BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- It's time for football, Johnny.
After months of having his off-field behavior analyzed, scrutinized
and criticized, Johnny Manziel will again be the center of attention.
This time, though, it won't be for swigging champagne on an
inflatable swan, but during his first NFL training camp as he and Brian
Hoyer battle for the Browns' starting quarterback job.
The Hoyer-Manziel showdown will dominate camp until someone is named
the winner, and that decision from first-year coach Mike Pettine will
not come until the third exhibition game (Aug. 23).
Manziel earned his "Johnny Football" nickname during a stellar career
at Texas A&M, where his daring, dazzling scrambles and
improvisational skills made him a college star. It's probably not going
to be nearly as easy for him at this level.
The Browns drafted Manziel in the first round, selecting him to
hopefully end a decade-plus problem at the game's most vital position.
It may be only a matter of time before Manziel unseats Hoyer, a career
backup who started three games last season before tearing his right knee
Hoyer enters camp with a slight lead in the starter's competition. It's up to him to keep it.
A lifelong Browns fan, Hoyer, who has full medical clearance, is
determined to hold off Manziel. The pressure will be immense as every
pass, incompletion, interception and touchdown will be viewed and
examined by media members and thousands of fans, who had to register
online just to be able to watch practices this summer.
Cleveland fans appear divided over Hoyer, the hometown hero, and Manziel, the fun-loving curiosity.
The Browns, too, will feel some heat -- from fans, TV networks, advertisers -- to push Manziel along.
Let the duel begin.
Here are some other things to watch as the Browns, who haven't won
more than five games since 2007, open a highly anticipated camp:
GORDON GONE?: Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon's clouded situation
has cast a cloud over the Browns' hopes. Gordon, who led the league in
yards receiving last season, may be facing an indefinite ban for
violating the NFL's substance abuse policy again. The 23-year-old hasn't
helped his cause with two recent arrests -- one for alleged DUI in
North Carolina. If Gordon is done for the season, the Browns may have to
drastically alter their offensive scheme, and find some playmakers.
Their receiving group is thin.
PETTINE'S PATIENCE: The team's third coach in three years, Pettine,
who spent last season as Buffalo's defensive coordinator, is doing all
he can to change Cleveland's culture. Pettine has come across as
pragmatic, insightful and passionate. Players seem to be buying in, but
until the Browns start winning games, all the positive talk is just
talk. One of Pettine's early challenges will be managing the hype around
the Hoyer-Manziel competition.
RUNNING AMOK: Once they traded running back Trent Richardson last
season, the Browns' running game shifted into reverse. Cleveland tied
for 27th overall in yards rushing, a sad statistic for a franchise
renowned for running backs such as Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Leroy
Kelly. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan learned the Xs and Os of a
sound running game from his father, Mike, who turned unknown backs into
Pro Bowlers in Denver. With a new zone-blocking scheme and Pro Bowlers
Joe Thomas and Alex Mack up front, the Browns should open holes for Ben
Tate (free agent) and rookie Terrance West.
SACK ATTACK: Pettine wants an aggressive defense, and he's identified
DE Jabaal Sheard as a player who could make a major impact this season.
Sheard was moved to outside linebacker last season, and while he did an
admirable job in coverage, he recorded just 5½ sacks, a career-low. The
Browns are expected to turn Sheard loose and Cleveland's defensive
front needs more production from Paul Kruger (4½ sacks) and Barkevious
Mingo (five sacks). Sheard, too, is in the final year of his contract.
PRIMARY TARGET: Gordon's potential suspension could make things much
tougher on Pro Bowl TE Jordan Cameron, who had a breakout season with 80
catches for 917 yards and seven TDs last year. Cameron is in the final
year of his contract and would like an extension, but he'll have a tough
time matching his '13 stats without Gordon to stretch the field and tie