Johnny Manziel will start again for the Cleveland Browns Sunday against the Titans in Week 2. Manziel looked better in Week 1 than any time last year. However he still has some things to work on to be successful Sunday.
Much of what Manziel needs to work on revolves around the beloved "pocket" where most passing games find success:
Earlier today we looked at some diagrams about how the pocket and Manziel's play impacts the team's offensive line. Check out that post here.
Yet Manziel's eyes are also very important in the pocket. Quarterbacks use their eyes for a lot of things. It helps to use their eyes to move safeties and linebackers, decipher defenses and process information. A QB's eyes can be the most telling about where Manziel is in relation to his development.
There are two big issues to watch for with Manziel on Sunday that can have a big impact on the team.
Eyeing the Pass Rush
Something we hear about good quarterbacks is that they don't pay attention to defenders rushing them after the snap. Good QBs have an idea who is coming on a rush and then feel them around him as he works in the pocket. More often than not, Manziel's eyes drop to the defenders coming at him. Not just free rushers but even the ones that the offensive linemen are engaged with.
Instead of processing the information in the secondary, Manziel is processing Front 7 issues on the defense post snap. Unless Johnny has a very defined read, and that receiver is open, he starts to look for an escape route to get out of the pocket. Like anything in life, when you look for something you tend to find it.
Manziel often turns his eyes to the defenders pushing the pocket and then for an escape route, even if the pass rush isn't great. Good QBs step into the pocket, deliver the ball by keeping their eyes downfield. Making plays from the pocket is what most/all passing offenses are designed to do. Manziel needs to keep his eyes up and focused on the secondary to make the next step.
Lowering His Eyes
Once Manziel notices the pocket getting pushed at all, he seeks escape. Most of the time this includes dropping his eyes from his targets to find where he can scramble out of. That second of time is huge in the NFL. Great QBs like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady release the ball, on average, in less than 2.5 seconds.
A lot can happen in that second when Manziel drops his eyes. Once Johnny escapes, he starts to look back into the secondary but often runs the ball anyways. During the one second that he drops his eyes, everything on the field changes. The speed of NFL players means that Manziel has to dissect a whole new set of information when he returns his eyes down field. Where are his receivers, what direction/speed are they going and where are all 11 defenders.
Because of all this new information, Manziel is more likely to tuck the ball and run or throw the ball away unless there is a receiver running wide open. That doesn't happen often in the NFL. Instead, keeping his eyes up will allow Johnny to already know what is going on in the secondary, and make quality throws to receivers.
By staying in the pocket, keeping his eyes down field and not dropping them to find an access point, Johnny Manziel can be a QB that can win games for the Browns.
While our nature is to watch the ball, the receivers or the pass rushers, tomorrow watch Johnny Manziel's eyes. Does he look at the pass rushers instead of the secondary? Does he look for an escape route instead of keeping his eyes downfield? Manziel's eyes in the pocket could decide the Browns success tomorrow.