Johnny Manziel Needs Strong Preseason Opener to Gain Ground on Brian Hoyer

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IAugust 7, 2014

BEREA, OH - JULY 26: Quarterbacks Brian Hoyer #6 and quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns practice a play during training camp at the Cleveland Browns training facility on July 26, 2014 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

He might be a first-round pick, but nothing has been handed to Johnny Manziel thus far. Heading into Saturday's matchup with the Detroit Lions, Manziel will need to slowly begin taking the starting job.

The No. 22 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 NFL draft has reportedly been erratic thus far in training camp, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Ralph N. Paulk. Despite the up-and-down play, he still sits second on the depth chart behind only Brian Hoyer heading into the preseason opener.

Coach Mike Pettine announced on Wednesday that the job heading into the preseason opener is Hoyer's, per Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio:

The first-year coach also referenced the reasoning for starting Hoyer over Manziel, via Jackson:

The latter part of that might be more significant than the actual quote provided. Cleveland clearly took Manziel in the draft for his dual-threat ability, but his pocket presence could shine on the big stage.

It should come as no shock that Hoyer has the job for now, but there is clear pressure being applied with Manziel behind him. Continuing the trend of alarming quotes for Hoyer, Pettine noted the potential of the rookie starting in the future, as Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer passes along:

Just a quick note to add: One month from Thursday happens to be Sept. 7, the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's something to ponder.

For now, Manziel's focus will have to solely be on making his case against the Detroit Lions. Though he will likely only get to play with the second team, he can make his mark with consistency along with showing flashes of his athleticism.

In order to find a comparison to understand what Manziel needs to do, let's take a look at everyone's favorite undersized quarterback, Russell Wilson. The rookie has been compared to Wilson multiple times, including this ESPN Stats & Info piece by Sharon Katz and Toby Petitpas, but will need a performance that is reminiscent of the Seattle Seahawks starter.

Russell Wilson 2012 Preseason Stats (First 3 Games)
CompletionsAttemptsPass YdsPass TDIntRush YdsRush TD

Wilson's numbers back in 2012 were what moved him ahead of Matt Flynn and earned him the starting job. While Flynn is now a backup with the Green Bay Packers again, Wilson has a shiny new ring on his finger after winning a Super Bowl.

That's not to say that Manziel can equal his success, but the starting point certainly needs to be similar. As for the public opinion thus far, Manziel is already narrowly ahead of Hoyer, per SportsCenter:

Pretty impressive considering Manziel has yet to take a snap in an NFL game and Hoyer went 3-0 with Cleveland last season.

There's no exact number on snaps, throws or even read-option plays that we'll see from Manziel on Saturday, but there's no doubt he needs to make an impression. Putting on a show like Wilson in 2012 would help, but consistency behind center might accomplish the same.

Hoyer may have done nothing to lose the job so far, but Manziel needs to do something to win it. That process continues on Saturday against the Lions. No pressure, Johnny Football.


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