If rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel wants to win the starting job for the Cleveland Browns before Week 1, he’s going to need to improve dramatically from what he’s shown thus far in the team’s two practices. Right now, quarterback Brian Hoyer is looking better than Manziel in the team’s two practices.
Hoyer moves better, has better accuracy, quicker feet, and better at reading defenses. A lot more is expected from Manziel, who the Browns used a 1st round draft pick [No.22] to select him in the 2014 NFL draft out of Texas A&M.
In practice, Manziel looked good when running the football out of the read option and when scrambling. He showed an excellent ability to run the ball. However, that’s not what the Browns want from him. They didn’t draft Manziel because of his ability to run. They wanted him to be able to scramble around and make plays with his arm by finding the open receiver, kind of like how Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is able to buy time with his feet to find the open receivers.
During practice this week on Monday, Manziel fumbled a snap while playing out of the shotgun, and he had problems in connecting with receivers along the sidelines by overthrowing them frequently. Those same passes would have likely been caught if Manziel had his favorite receiver from A&M, 6’5” Mike Evans, the one that he was throwing to.
Evans was able to leap high for many of Manziel’s passes in the past two seasons, making him look perhaps better than he actually was. It’s the same thing with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who was made to look brilliant by wide receiver Anquan Boldin with his ability to go up high to catch Flacco’s jump ball throws during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Once Boldin was gone in 2013, Flacco looked like a mediocre quarterback with marginal skills and a bad habit of throwing jump balls that were either overthrown or intercepted.
Manziel also tossed an interception when he attempted to get the ball to receiver Taylor Gabriel. Linebacker Chris Kirksey dashed forward and grabbed Manziel’s pass for an interception.
It’s still early yet for Manziel, and we could see him improve to the point where he’s looking a lot better than he is right now. But if he doesn’t improve over where he is at this point, he’s going to be sitting on the bench for a long, long time with the Browns. They signed him to a 4-year contract recently, so in theory, Manziel could sit for all 4 of those seasons unless he gets better.