By Eric Szczepinski @eszczepinski2
The injury to Johnny Manziel is a major blow to the front office and coaching staff. Manziel suffered a hamstring injury during the second quarter and did not return. The Browns wanted to evaluate Manziel and see how he responded after his rough starting debut. His status for Sunday’s game at Baltimore remains unclear. On Sunday Manziel played 17 snaps before exiting due to injury. He finished Sunday 3-8 and 32 yards. Based on so few snaps as a starter, it is hard to accurately judge Manziel’s performance.
Fans and experts have quickly turned against Manziel in such a short time. Fans have even gone to the extent of labeling him a bust. Rookie quarterbacks need confidence and need time to grow and develop. Adding up Manziel’s plays from Cincinnati and now Carolina, Manziel has been in 55 plays. The NFL average for one game is 65. Based on that average, Manziel hasn’t even played a full game. In such a small amount of play it is impossible to write off Manziel. In his brief play he has under-performed based on expectations, but with every young QB comes mistakes and a maturation process.
One positive I can find from Sunday on Manziel is his 28-yard throw to Andrew Hawkins. The Browns faced a 3rd and 7 late in the first quarter. The Browns had Manziel in shotgun with an empty 5 receiver set. Manziel stayed in the pocket maintaining clean footwork and connected with Hawkins down the seam. Manziel delivered an accurate pass while suffering a major hit on the play. He showed poise and didn’t fear the rush. In the limited action it was a positive to see Manziel stay in the pocket and deliver a big play on 3rd down while taking a big hit. It is these throws Manziel must build upon and gain confidence staying inside the NFL pocket.
It will be unfortunate if Manziel can’t play in the week 17 finale. However, in his small sample size Manziel got a taste of the NFL and what he needs to do to be a successful quarterback. This experience should motivate him heading into his first full off-season. With every young quarterback patience is needed. The Browns invested a first round pick on him. Heading into 2015 the Browns must build around Manziel and let him develop, giving him every opportunity to prove he is the answer. A full off-season will allow Manziel to develop studying defenses and working progressions. Another must is continuing to work on his inconsistent footwork. As difficult as Manziel’ struggles have been for some Browns fans to swallow, it may just be these struggles that ignite a promising career for him. The Browns planned to “redshirt” Manziel this season to get him ready for 2015. The limited action will not affect their plans to develop Manziel and groom him into the starting quarterback for 2015. Despite anything the media says, the Browns will be full steam ahead with Johnny Manziel in 2015 as their quarterback of the future.