In the aftermath following the disaster that was Johnny Manziel’s first start...
Cleveland Browns Need to Start Johnny Manziel Against Washington Redskins
To say that the Cleveland Browns offensive performance against the Detroit Lions was a disappointment would be an understatement. With so much talk about a rebuilt run game and a quarterback battle, many fans expected far more points to be put on the board Saturday night against the Lions.
Instead, the Browns as a team mustered just 12 points on four field goals from Billy Cundiff—failing to find the end zone all night. What is even more impressive than the fact that the team didn’t score a touchdown is the fact they couldn’t do it with Johnny Manziel going up against the Lions’ second team defense.
While many have given Manziel solid reviews after his first ever NFL performance, it is hard to really put a grade on it. He finished the night 7-of-11 with 63 yards passing and 27 yards rushing, but there was a lot to be desired after his first game. From missed receivers to bad zone reads, you could easily see why he fell down the first round draft board—far from the Top 5 where many were projecting him to go.
Despite these shortcomings, if the Cleveland Browns coaching staff is to get a proper evaluation of their QB battle, Manziel has to start against the Washington Redskins.
This isn’t a negative assessment of Brian Hoyer, who finished the night 6-of-14 for 92 yards in his first start since tearing an ACL last season. Hoyer did some good things, like showing poise and good zip on his passes. But he also did some bad things—like overthrowing receivers—in his first game back. Either way, he did not do enough to cement himself as the team’s starting QB in Week 2 of the preseason.
For this reason, the Browns should give Manziel the chance to start against the Redskins. With the second team unit, Manziel showed flashes of being able to make plays but just didn’t have the talent level in regard to the second unit receivers to take advantage of it. If given the opportunity to play with the starters on Monday Night Football, the coaching staff could get a true gauge on just what Manziel is capable of—especially knowing how Manziel responds when put in primetime.
Giving Manziel an opportunity to start would not—contrary to belief—give him a leg up in the competition, though. Instead, it allows the coaching staff to get a true evaluation of each player heading into the third preseason game. The third preseason game, as many refer to it, is the dress rehearsal for Week 1. With one start in the books for each player, the coaches could then give the nod in Week 3 of the preseason to whoever performed better against the first team defenses.
Once that player is selected for the third preseason game, the Browns will get the best evaluation possible against the Rams’ difficult defense. With a stout line, whoever draws the start in Week 3 out of Hoyer and Manziel will truly be tested.
If this is truly a quarterback competition as head coach Mike Pettine has said all along, then the only logical thing to do is start Manziel in the second preseason game. For better or worse—in regard to Manziel-mania, we will all be able to truly evaluate which player is worthy of starting for the Cleveland Browns this season.
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