It’s not yet known if Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel will start behind center for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. But after comments made by receiver Travis Benjamin, it seems clear which quarterback the players prefer.
McCown has been held out of practice all week while recovering from a concussion suffered on a brutal hit during the team’s first game of the season. While attempting to run the ball in, McCown was blown up near the goal line, whereupon he spun around in the air like a helicopter before slamming back down to earth.
However, the team is hopeful he might still play on Sunday. The test comes on Friday when an independent neurologist will check the quarterback for any residual concussion symptoms. Based on how McCown has handled himself during team meetings, the team is hopeful he won’t miss any time.
“If he’s cleared and practices fully tomorrow, I don’t see, barring anything unforeseen, a reason why we wouldn’t play him,” head coach Mike Pettine said Thursday, via Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal.
All-Pro offensive tackle Joe Thomas isn’t concerned about McCown stepping into the starting role after missing most of the week’s practices leading up to the game. Benjamin shares that sentiment, and he took things a step further when discussing the difference between the 13-year veteran and second-year pro Manziel.
“There is a slight difference because Josh is the mastermind behind the offense,” Benjamin said. “He can change the plays and change the protection. Whereas Johnny, we go in as a receiver group and we know we might see this or that coverage and make sure we correct Johnny.”
Manziel was forced into the starting lineup last weekend when McCown was jettisoned from the action following his helicopter ride. He got things started out with a bang, hitting Benjamin on a 54-yard touchdown strike. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the positivity going into the second half and finished with a miserable stat line.
He managed to complete just 54.2 percent of his passes (13 of 24) for 182 yards with an interception to go along with his exciting first-half touchdown pass to Benjamin.
— NFL (@NFL) September 13, 2015
Even worse, Manziel was sacked three times and lost two fumbles to bring his turnover total up to three for the game.
Regardless of his struggles against a brutal New York Jets defense, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo made it known that he’s excited about the positive changes the team has seen in Manziel of late.
“If you didn’t notice a change in Johnny Manziel from last year to this year, then I don’t know [what you saw],” DeFilippo said. “I saw him going through his progressions. Did he take off and run when a lane was there? Yeah. Did we get down and was he trying to do too much at times? Probably. I think that just comes with the maturation of understanding situational football.”
The coordinator pointed to Manziel’s physical attributes and noted the team just needs to “keep grooming” the second-year quarterback.
At this point, though, there is no doubt that Cleveland much prefers McCown as the starter.