Browns OL more concerned about their jobs

CLEVELAND – To John Greco, there was only one “decision.”

The quarterback competition between Browns quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel was big, but Greco was more concerned about his competition with Garrett Gilkey at right guard. That roster battle ended when coach Mike Pettine named Greco the season-opening starter this week.

“It wasn’t something I was letting distract me,” said Greco, who graduated from Boardman High School. “I was approaching it like it was mine all along, but I understood that there’s competition every day.

“We need valuable, accountable guys in our room because everyone knows it’s difficult making it through a season with five guys staying healthy all the time. We need guys that are ready to plug in. We have enough guys that can do that.”

The other decision took on a life of its own as Hoyer and Manziel staged a competition that wasn’t one for the ages. Hoyer was officially named the starter Wednesday and will play at least one half Saturday at home against the St. Louis Rams.

How the quarterback battle played out was vitally important to the offensive line because of the contrasting styles of the two players. Manziel would have required linemen to be constantly aware of his freewheeling style. Hoyer has learned in the Tom Brady school of drop-back passers.

The consensus opinion is one of relief to have the decision made before the critical third preseason game, which is usually the dress rehearsal for the season opener.

“We have to be (on board with the decision),” Greco said. “You can’t pull for one over another. They’re going to make the right decision based on what’s best for the team. We’re behind it, so we have to keep rolling forward.”

The unstable quarterback situation throughout training camp had a negative effect on what might be the most-important aspect of the offense – the ground game. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system is centered on a zone-blocking running scheme that sets up play-action and rollout passes.

The emphasis on the quarterbacks took away from the development of the ground attack.

“It’s tough to say from preseason because I know there was a quarterback battle going on,” offensive tackle Joe Thomas said. “I think they wanted to see how those guys would handle it.

“It’s not like in the preseason games if the run game is working well he (Shanahan) says, ‘Let’s keep running it.’ In the regular season you go with what’s working. Knowing Kyle a little bit and knowing coach Pettine, they’re excited to run the ball. If it’s working, they’re going to keep calling those. I expect if we do our job and extend the hole we should have, we can have a good running attack and a huge foundation for our offense.”

The fact that neither quarterback stood out in camp places even more importance on how well the ground game operates. The Browns aren’t going to win many games depending solely on Hoyer’s right arm.

“We have enough talent all around that I don’t think we’ll have to rely heavily on pass or run,” Greco said. “Hopefully we can get to the point where they complement each other and we can get defenses on their heels. We want to be able to do it all and not say that we’re a running or passing team.”