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Not much changes in QB battle

08/10/2014, 12:42am EDT
By DAVE HACKENBERG BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Not much changes in QB battle

DETROIT — Lions fans didn’t have to wait long to see their backup quarterback play on Saturday night.

Matthew Stafford was out after seven snaps and Dan Orlovsky was in the huddle in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

“I kind of expected that,” Stafford said.

Cleveland Browns fans, regardless of what they expected, had to wait for what seemed like forever to see their No. 2 guy.

It was with 7:32 left in the second quarter, and exactly one hour after kickoff, that Johnny Manziel walked onto the turf at Ford Field. Lions fans booed, a smattering of Browns fans cheered, and America’s fans, at least those who get the NFL Network, looked up from their barstools and recliners to see what Cleveland hopes is the future of the franchise.

Whether it is the present remains to be seen.

For the record, Johnny Football’s first pass in an NFL uniform, albeit in an exhibition game, was complete to third-string receiver Anthony Armstrong for a six-yard gain. His first run came two plays later on third-and-1 and he was stuffed for no gain.

Brian Hoyer started for the Browns and was in for 24 snaps and was 6-of-14 for 92 yards while leading Cleveland to a pair of first-half field goals in a game the Lions came back to win 13-12.

Hoyer was given the Browns’ first three possessions, and it really should not have surprised anyone.

Rookie coach Mike Pettine was sending the message that the preseason will be a serious and fair competition, not simply the anointing of Manziel for which many of the team’s long-suffering fans are hoping.

The delay in waiting until the fourth possession to insert Manziel into the game did nix any chance of him playing with the first-team offensive line. But Pettine had warned earlier last week that “we don’t want to mix the units in this game.”

Of course, it should also be noted that Manziel didn’t appear until long after the Lions’ No. 1 defense was done for the night.

All in all, J. Football did nothing to change the anticipated order of appearance for quarterbacks during the Browns’ next preseason game on Monday, Aug. 18, in Washington.

“The way I look at it, I feel like I’m the starter and until someone tells me otherwise then that’s how I’ll prepare,” Hoyer said before the game.

He should remain the starter for another week, although Manziel did have a decent sequence on his second possession of the third quarter.

He had completions of 14 and 15 yards — receiver Charles Johnson did the heavy lifting on the second, which was a short pass and nice run after the catch — and runs of 16 yards and one yard, the latter on a fourth-and-1 scramble.

But running back Dion Lewis fumbled after a handoff on the next play and the drive went for naught.

Manziel played four series and was 7-of-11 for 63 yards through the air and added 27 yards rushing on six carries.

Heading in, Johnny Football knew “there’s still a long way for me to go, obviously, but I feel my comfort level on the field growing day by day. What I need to continue to do is expand my knowledge of the playbook and expand my knowledge of the game.”

All of the Browns’ quarterbacks are learning a new system from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, which has probably been in Hoyer’s favor thus far.

“It obviously helps that I’ve been in this league for six years and I’ve seen multiple offenses,” Hoyer said. “Each one is unique. I still have a long way to go and there are certain plays I’m not as comfortable with. But I feel really comfortable where I am right now.”

What comfort level he’ll enjoy in a few weeks remains to be seen because there is the school of thought that this soon will be Manziel’s team.

For now, though, Hoyer says bring it on. He feels the competition has been good for him.

“Yeah, I’ve been performing at a pretty high level,” he said. “The greatest thing that drives you is trying to be the best. You want that pressure on yourself.”

With three preseason games to go, there will be plenty of pressure for both of the Browns’ top quarterback candidates.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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