Johnny Manziel Doesn't Need to Win Starting Job at Camp to Make Impact This Year

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2014

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel watches passing drills during an NFL football training camp in Berea, Ohio Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Remember all the Johnny Manziel mania that swept the city of Cleveland on NFL draft day before LeBron James stole most of that northeast Ohio thunder?

Well, it all could very well have been for the backup quarterback.

Brian Hoyer—not Manziel—is the one impressing at Cleveland Browns camp in the early going in the signal-caller competition. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports noted as much recently:

Hoyer, a more competent athlete than some assume, couldn't beat Manziel in a footrace, and he can't come close to some of the eye-popping improvisational moves that the kid makes look easy in practice. But when it comes to breaking a huddle, calling a play with conviction, setting players in motion, checking protection schemes, reading a defense and running through his progression and making an astute decision with the football, he is operating at a pace that Manziel cannot replicate.

It’s easy to forget that Hoyer actually had the Browns in first place early in the 2013 season before he went down with a torn ACL. He has been in the league since 2009 and certainly has an experience edge on Manziel. Learning an NFL playbook is no easy task, and it will likely take Manziel some time to catch up.

Sure, we still have the entire preseason ahead of us and Manziel could put forth some impressive performances, but the tea leaves seem to suggest the veteran Hoyer will be the Week 1 starter. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost for those wanting to see Manziel make an impact on the field during his rookie season, though.

Look for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to work in some packages to get the Texas A&M product on the field. You simply don’t let an explosive talent like that sit on the sidelines with a clipboard the entire season, even if he isn’t quite ready to assume starting duties every single Sunday at the NFL level.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

After all, Manziel threw for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns in two college seasons and added another 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground. Much of that production came against the vaunted SEC defenses as well.

Manziel can single-handedly manufacture spectacular plays when things break down in ways Hoyer cannot and will make his presence felt at some point during his rookie season.

Remember, Josh Gordon could miss the entire 2014 campaign, which means opponents will likely look to double-team Jordan Cameron. It is incredibly difficult to envision receivers streaking down the field for Cleveland this year, so more packages for Manziel may be necessary if the Browns hope to open up the field with what could be a stagnant offense.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Plus, Hoyer is on the last year of his deal and coming off an ACL tear, so Cleveland will likely want to see what it has in Manziel going forward. Manziel’s production in limited action and specialty plays may have an impact on Hoyer’s immediate future.

Of course, when we discuss Manziel we have to mention the off-field headlines (even the most benign and harmless ones), but he isn’t exactly turning into a party animal at camp. At least not if La Canfora’s comments on the John Feinstein Show were any indication, via Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports:

So for someone who has such an outsized, life-is-a-party identity when it comes to Las Vegas, (Manziel is) very much a rookie within these walls. I won't say (he's) isolated, but (he) certainly hasn't really developed a group of guys around him. Brian Hoyer will be eating lunch with the whole offensive line. It's not that people aren't including Johnny, but I think there's a little bit of a feeling-out process that's going on. So he conducts himself very differently within this facility than he does outside it.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

That is all chatter that will likely fade away as games are won and lost during the season. If Hoyer does start and has the Browns rolling early, we may not see much of Manziel, but without Gordon, this offense could certainly need a boost at times. 

Enter Johnny Football.


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