Let’s just call it like it is: For all the talk and hype, Johnny Manziel was a major disappointment last year. He wasn’t a starting quarterback; he was TMZ headlines and Hollywood disaster. People talked about him all the time, and he deserved to be talked about pretty much never. He was a showoff and, in the words of Scott Ferrall, an “absolute joke.”
But he may have just turned the corner.
“He’s actually had a couple good practices in a row,” Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan and Channel 5 host Andy Baskin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s just weird because we spent all year dissecting every practice during training camp, going, ‘Johnny looks good today. Johnny’s going to be the starter. Oh, he’s going to beat out Brian Hoyer.’ None of that ever happened – and I don’t think it ever was going to happen last year because I don’t think he was committed. I don’t think he was committed. But the last couple practices over the last week, he’s looked pretty good. They had the Orange & Brown Scrimmage down at Ohio State on Friday and he looked really good. He’s starting to look like a quarterback. He’s not the starting quarterback (but) he’s starting to learn the game. I think he’s one year behind where he should be, but at least he’s going in the right direction and I think the organization thinks so, too.”
Manziel did not throw at practice Tuesday due to a sore elbow but is expected to play a great deal in Cleveland’s preseason game against Washington.
“I don’t think they’re going to go Josh McCown more than a quarter on Thursday night,” Baskin said. “I also think that Johnny likes the fact that he’s playing with Josh. They’re kind of from the same town in Texas real close to each other. I just think he’s settled in. The cool thing is there were some outspoken veterans on this team that just – they were just not down with Johnny at all last year. I think a lot of people would say Joe Thomas was one of those guys, and Joe’s one of the guys singing his praises this year. So he’s garnering some respect in the locker room that I don’t think he had last year.”
So, who knows? If McCown gets injured or is ineffective this season, we might see Manziel in the Browns’ backfield.
We also might see Ray Rice in the Browns’ backfield. According to head coach Mike Pettine, Cleveland has reportedly discussed signing the troubled tailback.
“I think it probably has come up in more NFL (coaching offices than you think),” Baskin said. “I’m sure anybody who’s looking for a running back might say, ‘Okay, what free agents are out there? Maybe Ray Rice is the guy we want to look at.’ I think the bigger picture is they’ve got Duke Johnson from Miami who hasn’t stepped on the field yet. He’s got hamstring issues. Isaiah Crowell hans’t stepped up. They want him to be the No. 1 guy on this roster. Terrance West came in a little bit heavy. They don’t have a running back right now. They’ve talked all offseason about, ‘The way we’re going to win is we’re going to stop the run.’ So they went out and drafted Danny Shelton in the first round. I think people feel good about the defense, but no one knows who’s going to run the ball yet. They had to pick up a couple guys – Jalen Pamele and Tim Flanders. If Flanders is going to be one of your running backs and you expect to run, I don’t know where they’re going to get this from. So Crowell, West or at some point Duke Johnson’s going to have to step up. I don’t think they feel real good about the running game right now.”