Johnny Manziel completed 7 of his 11 passes and ran for a touchdown in the Browns’ 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins in the team’s first preseason contest on Thursday, playing all of the second quarter and bits of the first and third.
He only threw for 42 yards, he took a sack and he fumbled once (he recovered it himself). Still, he looked a bit more in control of the offense compared to last year.
“It’s way different,” Manziel said, comparing Thursday’s game to his first preseason game a year ago. “This isn’t my first rodeo like it was last year. It was a little bit of a whirlwind last year.”
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Manziel’s stats Thursday were darn similar to those of his first-ever NFL game. Last August, he completed seven of 11 passes for 63 yards against the Detroit Lions in the preseason opener, adding six carries for 27 yards. He did not commit a turnover, nor did he against Washington.
“I don’t want to forget about the first game against Detroit,” said Manziel, “But it felt a little slower (Thursday), I felt a little more comfortable and I did some good things. I want to improve and make some more out of those drives."
His best play of the day came early in the second quarter. The Browns took over at the Washington 36-yard line after Marlon Moore (who left the game due to injury) forced a fumble on Andre Roberts’ punt return. Cornerback Johnson Bademosi recovered to set the Browns up with fine field position. Two Terrance West runs and two complete passes got the Browns down to the 12-yard line. On third-and-4, Manziel dropped back, the defense fell back and Manziel stepped up before cutting left, easily running to the pylon for the score.
“I saw some man coverage and the parting of the sea really happened there,” Manziel said. ” I got a good opportunity to take off in man coverage and make a play to get in the end zone. Luckily, we made a good play on special teams to give us a short field. Capitalizing on that is always good.”
Deciding when to run and when to stay in the pocket will be an ongoing issue for the former Heisman winner. For one night, at least, coach Mike Pettine was pleased with the backup QB’s decision-making. “What you don’t want (is) when a guy starts to run when he doesn’t have to. That is a big thing we stress to our guys. Just from the few that I saw where Johnny had to move, I thought he did a good job, and the main reason was because his eyes were downfield.”
Pettine also credited Manziel for getting the offense into a play when the team’s radio communications briefly went down:
"There was one play where our headsets were down . . . Flip’s (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) communicator cut out, so (Manziel) very calmly called a play that he knew that we had in for third down and threw a ball for a first down. That was a credit to him that he just had the wherewithal to understand, ‘Hey, play clock’s running, and I’m not getting it, I’ve got to call something here.’ He went out and executed. For the most part just looking at it, he did some good things.”
Still, it was hardly a sterling performance for the former Aggie. He mostly threw short and led just the one scoring drive. The Browns were 3 of 13 on third-down conversions for the evening, with Manziel going 1 for 5; the lone conversion came on his TD run. Manziel cited the third-down efficiency as an area to improve.
“I don’t think we were very good on third down. … I wish we could’ve converted some of those. 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. We scored 17 points, so there’s a lot of room to improve.”