The most highly anticipated rookie debut of the NFL preseason took place on Saturday night in Detroit as the Cleveland Browns visited the Lions in Johnny Manziel’s first game as a pro.
Manziel was my top rated quarterback heading into the draft, and I stand by that evaluation. He did nothing to deter that on Saturday night as he was making plays all over the field. The Browns’ offense would stall far more than you’d have liked, but what everyone saw from Manziel on this night was what I think you’ll see from him a lot in his rookie year.
The speed of the game was not too much for Manziel. Most notably on the night, his arm strength looked phenomenal, even stronger than the improvements we saw in his sophomore year at Texas A&M.
Manziel showed solid mechanics in the pocket and rocket fired a few passes into tight spaces. We also saw the rookie make some really nice throws on the run, and of course he was up to his old improvising self.
There was one play in particular that stood out to me from Manziel. He faced intense pressure, stepped up in the pocket and was hit by a variety of defenders. Right before he was hit, he lofted up a perfect swing pass to the running back who caught the ball in stride.
The Browns got to see a lot of everything from Manziel, including some really nice scrambling ability. He dove head-first on one of his runs, but he seemed to learn from it as later on when on a 16-yard run (his longest of the night) he slid as quarterbacks are taught, and converted a long third down for the Browns’ offense.
The next step for Manziel is going to be playing with the starting offensive line, working with the best supporting cast he can to give the Browns an idea of exactly what he brings to the table. Brian Hoyer didn’t do anything to lose his job as the Cleveland starting quarterback, so Manziel is going to have to take it from him.
It won’t take long.
It’s clear even just from a pre-season game that Manziel’s mental transition to the NFL is not going to be that tough. This is not a player who doesn’t feel as though he doesn’t belong, or doesn’t feel like he can play with these athletes. This looked like a young QB with swagger, ready to compete, ready to play.
I was impressed by Manziel, specifically in the area of arm strength and decision making. I think the Browns’ offense is really going to suit him well, and I also think the NFL is going to be even more interesting with him in it.
The Browns may have had to give up a significant bounty to get into the first round to select Manziel, but it looks like where they got him could turn out to be a steal.