BEREA—What a difference a year makes!
At this time last year as a rookie, Johnny Manziel was coming off his first career NFL start against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It was an unmitigated disaster as the Browns lost 30-0 at FirstEnergy Stadium and Manziel looked lost. He was 10-of-18 for just 80 yards and was intercepted twice, while being sacked three times. His rating was just 27.3.
The following week in Game 15 against Carolina, Manziel started 3-of-8 for 32 yards before injuring his hamstring and he didn’t play the rest of the season.
Manziel is preparing to start his third-straight, and sixth game of the season this Sunday against the Chiefs. He has started two of the three wins the Browns have had this season.
Although, Manziel is still a work in progress, his development on the field has been evident and he feels the same way.
“Yeah, night and day – it’s not even close,” Manziel said. “Just being able to see the field, protections, progressions and everything, it’s not even close. I think going out and playing these past couple weeks has shown that a little bit. It’s a world of difference throwing for 70 yards in an entire game and like what happened last year against Cincinnati and that whole debacle.
“Just having a full offseason with the knowledge that I have last year and just knowing how to come in the building and do the right things and prepare, I think that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Josh being here, Austin (Davis) being here, when we come in on Tuesdays, we like being here; we like breaking down the film; we like sitting in here and game-planning with each other. I think it’s just a collective of everything of being a year wiser, having the room that we have and then finally getting a chance to be out there for a decent amount to have things slow down. It really is nice. Yeah, it’s a world of difference.” On the season, Manziel is 116-of-191 (60.7 pct.) for 1,364 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions and a rating of 85.9. He has also rushed for 122 yards on 26 attempts.
Manziel admitted the expectations for him as a rookie were not realistic.
“Maybe, I don’t think it works that way,” he said. “I think it’s a process to be really good in this league. The thing about that is there are guys that come out and shine one week and disappear a little bit another. The biggest thing for this position is having consistency, whether it’s not turning the ball over, whatever the case may be. Consistency week in and week out is the biggest thing you want to get to. Being a young guy, that doesn’t always happen. That’s a goal for me is to come out and be consistent.”
On Monday, perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said he has been impressed with Manziel and noticed a change in him since the beginning of the season.
“I wouldn’t say it has changed in the last few weeks,” Thomas said. “I think it changed kind of at the beginning of the season when he showed that dedication and commitment that he didn’t have last year. I think what we are seeing out on the field is the fruits of the hard work he has been putting in, the dedication that we have seen with him in the film room and meetings. I think it is natural when you spend that extra effort you are going to see those results on the field and that is what we are seeing from Johnny.”
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo sees the same things.
“Absolutely, absolutely," he said. "The beauty of when players come out and say those things is they see what goes on, not-on the field, as well, that a lot of other people don’t see, like the coaches and players we get to see. I didn’t read Joe’s comments, but I am assuming that it’s his huddle presence is way better because that comes with preparation.
"His preparation to get to Sunday has greatly improved and drastically improved since the beginning of the season," he said. "He is learning to be an NFL quarterback. I would agree with Joe on those sentiments, yes.”
Manziel said hearing what Thomas had to say about him means a lot to him.
“That’s the leader on our entire team, on our offense,” Manziel said. “He’s been the face of this franchise for nine years now. Nine Pro Bowls later, he’s still doing his thing. It definitely means a lot to me. I think Joe is an incredible person, an incredible player. I truly believe that I am night and day from last year. I think those guys see it.
“Strung some good weeks together, and now, consistency and continuing to do that, I want some better results,” he said. “As much as that means coming from Joe, me just as much as him and everybody else on this offense, we want to score more points than the other team. That’s the goal at the end of the day. We can sit here and take little positives away and take little tidbits from every game and be like, ‘Man, we were close. We are so close.’ At the end of the day, we are all here to win. That’s what it comes down to.”
Bademosi Deserving: Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said that DB Johnson Bademosi being named as an alternate for the Pro Bowl on special teams is well deserved.
“In my opinion, I think so,” Tabor said. “I think Johnson is a guy that has improved each and every year. I could be wrong with this stat, but I believe since he has been in the league, he is in either the top two or top three in (special-teams) tackles. He is a player that, as I stated a few weeks ago, has just gotten better and better.
“There are going to be things that maybe the common fan wouldn’t see – all the little things he does with regards to blocking and where his hands are at and the subtle things that he does to influence a player to do other things,” he said. “He is playing at a high level. Real pleased with him, and we are going to need him this week.”
Crowell, Gabriel still Out: RB Isaiah Crowell and WR Taylor Gabriel missed Thursday’s practice. Pettine said Crowell had travel problems getting back and Gabriel needed another day.
“Unfortunately,Gabriel will not be back,” Pettine said. “Crowell had some travel logistics issues so he got caught up a little bit. He’ll be back. We just don’t know if he’ll make it for any part of practice.”
He said he expects both players to be back by Sunday.Both were excused for personal reasons.
DL Desmond Bryant (thumb), OL Cameron Erving (ankle), WR Marlon Moore (ribs) and DB K’Williams (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, but Williams was going to practice in a red non-contact jersey Thursday. RB Duke Johnson (hamstring), OL Alex Mack (calf) and OL Joe Thomas (knee) didn’t practice Wednesday, but returned to practice Thursday. Pettine said he expected both Thomas and Mack to play Sunday.
On Johnson Pettine said:
“We’re just being cautious with that one,” he said. “Don’t give it much. This time of year, the gameplans are pretty tight. It’s stuff that he knows. It’s risk-reward. You can have him practice it, but if it is stuff that he knows, rest is the best thing for him right now. We don’t foresee an issue with Duke.”
RB Glenn Winston did not practice as he’s still in the concussion protocol.
O’Neil Defends Award: Rookie DL Danny Shelton was awarded the belt for the defense last week in the loss to the Seahawks.
“That’s a reward for each week for rewarding behavior that will lead to wins,” O’Neil said. “If you get everyone playing like that it will lead to wins.”
O’Neil was asked why reward a player on the defense that allowed 183 yards rushing and resulted in a 30-13 loss.
“When you’re 3-11, you have to find a way to have some fun in the locker room," O'Neil said. "Otherwise, this becomes pretty brutal. I’m all for it.”
High Praise for Thomas: Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo had some high praise for OL Joe Thomas.
“There’s a reason he’s going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer,” DeFillippo said. “He does everything right.”