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Mike Pettine Assesses QB Competition, Team in Sunday Conference Call

Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine talked about the quarterback competition, wide receiver situation, and much more in a conference call with reporters on Sunday.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, football has finally returned to Northeast Ohio.

The Browns made their preseason debut on Saturday evening in Detroit, losing to the Lions in an uneventful defensive contest, 13-12. We received our first taste of Solomon Wilcots, Johnny Manziel, and several other rookies.

There are certainly improvements and adjustments on both sides of the ball, but for the most part, the game went well for the Orange and Brown.

Head coach Mike Pettine shared the sentiment during a conference call with reporters on Sunday. The first-year coach reviewed the team's first of four preseason games while giving a glimpse of the week to come.

Most of the questions directed at Pettine were in regards to the quarterback competition, but he had a chance to talk about his wide receiving corps and his new linebackers.

The following transcription is courtesy of the team.

On his assessment of the quarterbacks following yesterday's preseason game at Detroit: "I thought they were both solid. I think they both got almost the same number of reps. (QB) Brian (Hoyer) got 24. (QB) Johnny (Manziel) got 25. Different supporting casts, but it was good tape, I think, for both of them. I think they both operated efficiently, operated the offense efficiently. Had a couple of plays that maybe they would want to take back, but I just think as a first experience for both of them – for Brian, this is his first live game coming off the knee injury, but he did some good things, and Johnny’s first NFL game. I think there was reason for both of them to be nervous, and I think they both settled in quickly and operated efficiently."

On if he has decided which quarterback will start the second preseason game:"No, we have not."

On if he saw anything on tape that has changed any assessment that he has about Hoyer or Manziel: "No. To me, if there was a clear-cut favorite at this point that would probably mean that one of them wasn’t playing very well. It’s a good problem to have, having two guys that we think are both capable of being NFL starters."

On if he can prepare for the season and decide the quarterback competition:"That’s why I had said originally that I wanted to have the starter named and in place for the third preseason game. I think if we had gone beyond the third preseason game and even into the fourth then I think it falls into the situation that you’re talking about, but given the fact if we do have a starter that will play significant reps in the third game and then get all that practice time leading up to the Pittsburgh game we feel that we’ll have a quarterback that’s ready."

On what will be the most important factor in deciding which quarterback will start the season: "When we sit down and look at the big picture it’s who gives us the best chance to win. That’s the bottom line."

On if it is true that Manziel has moved ahead of Hoyer in the quarterback competition: "It’s untrue. I’m not sure who his team source would be. The people most involved in the decision are myself and (quarterbacks coach) Dowell Loggains and (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan. It’s something that I’m not going to pay a lot of attention to because I don’t like being in the business of anonymous sources."

On if one of the quarterbacks is leading in the competition or if it is even at this point in the preseason: "No, we put Brian out there with the No. 1’s, and that was for a reason because he was ahead because of his edge in experience and the lead he had with the playbook. He’s done nothing to have that taken away from him, but Johnny has made some improvement, a lot of improvement. He’s come in, where he was behind in the spring I think he has a pretty firm grasp on. As we said before, it was him versus the playbook, and he’s handling it well. It was his first live game situation of an active play clock and having to get the call and repeat and get everybody lined up and the motions executed, which we do a lot of. He’s really gone from one extreme to the other, and I think he’s handled it well. Brian, on the other hand, has been solid."

On if he has changed his opinion that it would be ideal not to start a rookie quarterback: "No, I still believe that, but I also believe that you can be successful with a rookie but I think – all things equal – you would prefer given just the history of the league and the situations where you’ve seen it work out well for, whether it was an (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers or a (Patriots QB) Tom Brady or a (Seahawks QB) Russell Wilson, a (49ers QB) Colin Kaepernick, (Cardinals QB) Carson Palmer. The list goes on of guys that had the opportunity to sit early and really get themselves kind of immersed in the game and be around it without it being their show right out the gate. There are a lot of stories where that has worked, and there’s been a lot of situations where a rookie has played right out the gate and some people questioned whether it was too soon. Then, you have situations where a rookie comes, plays right away and is great. You’ve seen everything. I’ve always felt that in an ideal situation that the rookie gets a chance to sit behind someone and learn."

On how the first-team reps will be divided between the quarterbacks this week in practice: "We haven’t made that decision yet. We’re going to meet later on today to talk about all of that."

