-wise, but just from a coaching standpoint, whether it’s the ones or twos, we rotate all our receivers. We rotate all our tight ends. We rotate out backs. He’s getting a lot of work with those guys. He hasn’t been out there as much with (OL Alex) Mack and (OL Joe) Thomas, but we’ll work him in there with the first O-line it’s something we discuss every day. I’m sure you guys will see that sooner rather than later.”
Shanahan was asked how the competition is going overall.
“I think it’s been going well,” he said. “The guys are competing as hard as they can. Especially a week into it, it’s more about both of them trying to get better. You’ve got a rookie quarterback trying to learn a new offense. You’ve got another quarterback – I know he’s not a rookie – but it’s a new offense for him also. They’re both trying to get their feet wet. They had some through OTAs. Brian is also coming off an ACL (injury) so it’s been good to get him in some team drills and stuff. It’s been going well, and I think as it gets going more and more, the competition will get tighter.
“I’m not trying to get too into the specifics because I’m still trying to learn. Brian, I’ve had about – today is our fifth practice,” he said. “I had him in OTAs with just seven on seven, but I’m getting more used to him and I’ve got four games of game tape to look at him. He’s been coming along. Through the progressions and stuff, he’s got a little more experience with them being in some different offenses. All of the stuff kind of ties over.
“There’s some different terminology and everything, but he’s done a good job getting our team out of the huddle, running the plays, executing the plays. Johnny has continued to progress. He hasn’t done as much of that in college. They weren’t as concept-based and they were a little more spread out. It allowed him to do a lot more off-schedule plays. Johnny has continued to progress as a quarterback – doing some things he didn’t do in college and at the same time not losing what he his. He’s trying to still make those same plays you guys saw in college and trying to learn when to let a play develop and when to abort the play and get out of the pocket and do what he does best.”
Greco, Winn Back: Two more veteran players returned to practice Thursday. OL John Greco and DL Billy Winn (hamstring) came off the Active/non-football injury list and returned to practice. It was the first practice for each player.
“I don’t think he’s missed a beat,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He understands what we’re asking him to do.”
Shanahan said there’s an upside to Greco being off a few days.
“He’s got fresh legs.”
There are only two players on the Active/non-football injury list: DL Phil Taylor and OL Nick McDonald.
On the Side: LB Tank Carder, LB Darius Eubanks were on the side with trainers during practice. OL Randall Harris left practice with the trainers and WR Chandler Jones missed practice for the second-straight practice.
Gordon Off: WR Josh Gordon was not on the practice field and Pettine confirmed that he was traveling to New York for his appeal on his substance abuse situation with the NFL scheduled for Friday.
Defense Wins Orange Jerseys Again: The defense practiced in orange jerseys for winning a competition with the offense on Tuesday.
At the end of practice Thursday, Pettine had a competition that came down to one situation. He placed the ball on the two-yard line, 3rd-and-2 on the two with the offense down by five with 15 seconds left and one timeout. On the first play, a pass play, a penalty was called on the defense to put the ball on the one.
The defense then stuffed RB Ben Tate short of the goal line as he tried to get into the end zone, resulting in a win for the defense, once again.
“I thought the offense had the upper hand most of the day, even early in the goal line in the offense,” Pettine said. “What happens all the time is games come down to the fourth quarter, so we’ll put the ball at 2-yard line and whoever comes out on top gets the jersey.
“The lesson to learn is how many games decided by eight points or less and truly come down to the fourth quarter. The defense will be wearing orange again (Friday).”
Leonard Practices: New Browns safety Jim Leonhard is a quick study. He was on the practice field wearing No. 30 after being signed last night by the Browns. Pettine is familiar with Leonhard as he played for him with the Jets and the Bills last season.
“There’s a lot to like,” Pettine said. “He’s smart. He’s tough. It took about 10 minutes to get him caught up to speed with the subtle changes in terminology.”
Leonhard (5-8, 188) is in his 10th season from Wisconsin. Pettine was asked why Leonhard has been able to play so long.
“He’s productive,” he said. “He’s the perfect example. You look at him you think he should be doing your taxes and not playing safety (in the NFL).
“He makes the players around him better,” Pettine said. “He had a career high interceptions last year so he can still play at a high level.”
Pettine was asked why he was brought in so late.
“We wanted to assess the guys here and talked about it and finally got a chance to evaluate the roster and felt let’s go ahead and get him here.”
Pettine was asked what role he envisions Leonhard’s role to be.
“He’s a core special teams player and in a third safety package, he could potentially help.”
The Rabbit doing Well: WR Travis Benjamin has been fielding punts with the first unit and taking his turn with the receivers. He was given a scheduled day’s rest Monday, but other than that he appears to have no problems.
“He’s had no issues and no residual effects of the injury,” Pettine said.