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Whitner: Browns players split on Hoyer vs. Manziel

Change happens quickly in the NFL, but the shifting winds in Cleveland are extreme even by professional football standards.

Two weeks after ESPN's Bob Holtzman reported that Browns players expect Brian Hoyer to be named the starter "well before" the third preseason game, safety Donte Whitner tells Peter King of The MMQB that the locker room is split "50-50" on Hoyer versus Johnny Manziel.

This comes just days after Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman noted the same split between veterans and young players in the Browns' locker room.

A team source now tells Holtzman that Manziel is actually ahead in the competition after showing a live arm and trademark playmaking ability outside the pocket in Saturday's preseason opener.

Another source told The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot that Manziel has "the momentum and the superior talent." The Browns have been pleased with the rookie's leadership and progress since camp opened, per Cabot.

These reports come on the heels of news from NFL Media's Dan Hellie that Manziel will start the second preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 18.

If Manziel plays well in that game, according to The Plain Dealer, he will be "very much in the conversation" to start versus the Steelers in Week 1.

Speaking on a conference call Sunday, coach Mike Pettinedisputed the notion that Manziel has moved ahead of Hoyer, but added that the rookie "has made a lot of improvements."

Having previously stated that he would like to name a starter before the third preseason game, Pettine now says that plan is "not 1,000 percent etched in stone."

Nothing has been decided in this competition. But it's starting to look like Dick LeBeau might have been on to something with last week's prediction.

*The latest Around The League Podcast answers every question about preseason action that you were too afraid to ask. *

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