After a tumultuous rookie campaign, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel proved Thursday night that he had officially taken a step in the right direction in becoming a true starting quarterback in the NFL.
Professionally and personally, the Browns may have finally gotten a good idea of what the future of their franchise may look like.
It has been well documented that the former 2014 first-round draft pick out of Texas A&M entered rehab this offseason for alcohol-related issues. Manziel has stayed out of the public eye and thus far in training camp, he’s looked more like a pro signal-caller rather than a college kid running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
On Thursday night in the Browns’ first preseason contest against the Washington Redskins, Manziel looked calm and collected in the pocket. He didn’t force any throws into coverage and went through his progressions with relative ease, completing seven of 11 attempts for 42 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions through the air.
Even when his helmet’s headset that communicated plays from the sideline went out for a period of time, Manziel kept his composure and continued to run the offense without any noticeable problem.
Manziel said having his rookie year under his belt already allowed him to approach this year’s preseason opener with much more ease.
“It’s way different,” Manziel said via the team’s official site on Thursday. “This isn’t my first rodeo like it was last year. It was a little bit of a whirlwind last year. I don’t want to forget about the first game against Detroit (last year), but it felt a little slower, I felt a little more comfortable and I did some good things. I want to improve and make some more out of those drives.”
The highlight of the night came when Manziel scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown to give the Browns a 14-3 advantage early in the second quarter. With every patron and football fan alike expecting the trademark money sign from the man known as “Johnny Football,” Manziel instead opted for the collected, simple fist pump to celebrate.
His overall performance wasn’t anything special, but he showed great improvement over his 2014 former self. Already eager to get back out onto the field, Manziel admittedly recognized that he has a ways to go in his progression at quarterback.
“I wish we could’ve converted some of those third downs. There are little things like depths on some of those short routes, picking up some protections and making the right calls. For a first game, it wasn’t bad,” Manziel added. ”We scored 17 points so there’s a lot of room to improve. Going into this week of practice, we have seven days until another game. We will be eager to get back out there again, but there’s some work to put in from now until then.”
Displaying further growth and maturation, the second-year quarterback is clearly looking for more in Cleveland’s next preseason matchup with the Buffalo Bills. While the Redskins were a solid first test, the Bills’ stingy defense enters the season as quite possibly the best in the NFL.
Veteran quarterback Josh McCown may still hold serve as the Browns’ starter under center, but a strong showing versus the Bills could only help Manziel’s case for being the top dog in Cleveland.