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Johnny Manziel's Debut in Browns' Preseason Opener Must Be Put into Perspective

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel passes during practice at the NFL football team's training camp Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Sean ODonnellContributor IIIJune 26, 2016

We're about to get our first glimpse of the NFL version of enigmatic quarterback Johnny Manziel when the Cleveland Browns face off against the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.

No, this isn't the beginning of the Manziel era in Cleveland—Brian Hoyer is still the team's starter—rather, it will serve as an inclination of how far along the young quarterback's come along in his development as a professional signal-caller.

While many casual observers are declaring this impending contest as the moment that will make or break Manziel's career, it's exactly the opposite. In fact, some members of the media aren't exactly helping the situation, either:

Manziel is a rookie. Rookies tend to struggle—that's normal. If the former Texas A&M product doesn't light up the scoreboard, there will be immediate fallout. After all, there are many onlookers already foaming at the mouth, hoping to label Manziel as a bust upon their first glimpse of the quarterback's struggles.

That's just foolish.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

This is a learning experience for Manziel—just as it was on Friday night for fellow first-rounders Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater. We saw mixed results in those two performances—Bortles looked solid while Bridgewater faltered—and there's no reason at all to hold Manziel to a different standard.

Although, many will do just that.

Regardless, this game has taken on the moniker of Manziel's coming-out party instead of what it really is: an evaluation of Manziel's progress.

Here's what we already know.

According to a press conference with head coach Mike Pettine, via Marc Sessler of NFL.com, Manziel won't be starting, and he won't be seeing any time with the first-team offense:

I don't think he will. I think we're going to let Brian (Hoyer) go. The circumstances could change that obviously. For this game, I think pretty much stick to the units as we've practiced so Brian with the ones and Johnny with the twos...we just didn't want to mix the units in this game.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network confirmed the quarterback's role with the second-team offense:

Late Friday night, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport expanded on exactly when Manziel will see some action against Detroit:

Manziel's performance in this situation will give Cleveland's coaching staff an inclination of how well he's developing and will allow Pettine and Co. to decide their next course of action involving the rookie.

Will he earn some preseason playing time with the first team? Will he begin to challenge Hoyer for a position atop the depth chart? How well is he commanding the offense?

These are the questions that will begin to be answered upon the conclusion of Manziel's performance on Saturday night.

Any inquiries regarding his legacy or potential in the NFL have no place in the game's discussion.

Manziel is simply a rookie quarterback about to undergo his first course of NFL action. He should be treated as such against the Lions in the Browns' preseason opener.

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