Saturday night’s pre-season game against the Lions wasn’t really anything to write home about. The excitement over Browns football carried me through and I really only want to see the good things. I want to ignore the Browns giving up chunks of yardage to Matthew Stafford and the great field position they gave up on special teams. It’s a pre-season flaw most of us have. Because “it doesn’t mean anything,” we only derive what we’re pre-disposed to want to derive.
All that said, the real takeaway for me from the game is that I’m excited to see more of Johnny Manziel, but just like I was going into the game, I’m willing to wait a bit.
Of course, in terms of pre-season, I might not have to wait. Reports are that Johnny Manziel is streaking up the depth chart after the game and that the rookie is going to start the Monday Night Football game next week against the Washington Redskins. The reasons I want to see more are really obvious: Manziel’s numbers weren’t flashy in the game against the Lions, but my eyes saw some pretty intriguing stuff.
Johnny Manziel would be well advised to be more careful with himself running. He did a nice job of sliding on one scramble, but only after flirting with a hit on the sideline and seemingly welcoming a hit as he dove head first on a 3rd-and-1. And it wasn’t just any head-first dive, Manziel was surrounded by three defenders who would have loved nothing more than to have a Manziel hit on their résumé.
Complaints aside, I was just swept away by the exciting things Manziel did. The way he gets himself up to go onto the field is more than just a lazy writer trick to make something more than it is. While Johnny Manziel isn’t totally in his comfort zone with a whole new team in a whole new league, you could tell that the only way he knows how to play football is by attempting to rally teammates. His athleticism in the pocket was apparent. The zip on his passes was obvious. Even without tangible evidence in a box score that I can point to to make my case, I’m really excited to see more.
I’m more than happy to wait, though. Johnny Manziel showed me a lot of the things that I wanted to see, but my experience watching young quarterbacks also makes me happy that the Browns didn’t just hand him the job. Brian Hoyer played his style of football that also made me feel fine if he gets the starting nod out of training camp. For all the things that Manziel does well, there are probably two more things that he can’t possibly do well without more experience and learning.
For my money though, Manziel is trending in the right direction. I was 90% for Brian Hoyer at the draft when the Browns drafted Manziel. I’ve been 75% for Hoyer throughout training camp as I’ve seen Manziel play. I’m not sure where I am right this second, and I think I still prefer Brian Hoyer start the season for the Cleveland Browns, but I’d be less surprised today if Manziel won the job.
This seems to be a legit competition and it’s exactly how the Browns should play it. It’s upside and overall talent against experience. I think both guys bring leadership in their own way. Regardless of how it turns out, and regardless of pre-season misgivings, I can’t wait to see more of both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever been able to say that about two Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.