Johnny Manziel’s future with the Cleveland Browns is looking up after two quietly solid preseason games.
Manziel had an unceremonious rookie season in which he started two games, completed only 18 passes with two interceptions before hurting his hamstring and sitting the rest of the season.
He then entered rehab over the offseason, and there were reports that inside of the Browns front office, people had all but moved on from him.
Entering camp, he was slated as the No. 2 quarterback behind Josh McCown, but in two preseason games, Manziel has shown flashes of looking like he could give McCown some competition.
In the Browns first preseason game against Washington, Manziel completed seven of 11 passes, showing better awareness in the pocket and using his legs to extend a play for his receiver to get open:
And he found the end zone, rushing from the 20 for a touchdown:
Thursday night against the Bills, Manziel finished a 96-yard drive with some legitimately exciting plays, including a difficult 37-yard play-action pass as he rolled left (the receiver, Darius Jennings, made a great catch, too):
He completed the drive with another impressive throw, stepping into the pocket and hitting Shane Wynn for a 21-yard touchdown:
Manziel finished the game with 10-18 passing, no interceptions, and a 94 passer rating. For the preseason, he’s 17-29 with a 58.6% completion rate, one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown, no interceptions, and two sacks.
It’s notable that Manziel is playing against backups, mainly, but these are baby-steps that are helping his confidence, and perhaps his chances to become a starter. While head coach Mike Pettine has said McCown will be the starter, repeating Thursday night that he doesn’t want to “stir up a quarterback controversy,” Manziel is making a case, especially after McCown struggled Thursday with seven of 10 passing with two interceptions.
Manziel said after the game that he’s playing like he’s fighting for a spot:
“I’m still going out trying to play my best and make an impression. That’s what I want to do. I want to have these guys go into the film tomorrow and turn on the tape and say, ‘This guy’s really doing things right and this guys really fighting hard to pick things up and make some plays.’
“That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make an impression and leave a little bit of a lasting memory coming off these games.”
McCown was supportive of Manziel, too, adding, “That was a really good play by Johnny. … It was everything as a young quarterback you want to see him grow into. I am really, really proud of the way he played.”
Pettine said afterward the Manziel could “close the gap” between him and McCown, but that McCown is still firmly the starter.
Nonetheless, the solid play has to be helping Manziel, and if McCown continues to struggle — or simply gets hurt — Manziel could get a second shot during the season, with a lot more impressive play under his belt.
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