It's been quite a while since a Cleveland Browns football game has garnered such a profuse amount of attention. However, this has been expected since the team selected former Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Manziel became the most polarizing figure to enter the NFL this season due to a combination of his playmaking ability on the field and his antics off of it. On Saturday against the Detroit Lions, Manziel will get his first opportunity as a professional to earn more recognition for the former.
But it won't be easy for the quarterback who's already attracting stars to Cleveland's training camp:
On Wednesday, Browns coach Mike Pettine named Brian Hoyer the starter for the team's impending contest, according to Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com, but all eyes are already fixed on his backup.
During a recent interview with Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson complimented Manziel's composure thus far, but was aware of the pressure his quarterback would face:
He just wants to play football. And he's good. He's a football player. There's a lot of misconceptions about him, I think, but he's handling it well. I think most guys, they would've crumbled under this type of scrutiny and pressure, but he's showing up every day and being a pro.
Burleson is right. Manziel has been looking more impressive as days go on. Reports out of Browns camp have been increasingly positive—especially this one from ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen:
Watched Browns scrimmage today. Just a scrimmage but easy to see Manziel is closing gap & will start getting some one reps next week.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 2, 2014
That's good news for the rookie; however, performing at a high level in his first glimpse of NFL action will pose a much tougher challenge for Manziel.
Not only will the quarterback be adjusting to NFL game speed, timing with his teammates and the team's playbook, but he's already become the focal point for many other players set to take the field on Saturday night.
During an interview with Mike O'Hara of DetroitLions.com, veteran center Dominic Raiola simply said, "My kids are more excited to come watch him than me. He's the show now."
In fact, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported the upcoming game was not only sold out, but the team filled its pressbox to capacity, issuing a credential for 200 seats. Yes, everyone is coming to watch Manziel—and he knows it.
After all, reporters are looking for any Manziel-related angle as the preseason gets underway. Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler tweeted an interesting one:
"He's only Tweeted 2 things in the last 2 weeks" Actual line used by a reporter to illustrate how "focused" Manziel is. *jumps off building*— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) August 6, 2014
We've seen plenty of rookie signal-callers fold like lawn chairs due to the pressure of playing in the NFL—it can be argued none had to face the scrutiny Manziel will continue to endure.
With so much on the line for the former Texas A&M standout—including a shot at earning Cleveland's starting role—his level of focus and determination to succeed will be severely tested during the team's preseason opener.
Many onlookers would love to see Manziel succeed and begin to cement a legacy for his exciting play rather than his off-the-field antics; however, others will be looking for the young quarterback to fall flat on his face.
Simply take a look at this poll conducted by ESPN's SportsNation:
The spotlight is on Manziel, and it has never been brighter. Now it's time for the most important performance of his young career.