By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – The Cleveland Browns went three-and-out in the first series led by their much-hyped rookie quarterback, so the first act of the Johnny Manziel show Saturday did not last long.
Fortunately for fans, “Manziel Watch” grew more compelling as the team’s preseason opener against the Detroit Lions continued.
Manziel’s third series – excluding the brief one in which he took a knee before halftime – gave fans a taste of the exciting style of play that characterized him in college. The drive included a 14-yard pass and a 16-yard scramble. Alas, the drive ended in a fumble by running back Dion Lewis.
In Cleveland’s fourth drive with Manziel, the quarterback again looked sharp, completing several more passes, including one for 11 yards. He finished the game 7-for-11 with 63 passing yards and added 27 yards on six carries.
“For me, it was a good start,” Manziel said. “You have to start somewhere, and you have to set a foundation. Got my feet wet, got my first preseason game under my belt.
“It was good for me to just get out there, go through game speed,” Manziel added. “It’s 100 percent live. It’s a different look than in practice. I felt like I just wanted to go out and try and get some completions, try and get some things rolling, put ourselves in a position to score some points.”
Manziel’s initial entrance into the game came with 7:32 remaining in the second quarter. He completed a six-yard pass to Anthony Armstrong and then handed the ball off for a three-yard gain. On third-and-one, Manziel kept the ball and tried to get the first down. The Lions defense denied him, and thus ended the first series of Johnny Football.
When Manziel came back out in the third quarter, he and the Browns drove deep enough into Detroit territory to eventually emerge with a field goal, and Manziel had gotten in a couple more runs and another completion.
So much anticipation preceded Manziel’s debut that the game was bound to be a letdown of sorts, and it was anticlimactic to a degree. Overall, however, it was a solid if underwhelming beginning to the NFL career of one of the most hyped college players ever.
“He looks just like you knew he would,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. “Active, he’s got feet that can give you problems. He scampered up there and did a nice job getting a first down against us. You can tell he knows what he’s doing, protected himself, got down. Overall, he’s a quality guy, and you can see there’s a lot of energy surrounding him as well. There was quite a buzz when he went in the ball game.”
Former Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson, now with the Browns, also gave Manziel a positive review.
“I like Johnny, man,” Burleson said. “He’s a good quarterback. He’s talented. I tell you what, man, that guy’s a rock star though. I’m going to have to hang out with him more often. You see the crowd? He’s got more fans here than I did, and I thought they loved me here!”
Manziel is still listed as the backup to Brian Hoyer, but many expect that may change before the regular season begins.