With the first preseason game under their belts, it seems that the much-anticipated quarterback battle between Brian Hoyer and Manziel is on.
Prior to the Browns first preseason against the Lions, there was a lot of hype surrounding Manziel and many wanted to know how he would respond in an actual NFL setting.
Despite a slow start, Manziel left his critics impressed. For Hoyer, it’s have been hard to guess that it was first live action in almost a year.
Hoyer went 6-of-14 passing for 92 yards in 23 plays and helped lead the Browns to two field goals in over a quarter of work before giving way to Manziel. While practically picking up from where he left off in 2013-14, Hoyer sailed a couple of passes high going over the heads of wide receivers Josh Gordon and Andrew Hawkins and a dropped possible first-and-goal pass from Miles Austin.
Manziel on his first play completed a six-yard pass to Anthony Armstrong and came up short on a read-option run and wound up finishing 7-of-11 for 63 yards passing and 27 yards rushing on six carries—highlighted by a 16-yard scramble for a first down. He ran the second-team offense.
One area that Manziel never seems to get credit for is his arm strength, yet he showcased that off with an 18-yard completion to Taylor Gabriel.
In terms of the running backs, Ben Tate (six carries, 25 yards) and rookie Terrance West (10 carries, 22 yards) illustrated that the duo can can give Cleveland a powerful 1-2 punch.
While still a bit raw, Manziel exceeded expectations in leading the Browns down the field for two field goals, while showing his trademark ad-libbing and flair in being able to escape pressure in the pocket. Seemingly he has closed the gap on Hoyer, in this writer’s opinion.
Both quarterbacks overall looked impressive, yet fell victim to the same old Browns malady of penalties, inability to finish off drives in the end zone and effectively develop a rhythm on offense.
Both Manziel and Hoyer fell victim to turnovers as running backs Dion Lewis and Tate each fumbled once.
One player who may have helped elevate his role in the Browns offense going forward is tight end/fullback MarQueis Gray, who caught two passes for 51 yards, highlighted by a 28-yard romp. Other players that stood out Saturday night were Charles Johnson (3 catches, 30 yards) and the aforementioned Gabriel (3 catches, 32 yards)
On defense, rookie head coach Mike Pettine’s hard-nosed defense played as advertised in generating constant pressure in getting a sack from former first-round pick, Barkevious Mingo and a highlight-reel-worthy hit from Donte Whitner.
Overall, the defense looks like a work in progress—like the offense—and still needs to clean up issues from last year in missing tackles and an inability to get off the field on third down.
One last area of concern for the Browns is in special teams as Cleveland allowed a couple of long returns, giving Detroit good field position.
Despite all of this, the Browns showed promise on offense and defense, and while it’s not fair to properly evaluate either Manziel or Hoyer, as both suffered from dropped passes, not throwing to starters such as Jordan Cameron, Nate Burleson and the defense not getting off the field and having first-round pick Justin Gilbert and Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland is a work in progress, yet at least have the look of a more competitive team.
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