How about that? Some real football news surrounding Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who reportedly impressed the team during a live unscripted scrimmage at training camp on Saturday (via Akron Beacon Journal).
— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) August 3, 2014
In the first unscripted, live action of training camp, Manziel’s run-around-and-create-something-on-the-fly style was on display more than any other time since the Browns drafted him 22nd overall May 8. It’s his greatest strength, though it’s not always evident in a regular practice setting.
Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal brings up a really good point here. Manziel’s athleticism and ability to make something out of nothing, two of his biggest strengths, are rarely highlighted in more scripted training camp practices. Much like the Colin Kaepernick’s and Russell Wilson’s of the world, Manziel thrives in live-game action compared to practices.
Noticing Manziel’s improved play on Saturday, Browns officials seemed to come away impressed with his performance. New head coach Mike Pettine had this to say about Manziel’s day.
He made a couple nice runs, made some nice throws…Where most quarterbacks would step out of bounds, he got two completions there.
While falling short of indicating that the gap has narrowed between perceived starter Brian Hoyer and Manziel, Pettine did indicate that the Browns planned on mixing units moving forward in camp. This means that Manziel will get some first-team reps.
I wouldn’t say that [it’s closer]. When camp began, Brian was the ones because we had to put somebody out there with the ones,” Pettine said. “But they were truly competing against each other, and at some point we will mix the units. I think that it’s all part of our evaluation process.
Anytime you decide to hand out first-team reps to a backup in what has to be considered a quarterback competition, it’s going to raise eyebrows. Up until this point, Manziel has not taken first-team reps from Hoyer. Once that happens, depending on the timing, it could be an indication that the Browns believe Manziel is much closer to Hoyer in the competition than what is being led on.
Unfortunately for Manziel, his improvision skills in the live scrimmage didn’t necessarily answer questions about other aspects of the game he is seemingly struggling with. According to the Beacon Journal report, Manziel’s success was solely limited to the parts of the game we know he can perform well in.
Excluding red-zone drills, Manziel completed 3-of-7 passes for 14 yards with runs of 9 and 5 yards in 11-on-11 sessions. He almost never dropped back in the pocket, read the defense and struck — his coaches know he must improve in those areas to succeed in the NFL — but he found unconventional ways to make plays, including on read option and out of the pistol formation.
It will be interesting to see how Manziel performs in live-game action this upcoming weekend in his preseason debut. He’s going to have to show more in a traditional offensive set in order to be considered a starter-ready quarterback in season one.
Photo: USA Today