Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer deliver up-and-down performances vs. Lions
DETROIT -- On at least two plays, Johnny Manziel offered the crowd -- specifically, the numerous Cleveland fans in attendance at Ford Field -- what they had come to see. Overall, though, it is hard to see how the Browns are any closer now to naming a starting quarterback than they were before Saturday's 13-12 loss to the Lions.
Manziel's most electrifying moments came on a third-quarter drive that ultimately ended on a Dion Lewis fumble. He first flashed that noted Manziel scrambling ability on a 3rd-and-8 from near midfield, finding a gap in the Lions' defensive line and taking off for 16 yards as the crowd erupted briefly. Later in that drive, facing a fourth-and-1, Manziel executed a play-fake and rolled to his right before shaking a defender and sprinting for the first down.
And that was more or less it for the highlights, from either Manziel or the Browns' starter Saturday, Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer had the reins for most of the opening two quarters before stepping aside for Manziel's highly anticipated debut. In his first game action since tearing an ACL last season, Hoyer completed 6 of 14 passes for 92 yards. Hoyer actually did some of his best work outside the pocket, but he also sailed multiple passes high, perhaps offering some indication that he is not yet all the way back from that injury just yet.
Which is somewhat problematic considering the stated plan of Browns head coach Mike Pettine to name a starter before Week 3 of the preseason. Manziel reportedly will have his opportunity to run the first-team offense next week against Washington.
How he fares in that outing may be the determining factor in Pettine's decision. Manziel hit on 7 of 11 passes for 63 yards Saturday, plus added 27 yards rushing, all of that work coming with backups on the field for both teams. Manziel did not have, for example, the benefit of throwing to receiver Josh Gordon as Hoyer did, nor did he work behind the Cleveland starters up front. Of course, on the flip side, Detroit was into its third- and fourth-stringers on defense by the close of Manziel's night.
The play calling varied from Hoyer to Manziel, too, as one might expect given the gap in athleticism there. New Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who previously led the Robert Griffin III-centric attack in Washington, leaned toward the pistol formation with Manziel on the field and called several read-options for his QB. The Lions actually stuffed Manziel's first attempt on the ground -- he kept it on a 3rd-and-1 and tried to bounce outside, only to be crunched by three defenders.
Speaking of that hit, concerns about Manziel's potential fragility likely did not wane Saturday. Manziel took several solid shots, including one of that aforementioned fourth-down scramble and another from rookie DE Larry Webster on an incompletion. In between his penultimate and final drive, Manziel was talking to Cleveland's training staff, which appeared to be checking on his ribs or side.
The Browns received a mixed bag from Hoyer and Manziel. If they were hoping for more, perhaps Week 2 of the preseason will provide it.