By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Notes, quotes and observations on Browns training camp Day 5 …
* QB competition update: Although Brian Hoyer has held down the No. 1 offense every day and Johnny Manziel has not taken snaps behind the No. 1 offensive line, the coaches refuse to characterize the quarterback competition as having a leader. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan summed it up this way: "I don’t think one’s any further in front than the other. You’ve got a rookie quarterback and another quarterback who’s really only played in three NFL games and they’re both learning new offenses. So when one guy has a bad practice I don’t say, ‘He’s back, the other’s way up.’ As small as patience as coaches have, I’m fighting with myself to have more because I know it’s going to take time. You don’t want to just jump to a conclusion real quick. You’ve got to give them both time to get comfortable and to develop.” Naturally, Shanahan downplayed the fact Manziel has not taken No. 1 snaps. He said we will see that “sooner than later.” Coach Mike Pettine added that other position groups also will see some “mixing up” soon. We will have a complete analysis of the quarterback position Friday in The Morning Kickoff.
* The Johnny play package: Momentum seems to be mounting for, at the least, a special package of plays tailored for Manziel’s running ability in the event Hoyer wins the job. On a goal-line series on Thursday, Manziel showed how his running influences defenses close to the end zone. He rolled left off a play fake and the defense lost containment on tight end Jim Dray. Manziel saw the opening and flipped the ball to Dray for an easy TD. “I would do it if it looked like the right thing to do,” Shanahan said about such a special package for Manziel. “That has to do all about studying Pittsburgh, what their schemes are, whether we think some things look good v. them that maybe Johnny could do that Brian couldn’t. What the rest of our team’s doing. I have no problem with that. I think that does present some issues. But there’s got to be a reason for it.”
* Hoyer bulked up: Hoyer, 6-2 and 215 pounds, said he’s five pounds heavier than a year ago, and most of the added weight is leg muscle as a result of his rehab from ACL surgery. “I’ve built up my legs bigger than they ever were,” he said. “As a quarterback, you don’t want to be too big up top, in my opinion, that you can’t throw the ball. So you want to be long and loose but also have enough muscle to take the hits.” Hearing that, images of muscle-bound Brady Quinn race through the mind.
* Defense wins at end: After losing most of the practice day to the embattled offense, the defense rose up at the end and captured Pettine’s contrived competition to earn the orange jerseys another day. Pettine set the situation at third-and-2 at the 2-yard line with :20 left, the offense down by five points, and one timeout left. On the first play, Chris Ogbonnaya was stuffed at the line and the defense piled over him. On the second play, linebacker Chris Kirksey defended a quick pass for tight end Jordan Cameron. On the final play, Ben Tate failed to get in behind the lead block of MarQueis Gray. Linebacker Karlos Dansby and nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen wound up lifting Tate off the ground and playfully carrying him back to the backfield. “The defense won, stepped up and had a stop,” center Alex Mack said. “We can grumble but it really comes down to those last plays. There’s a good point to be made that you have to make those plays at the end of a game.”
* Together again: Newly signed safety Jim Leonhard arrived. He has been with Pettine at Baltimore, the Jets and Buffalo, and it surely sounded as if Pettine intends to keep him for more than a tryout. At 31, Leonard’s starting days may be behind him, but Pettine stated several potential roles for Leonard. “Core special teamer and also some type of nickel defender, in a package group where we put three safeties in a game,” Pettine said. “Or whether it’s a dime-linebacker type, where we want to move Donte (Whitner) closer to the ball and have Jim take his job deep. When teams go to two-tight ends and two-receivers, we’ve played a good number of three-safety packages intstead of going with a smaller nickel back.” Leonard also will be a backup at punt returner to Travis Benjamin, particularly in situations where ball security is the No. 1 task. “Rex (Ryan) and I used to joke that he can catch a punt in a hurricane,” Pettine said.
Brownie bits: Receiver Josh Gordon was excused to travel to New York and prepare for his appeals hearing Friday to avert a league suspension. Commissioner Roger Goodell will be in Canton for Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festivities, but he will make a ruling after conferring with his designee early next week … Guard John Greco and defensive lineman Billy Winn were active for the first time in camp. Only nose tackle Phil Taylor remains out from the handful of players who were not cleared to practice on Friday … Two periods of live tackling produced no apparent injuries. Pettine said there may be one other practice with a portion of live tackling. Otherwise, it’s left only to the team scrimmage Saturday in Akron and the games themselves … Safety Tashaun Gipson blew up tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi, blasting away a pass from Manziel, in a goal line drill.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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