Friday, June 13, 2014

Silly time in Berea

Enough already with the Hoyer-Manziel comparisons.

The Browns just completed a mandatory minicamp dressed in shorts and no pads and the circus has started already.

Asking coach Mike Pettine about the progress of Johnny Manziel is ignorant at this point. In some ways, it is futile because the answer is obvious.

This is not the time to be asking about whether Manziel is making significant progress in his battle to unseat Brian Hoyer as the team’s starting quarterback. It is way too early.

Manziel is just dipping his feet into the world of professional football. He’s not even a baby in that regard. If anything, he’s right out of the womb.

Pettine, exercising extreme patience in the matter, correctly says Hoyer is #1 on the depth chart at the position, but with a caveat. “I don’t think it’s insurmountable” for Manziel to overcome Hoyer’s decided and deserved edge right now.

Pettine, also correctly, labeled Hoyer “securely ahead right now.” That, of course, will change once training camp begins late next month when the pads will be donned.  

So, argue those against drafting Manziel in the first place, why do so if he’s not going to start right away? Two reasons. There is no hurry to get him under center; there’s plenty of time to get him NFL ready. And it’s no secret that Hoyer is keeping the seat warm until the time Manziel is ready.

This is not the time to get bent out of shape about the impending Hoyer-Manziel battle. That will unfold itself in a normal manner if Pettine sticks to his promise to make it a wide-open competition.

That’s what happened in Seattle a couple of training camps ago when rookie Russell Wilson was given a similar shot and clearly outplayed veteran Matt Flynn to win the starting job with the Seahawks.

Many Manziel fans would love to see a repeat in Berea, but the harsh reality is that Hoyer is light years (in NFL terms) ahead of Manziel at this point and it would take no less than a spectacular showing by the rookie to change that by the time the regular season begins in Pittsburgh.

That doesn’t mean Hoyer has a lock on the job, but it would take something special to wrest it away from him. It’s difficult to forget how well the Browns responded to him in those two games early last season before he went down with the knee injury.

Right now, he is clearly the more polished quarterback. He sees things on the field now that Manziel can only hope to see down the road.

The big difference is that Manziel appears to be a quick study, a sponge who can absorb more than the normal person and apply it to his craft. He is already getting praise from his coaches on how rapidly he is picking up the system.

This will all play itself out in the six weeks leading up the regular season. That’s when the circus tent will be erected and the fun begins in earnest.

Until then, everything you hear about the Hoyer-Manziel battle will be nothing more than white noise.

Other minicamp observations: To protect the healing process in his injured knee, Hoyer took all snaps from the shotgun. That will change come late July. If the club is so skittish about Hoyer’s ability (or lack of same) to scramble and slide, perhaps they should hire someone from the Indians to teach him how to slide and avoid further injury. . . . Good to see tempers flare in minicamp, normally a period where it’s usually all business. The Phil Taylor-Garrett Gilkey battle of big men is a not a bad sign. I liked the Gilkey pick in last year’s draft and foresee him as a strong candidate to open up at right guard. Love his attitude and meanness. He said he was coached in college to play “white knuckles to the end.” Gotta love that. . . . Lots of raves about Smurfish wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, catching everything in sight. Now let’s see what he can do with pads on. . . . Another camp standout was rookie running back Terrance West, whose goal, it would appear, is to displace Ben Tate as the starter. He seems to be a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s one-cut offense. . . . Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo still looks skinny. His metabolism rate must be through the roof. . . . Judging from some of the talk with regard to Pettine’s aggressive style of defense, it would not surprise to see Mingo, Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard on the field at the same time on passing downs with Sheard putting his hand on the ground. . . . Camp visitor Ron Jaworski from ESPN has changed his mind about Manziel (his pre-draft comments were brutally harsh), but still predicted he “won’t win the starting job. He won’t because of Hoyer.”

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