On if he expects to see Hoyer and Manziel both take first-team reps this week: "I do."

On if WR Charles Johnson made up ground on making the team in the first preseason game: "Yeah, I think he did. I think he did some good things against man coverage that it was a definite improvement over the scrimmage, and he’ll certainly be in the mix with those other guys."

On if Manziel has an edge in the competition because of what he can do with his feet: "I don’t see it that way. He does have a certain skill set that we hope to take advantage of if he is out there, but that’s not the way we look at it. It’s what we said before. We’re going to look at everything involved and whoever gives us the best chance to win will be out there."

On if based on the game, he’s a little more concerned about the WR position:"Just going down the list, I thought they did some good things. I thought (WR) Miles (Austin) was inconsistent, but still made a play. I thought (WR Andrew) Hawkins had a good day. (WR) Anthony Armstrong was solid. It’s a group that’s going to compete hard for that last spot. We know whatever does come down from the league about (WR) Josh (Gordon), like I said before, you can’t just replace him with one guy. We’re going to have to do it by committee. We’re going to have to do it by scheme. That’s all part of coaching."

On if he has an update on Gordon’s injury: "No. It’s minor."

On how disappointing it was not to have DB Justin Gilbert get game reps: "It was, but it’s not a serious injury. It was something much like (TE Jordan) Cameron’s where if it had been a game week he would have been able to go, but it was something where it was the first preseason game and we could be cautious with it. Yeah, we would have loved to see him out there but we just didn’t feel it was worth the risk."

On Hoyer overthrowing the ball on third down and if there’s anything he attributes that to: "Yeah, he just overthrew the ball."

On if Manziel took off too early on some of his scrambles: "I didn’t think so. I thought he made a nice play when he flipped the ball out to (RB Terrence) West instead of running. The one long scramble that he had – it was a third down, he knew where the sticks were, he knew there was enough real estate that he could get the first down, certainly showed his ability to slide. To me, I think most quarterbacks in that situation would have taken off and run on that one. It was a third down with about six or seven to go. When it really opened up, I don’t think he felt the need to sit and wait on a receiver when he knew he could get the first down."

On if he thought Manziel should have dumped it off to the fullback on a play where he needed to gain one yard and scrambled instead: "... I just think that was one where I don’t know if he saw the guy behind him. I can’t speak on what he saw. I just know that he needed a yard and he gained a yard."

On how he describes where this offense is at this point setting aside the quarterback situation: "I think the offensive line, that group of starters played pretty well. I thought they handled a defensive front that a lot of people consider to be one of the better ones in football. It was really different for them. They play blocks and they penetrate a little bit more than what our guys have gone against back in the spring, so it was a little bit of an adjustment for them. I thought we protected the quarterback well with that group. I was very pleased with where we are as an offensive line. There are some areas for improvement, but I thought for the first time out, they were solid. That’s something we want to be a strength of this team. If you have a good offensive line, you’re able to run the ball and you’re able to protect the quarterback. That’s something that we said from day one and that’s something we’re very pleased about coming out of last night."

On if he feels like the unanswered question with Manziel is how he can perform in the pocket: "Yeah, but we’re still not in game plan mode for him yet so he’s running all facets of the offense. So far, just the view that we’ve gotten from him in the pocket, I think the reviews have been positive – that he has a good sense of the pocket, that he feels the rush without looking at it. I think a lot of quarterbacks have an issue with that. They’re more looking at the rush than feeling it. I think he’s definitely a work in progress with that, but he’s shown solid improvement."

On if there’s a chance the quarterback competition could carry into the third preseason game or if he wants it decided before then: "I would like it decided before then. I’m not saying that it’s 1,000-percent etched in stone, but I would like it before then."

On if he thinks LBs Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey both looked good yesterday and his assessment of that competition: "I did. That’s a situation where I think if both of them play for us, that really helps your football team because now they can help (special teams coordinator) Chris Tabor out. Both of them can essentially be full-time special teams and can job-share within our defensive packages. I think Craig showed he has some flexibility. If we have issues at the mike linebacker or if (LB Karlos) Dansby needs a rest, he’s shown he can slide on over and play the mike. We’ve been thrilled with that linebacker room, especially the development of the rookie. I think Chris has shown that the game isn’t too big for him and some of the question marks that we had about him coming out of Iowa that we really didn’t get a chance to see on tape in college, he’s answered those questions very easily in the NFL."