Brian Hoyer will be under center when the Browns face the Redskins on Monday night, putting him one step closer to the starting job when the regular season begins on Sept. 7. First-year coach Mike Pettine hinted last week that rookie first-round pick Johnny Manziel might make his first preseason start in Washington but clearly that isn't happening.
"It's just something right now where we are comfortable with Brian going out there to start the game," Pettine said Thursday. "I think it's a little overblown as to who the starter is going to be. The key component, as I've stated earlier this week, is that we are going to balance the reps."
Manziel began Friday's practice taking first-team reps but that isn't indicative of anything other than Pettine keeping his word: Both quarterbacks will work with the starters, and the plan is to give them equal snaps against the Redskins. Presumably, how both players fare in that game will go a long way in determining who wins the regular-season job. Pettine has stated that he would like to name a starter before the Week 3 preseason game, which is next Saturday, Aug. 23.
But it sounds like Manziel will need to be much better than he was against the Lions last week -- when he was very good -- if he wants to beat out Hoyer. Details from the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot:
#browns have never wanted to send Manziel into the lion's den of Pittsburgh sept 7. JFF will have to make it impossible for them to sit him— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 15, 2014
We've been saying for weeks that whatever happens, Manziel will be the starter by Week 5, even if he's on the bench until then. Why? The Browns' first three games are against the Steelers, Saints and Ravens before a Week 4 bye. An 0-3 start seems more than possible, and if the team heads into its bye without a win, we'll spend two weeks hearing about how Manziel deserves to play. (If this sounds familiar it should; it's pretty much how Tim Tebow unseated Kyle Orton back in 2011.)
It's an untenable position for Hoyer, who has earned the right to start but probably won't make it to October because of the Browns' tough early season schedule.