49ers-Browns Preview

Johnny Manziel is getting a second chance, quite possibly his last with the Cleveland Browns.

Though Sunday's game against the visiting San Francisco 49ers will have little bearing on anything other than draft positioning, it may go a long way toward determining Manziel's future with the organization.

With Cleveland (2-10) eliminated from the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season, the final four games figure to predominantly serve as auditions for several young players on the roster. That list most notably includes Manziel, who's shown signs of on-field progress in his second season but continues to confound the Browns' decision makers with his behavior off it.

Manziel's latest misstep, being caught partying on video during the Browns' Week 11 bye, earned the controversial quarterback a two-game benching from coach Mike Pettine for what was termed a breach of trust. After being reinstalled atop the depth chart Tuesday, the 2014 first-round pick said he's committed to seizing the opportunity.

"I can only speak for myself, but I am completely bunkered in for these last four weeks," Manziel said. "I am going to come in here every day and give every ounce of energy that I have to try to win these last four games. Whether the odds are against us, whether we are favored or whether we are huge (underdogs) or whatever the case may be, we need to win some of these games."

Cleveland looms as the front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick for the 2016 draft after losing seven straight. The Browns were non-competitive with Austin Davis at quarterback in the latest defeat, generating a pedestrian 273 total yards in a 37-3 drubbing by AFC North-leading Cincinnati last week.

Pettine had named Manziel the permanent starter after the former Heisman Trophy winner produced the most impressive showing of his brief NFL career in a 30-9 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 15. He completed 33 of 45 passes for a career-high 372 yards.

''He was doing some great things on the football field a couple of weeks back and I expect him to continue that level of play,'' wide receiver Brian Hartline said. ''It's an added preparation for the incoming team.''

Manziel may not have two of his top targets available for his return, however, with Travis Benjamin questionable after injuring his shoulder last week and fellow wideout Andrew Hawkins still in the league's protocol for a concussion sustained in the Pittsburgh game. The two combined for 182 yards on 14 catches in Manziel's last start.

As he prepares for his redemption opportunity, Manziel can draw possible inspiration from the opposing sideline with Blaine Gabbert making the most of his own second chance in San Francisco.

A failure as Jacksonville's anticipated franchise quarterback, Gabbert has completed 63 percent of his throws with five touchdowns while going 2-2 in four starts since replacing an ineffective and now-injured Colin Kaepernick in Week 9. The fifth-year pro rallied the 49ers to a 26-20 overtime victory at Chicago last Sunday with a pair of pivotal plays, a game-tying 44-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left in regulation and a 71-yard pass to Torrey Smith for the winning points.

''He's been really steady,'' coach Jim Tomsula said. ''The way he's approached his job since he's been here has been really impressive. I think since you've seen him in games on Sundays, you've seen him progress. Blaine is a talented quarterback. We're really excited about where he's at and where he's heading."

San Francisco (4-8), a long shot for the playoffs, halted a seven-game road skid dating to last season. The 49ers haven't won in Cleveland since Nov. 11, 1984, losing in 1993 and 2007, but halted a three-game series losing streak with a 20-10 home decision in the last meeting in 2011.

Niners kicker Phil Dawson had two field goals for the Browns in that 2007 victory. The 40-year-old, who was with Cleveland from 1999-2012 and ranks second in franchise history with 1,271 points, faces his former team for the first time.

San Francisco will play a sixth straight game without top running back Carlos Hyde (foot) as it faces a Cleveland defense that ranks 31st against the run (136.3 yards per game). The 49ers have allowed 170 yards or more on the ground in four of their last six games, but the Browns own the league's worst rushing offense (73.9) and are averaging a meager 50.8 yards over their last five.