On Friday the news came down that Johnny Manziel would indeed be under center for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. This will be Manziel's third career start, but the returns haven't been pretty so far. Manziel did throw his first career touchdown pass last week -- a 54 yard strike to Travis Benjamin. However, Manziel's mistakes and a total lack of a run game ultimately doomed the Cleveland offensive attack. This week Manziel faces a new look Titans' defense that has already given a fellow Heisman trophy winner fits.
Key Matchup: Johnny Manziel vs. the Titans Secondary.
Johnny Manziel is at his best in chaos. It sounds odd, but he excels in "make it up as you go" scenarios. Manziel's ability to move makes him dangerous, no matter what. He and Mike Evans made a living off of improvising at Texas A&M. The only problem now is that Johnny doesn't have a Mike Evans to throw to. He has a Travis Benjamin, a Taylor Gabriel and a Brian Hartline.
Manziel brings a unique challenge to the table. He has the arm to make all of the throws and he has the legs and agility to make a simple scramble into a big play. The play below was called back, but it illustrates how Johnny can negotiate the pocket and take off. It also shows how dangerous he is in the open field.
This is going to offer the Titans a bit of a challenge. They'll have to be able to make open field tackles if Manziel gets loose. Expect plenty of this as Manziel tries to get more comfortable in this new offense. He's on his second offensive coordinator in as many years.
Manziel isn't just dangerous running the ball, either. He has the ability to extend plays in the pocket, allowing the receivers time to improvise. It's very tough for a secondary to stay on their man when the play breaks down. It's one thing to cover a normal route, but it's another thing to try and stay with a man after a play breaks down.
This is evident on this snap. The receiver stayed in to block if needed, then snuck out to the flats. He noticed an opening in the back of the end zone and went for it. Manziel saw it, but just missed. This should have easily been six.
Manziel has been a known risk taker since college. His decision making leaves a lot to be desired. He's going to offer up a few passes that the secondary can take advantage of. The secondary will have their chances to capitalize, just like last week. Dick LeBeau's complex zone looks should give Manziel fits. We'll see if he forces the issue or plays is conservatively. I'd bet on seeing at least a couple of huge defensive plays from the Titans on Sunday.