Ever since the 22nd draft pick was announced in the NFL Draft, fans knew it was only a matter of time before Johnny "Football" Manziel would be inserted into the starting lineup of the Cleveland Browns. After incumbent and hometown QB Brian Hoyer struggled down the stretch playing poorly in the last couple games Mike Pettine announced that Manziel will receive his 1st start of his career against the Cincinnati Bengals.
In his first true action of the season Manziel relieved Hoyer November 30th against the Buffalo Bills, going 5-8 for 63 yards and an additional 13 yards and a TD rushing. Comparisons between him and Hoyer were evident in the first couple plays as Manziel displayed nice zip and accuracy on his throws (something Hoyer appeared to lack), as well as the ability to improvise with scrambling and making plays happen (an ability that Brian Hoyer does not possess). It was this outing that gave Browns fans hope that Johnny Football was ready to compete on the big stage and take the reigns of this team as they push towards a playoff berth. If Manziel can display all the attributes he showed at Texas A&M and during his limited action in the NFL, he could prove to be a serious upgrade over Brian Hoyer.
When Johnny Manziel steps on the field against the Cincinatti Bengals, Manziel and the Cleveland Browns will be not only be going against a division and in-state rival, but the hype of the media and fans alike, as well the inexperience that seems to doom all rookie quarterbacks coming into the league. The record for rookie QBs in their first year is a dismal one over the years, with the win percentage diving even more during their 1st official start. While Manziel could be special in the long run, it is not wise to believe that he will change this statistic.
There will be times that Manziel will resemble the Johnny Football that won him a Heisman trophy in college like improvising and displaying the natural ability that made him famous, but he will make rookie mistakes that could prove to be the difference in his first game. Every player that has made the transition from NCAA to NFL will say the game is much faster and opponents are much smarter, and this is something Manziel will soon experience.
The one thing more than anything that could prove to be on Johnny Manziel's side is the Cincinnati Bengals defense. The Bengals defense has been a below average unit this year, ranking 28th out of 32 teams while giving up roughly 378 total yards a game (131 rushing & 247 passing). Cincinnati will give Manziel opportunities to make plays and be successful, but he will have to learn to take what the defense gives him. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan has said he has looked at old Texas A&M, as well as RG3/Washington Redskins tape in order to give Manziel more familiarity with certain plays so he does not feel the need to force plays in pressure situations. Forcing plays (which is what most rookies tend to do) will lead to turnovers and wasted possessions and tiring out his exceptional defense he has behind him.
When the clock hits zero on the scoreboard on Sunday it is safe to say that Johnny Manziel will make some highlight plays as well as some plays that will have coaches and fans alike shaking their heads. As Browns fan Chelsea Thomas stated "I think he will run a few good plays. But he is going to make mistakes obviously." The key to Manziel keeping the starting job will be limiting the bad plays and maximizing the positive plays in order to keep the Browns playoff hopes alive.