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Dick LeBeau feels Johnny Manziel 'may be what Browns need to get to the top' of the AFC North

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Lavish praise to be paid for a rookie quarterback, considering LeBeau's defenses rarely surrender much to rookie quarterbacks. Still, LeBeau is saying the right things in advance of speaking at a charity function in Dayton.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

He didn't get to his position by insulting the home crowd.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will speak to a Dayton, Ohio, area crowd at Mitchell Hills Golf Club in a fundraiser for the club and for Second Harvest Food Bank.

He's already giving them the soundbyte they'll likely want.

He spoke with Greg Billing of the Dayton Daily News in advance of the event.

"...Cleveland is getting better and better every year. I think this quarterback may be exactly what they need to get right at the top of the division," LeBeau said Browns first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel. "All four teams are going to be pretty good football teams. It’s going to be a real competitive year. I think Manziel, he was so exciting in college I don’t know why he wouldn’t be equally exciting in the pros. He’s going to be a weapon with the unusual skills he has."

Manziel and ex-Steelers QB Brian Hoyer are expected to compete for the Browns' starting job. Their season kicks off at Pittsburgh in Week 1.

The amount of weaponry available for either quarterback is up in the air. Wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing a suspension for a violation of the league's substance abuse program and possibly another from an arrest for DUI over the Fourth of July weekend in Raleigh, N.C.

Still, LeBeau's fears are valid for a coach who's seen it all and knows overlooking opponents is the surest way to prepare a team to lose an otherwise winnable game. But LeBeau is 16-2 against rookie quarterbacks, including any of them who have the amount of hype Manziel is bringing with him.