BEREA — Quarterback Brian Hoyer will start Saturday in Detroit in the preseason opener.
“That was his job. He was the one coming into it,” first-year coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday. “He’s done nothing to have that taken away from him, so he’ll be out there with the starters.”
Rookie Johnny Manziel, who’s made significant progress in the last several days, has two weeks to rip away the job.
Pettine plans to name his starting lineup after the second preseason game Aug. 18 against Washington so the starters have time to gain chemistry and cohesion. He called practice “important,” but the quarterback decision will come down to several series in a pair of preseason games.
“I think more weight will be put on those, because it’s live reps,” he said.
“What really matters is how you play in a game when you’re going against a live defense,” Hoyer said. “It’s totally understandable.
“The way I look at it is I feel like I’m the starter until someone tells me otherwise.”
Manziel worked exclusively with the first-team offense Monday and Wednesday, his only time with the unit in training camp. Pettine called the rotation part of the plan and a natural element of a quarterback competition, and said Manziel could see time with the starters against the Lions.
“The coaches were coming up with their own plan on how they want to rotate it,” Pettine said. “I’ll probably know better tomorrow whether he’ll be in there with the ones.”
Manziel feels he’s had a good run of practices.
“Better. Better,” he said. “Just get out there with a lot less clutter in my mind.”
Hoyer has been steady but not spectacular through 10 practices. He failed to get in the end zone Wednesday and was intercepted in a seven-on-seven drill, but heated up as practice went along and went 9-for-13 (with two or three drops) during team drills.
He took Pettine’s announcement that he’ll start Saturday in stride.
“It doesn’t change my mindset,” Hoyer said. “I’ve expected it all along. You just go about your approach the same way every day. If you go about trying to be the best quarterback for this team regardless where you are, things will work themselves out.”
Hoyer took the same stance when asked about Manziel replacing him with the first team during practice.
“If it’s going to be a competition, he has to go out there with the ones and play against the ones,” Hoyer said. “I can only control what I can, so I go out there with the twos and I try to make them better and improve myself. It doesn’t really change my focus.”
Hoyer has declared his surgically repaired right knee 100 percent for months and hasn’t missed any reps during camp. It cleared another unexpected hurdle Tuesday when linebacker Paul Kruger fell into him.
“It was more scary than anything else,” Hoyer said. “I kind of went down and waited for there to be some pain and there wasn’t. So it was actually kind of good to have some confidence going into Saturday knowing I’ve actually taken a hit and the brace withstood the hit and the brace felt good.”
Manziel will likely go back to working with the second team today as the focus shifts toward the game against Detroit. He can call the week a success, starting with the Family Day scrimmage Saturday.
“We’re in to a couple weeks now, and it feels a lot more comfortable for me,” he said.
Manziel had his second straight strong practice. He was 5-for-8 with a touchdown in team drills, and led a touchdown drive in seven-on-seven that included a gorgeous 24-yard out to receiver Andrew Hawkins between cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Jim Leonhard.
Manziel appreciated his time with the starters.
“It’s good for me to get in with guys like Joe (Thomas) and like Alex (Mack) that have had experience and done a lot of great things,” he said. “And to run with the ones is a different pace. So I think it’s a great opportunity for me and one where I’m learning a lot from and having fun with.”
Both quarterbacks know they’re in a competition, but insist it’s not their primary focus.
“I’m not looking at it that way,” Manziel said. “Really I need to just keep learning the playbook and hopefully in due time I will be able to be comfortable with a lot broader region of the playbook than just the little area that I am now. And it’s steadily growing every day and that’s what I need to continue to do is get better, expand my knowledge of the playbook and my knowledge of the game.”
Manziel has received plenty of criticism, including from his bosses, for partying too much in the offseason. While he readily acknowledges the difficulty he’s had fully grasping coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system, he said he wouldn’t have changed anything prior to his arrival for camp.
“I sat there during the break with the playbook and went over formations, but it’s different when you’re out there on the field executing it and certain releases of guys and certain things happen on the field that aren’t the same as when you’re looking at it on an iPad,” he said. “No, there is nothing I wish I would have done differently.”
Pettine said it’s possible Manziel could start the second preseason game against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in prime time on ESPN.
“That seems like about a month away,” Pettine said.
The more important decision will be who gets the call Week 1 in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7. Manziel was asked how comfortable he could be by then if he were to win the job.
“I have a long way to go,” he said. “Really right now I’m not looking that far down the road. I’m just kinda trying to keep it one day at a time this week, get better this day and then as the weeks continue to unfold hopefully have a better result by the end of training camp.”
Hoyer has no doubts he’ll be ready for Week 1 — if he gets the chance.
“I think I’m performing at a pretty high level,” he said. “You always have room to get better. I think the greatest drive for me is trying to be the best and you try to put that pressure on yourself.”
For Hoyer, all the pressure is internal.
“I don’t feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me these days, so I’m actually having a great time,” he said. “This is the best training camp I’ve ever been a part of because I get to be out there playing with those guys, so I’m out there and having fun and just trying to get better every day.”