Johnny Manziel In Focus
Last week we saw glimpses of why Johnny Manziel could succeed in the NFL. This week we got smacked in the face with a host of concerns that say he won’t.
Manziel has never been shy about coming forward. A media darling and electrifying college football player, his adjustment to life in the NFL can best be described as bumpy. Off the field shenanigans have garnered more attention than any team would like, but so long as they’re in the realms of legality you can live with it if his play on the field is as hoped.
What you can’t live with is struggling all night long while flipping off the opposing bench because the pressure gets to you. And last night the pressure, in more than one sense of the word, appeared to get to Manziel as he finished with a –4.2 overall grade.
Indeed in what was an open audition for the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback spot, Manziel didn’t so much fluff his lines as throw up over the director before passing out. It was horrible and at times hard to watch.
And let’s be clear, this goes beyond flipping the Washington Redskins’ bench the bird. This is all about his performance, where he effectively played himself out of any hope of being the opening day starter but for Brian Hoyer looking poor himself. He was inaccurate and made bad decisions with the football all game.
It started early as he threw a pass behind Jordan Cameron with 4.55 to go in Q1, before delivering an underthrown ball to Josh Gordon on the following drive. Indeed he really wasn’t ingratiating himself to Gordon as four plays later he threw a simple slant to the back hip of the suspension-in-waiting receiver. Sure he got his hands to it and could have done better, but the ball placement was all wrong.
Perhaps more alarmingly is what happened on the next play. Shaken up by the pressure both his tackles allowed on the previous play (including a fine bullrush from Brian Orakpo on Joe Thomas), Manziel got those happy feet. You know the ones where you’re expecting pressure. Sure the pocket looks clean, but the previous play is on your mind and as a result you find yourself leaving a perfectly set up pocket and scrambling before throwing the ball away.
The throw away? A good decision given the position he was in. The position he was in? Unnecessary and an example of how pressure fazed him.
Now that was with the Browns starting offensive line. There were later examples of him not trusting his line to win the war and recover after losing the initial battle with their pass blocking, but to some extent you could forgive him there playing with the backups. Yet I can’t look past his horrible decision making during that third quarter.
Nothing is more precious than the football and Manziel showed a woeful disregard for it. Firstly at 6.48 in Q3 where he did a poor job of recognizing a breaking safety making a play on the ball. Here he was extremely fortunate that the ball was overthrown (and that there was a defensive holding penalty elsewhere) otherwise you’re looking at some offensive linemen turning into defenders amid a change of possession.
Not learning his lesson at all he had an interception dropped with 2.01 left in the quarter as he again failed to read a defender in position to break on the ball. Again the play was nullified by a penalty but that does not excuse it one bit. At this level of the game where everyone – even second and third teamers – are at such a high level, you need to be smarter and need to take care of the ball.
This isn’t to say Manziel can’t or won’t be a fine player. But on the evidence of what he put on tape yesterday, he quite evidently isn’t ready. Not now. The game looks like it’s moving to quick for him and while he has the magic in him that will no doubt lead to some special plays (there were none in this one), that isn’t enough to compensate for the liability he is likely to be.