Perhaps Johnny Manziel isn’t a flop after all.
The former first-round pick threw for 172 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, leading the Browns to a 28-14 win over the Titans in Cleveland. Both of Manziel’s touchdowns went to Travis Benjamin – a 60-yarder in the first quarter and a 50-yarder in the fourth.
Those were nice throws by Manziel, but you have to wonder: were those just broken-play, flash-in-the-pan moments that can’t work consistently in the NFL, or is Manziel actually learning the quarterback position?
“I think it’s all of the above,” Sports Illustrated and MMQB NFL analyst Andy Benoit said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He has come a long way from where he was a year ago. Now the downside is he had an astronomically long way to go, so he still has a long way left to go. The mechanics are inconsistent. I think that stems from his inability to see from the pocket. You know he’s not very big, and not only is he not big, but he plays little. Drew Brees is not a big guy either, but he plays big. He’s up on his toes. He’s bouncing up and down in the pocket – he’s a vertical type of player. Manziel gets smaller when he’s in the pocket and there are times when he flat out can’t see. If you just think about that, that’s not something to write off. If the quarterback can’t see, that changes the whole approach to offense, and by it’s very nature, you’re going to get inconsistency that way.”
Still, all is not lost for the former Heisman winner.
“Manziel has gotten better in the pre-snap phase and that has helped nullify some of his limitations in the post-snap phase,” Benoit said. “He’s been a lot better on quicker-targeting passes, but his throwing mechanics are still hit or miss each week, even from throw to throw. He hasn’t protected the ball particularly well. He’s played better, but he still has four fumbles and an interception in two games. I know that’s a big, big concern to the Browns right now, so i think a lot of people watching from afar are probably high on Manziel . . . (but) I don’t know if the Browns are as high on him. I would think once (Josh) McCown’s healthy, they’re going to look to him again.”
McCown was concussed in a Week 1 loss to the Jets. Manziel went 13-of-24 for 54 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief of McCown before going 8-of-15 against Tennessee.
Benoit, however, does not believe the Browns will give Manziel the season to prove his worth.
“I don’t think they will,” Benoit said. “It’s not a stable coaching staff. The Browns are in a win-now situation. If they do, it won’t be the biggest upset we’ve ever seen. But their mindset is that they had a very thorough training-camp battle, and Josh McCown won the job convincingly. A game-and-a-half of decent play – that’s all it was. He only had eight completions last week. Let’s not get carried away. A game-and-a-half of that doesn’t override an entire summer of evidence.”
The Browns host Oakland (1-1) this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.