CLEVELAND (AP) — Josh McCown’s right ring finger isn’t badly injured. Still, the Browns won’t let him raise his index finger just yet.
McCown will not miss any practice time after hurting the finger on his throwing hand during an exhibition loss Thursday night to Buffalo. McCown threw interceptions on Cleveland’s first two drives, raising questions about whether backup Johnny Manziel, who threw a touchdown pass and made a sensational play, was threatening to jump him on the depth chart.
But Browns coach Mike Pettine said Friday that Cleveland’s depth chart at quarterback remains unchanged.
“We feel good about where Johnny is as the No. 2 and we feel good about where Josh is with the No. 1,” Pettine said. “Our thoughts on the quarterback picture are the same this morning as they were going into last night.”
So that ends that. For now.
McCown didn’t duck criticism following the 11-10 loss, calling his second game with the Browns “not good” and “not the standard I want to play at.” But the Browns still believe the likable 12-year veteran is their best current option even though Pettine has yet to name his starter for the Sept. 13 season opener against the New York Jets.
Pettine doesn’t see the need to put labels on his QBs.
“I’m not into guaranteeing or announcing a game one starter,” he said. “That, to me, comes down the road.”
The Browns have more than a week to get ready and healthy for their exhibition at Tampa Bay. It will be a homecoming of sorts for McCown, who went 1-10 last season as the Buccaneers’ starter. He’s hoping his game can solidify his standing with his Cleveland teammates and perhaps quiet a suddenly renewed drumbeat of support for Manziel.
The former Heisman Trophy winner showed more signs of improvement during his half against Buffalo’s backups. Manziel finished 10 of 18 for 118 yards, but started 9 of 11, led the Browns on a 96-yard touchdown drive and flashed some of that old Johnny Football magic by scrambling to his left, throwing against his body and completing a 37-yard pass.
Manziel’s outing wasn’t perfect, but it continued the positive momentum that began after he checked out of rehab facility during the offseason. The Browns are encouraged by his progress.
“Overall I think he made strides, was still calm in the pocket, got flushed probably more than we wanted him to get flushed, but he still made some plays on the move with his feet,” Pettine said.
Pettine understands that there’s huge interest in Manziel, but he’s not going to buckle to any outside pressures.
“We have a plan for our quarterback room, just like we have a plan for all of our other positions, and we’re going to stick to it,” he said.
On his TD pass, Manziel stepped forward in the pocket and put perfect touch on a 21-yard scoring toss to Shane Wynn, an undrafted free agent wide receiver who grew up in Cleveland.
This is the new Manziel: poised, confident, deliberate. He can still improvise but is starting to show he can make some throws with his feet planted.
“The way he escapes and runs around and throws the ball downfield, it’s like watching somebody in the backyard in the Turkey Bowl and that’s why he’s always had a big fan base because of how he plays the game,” said Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas. “He’s learning to pick and choose his times to do that instead of majoring in that.”
NOTES: Pettine said DB Jordan Poyer sustained a concussion and OL Michael Bowie injured his shoulder on the game’s final play. … The Browns were missing 20 players because of injuries, but Pettine said there’s “a chance” CB Joe Haden, S Tashaun Gipson, WR Dwayne Bowe, CB Justin Gilbert and WR Terrelle Pryor could be on the field for Saturday’s “lower tempo” practice. … Pettine was encouraged by the improvement in Cleveland’s running game and said RB Terrance West (42 yards on 11 carries) “ran well.”