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On the run
June 4, 2014 - Mike McLain
There are times when you see the Johnny Manziel that captivated college football emerge on the practice fields of the Cleveland Browns.
Not often, but enough to make you wonder what the Browns offense might resemble when he gets a chance to run the show.
One instance occurred late in Tuesday's OTA practice when Manziel rolled to his right and then threw a long pass to tight end Jordan Cameron on the opposite side. Cameron completed the play with an outstanding finger-tip catch, but Manziel made it work by putting the ball to a spot where only Cameron could make the catch.
Prior to that moment, it wasn't a great day of practice for Manziel. He had one pass intercepted in 7-on-7 drills and two intercepted in 11-on-11. Each time he threw out of the pocket. Coach Mike Pettine said one of the 11-on-11 picks was because of a wrong route. The other was because of a bad read by Manziel.
It appears that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is preparing Manziel for life in the pocket, knowing that the sprint and bootleg action comes to him naturally. When the finished product with Manziel at quarterback is eventually unveiled, it will undoubtedly show more of Manziel on the move.
As Pettine said recently, "We don't want to make a statue of him."
Manziel isn't built to stand in the pocket. At a fraction of an inch below 6-foot-0, Manziel will struggle to find passing lanes, unless he possesses Drew Brees' unique ability to slide in the pocket. Manziel also has a low release point, which will add to the number of passes he'll have batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Manziel has shown accuracy on slant routes, which is the bread and butter of the 3-step drop game. Beyond that, don't expect to see him thrive in the 7-step drop game, unless he creates something when the play breaks down.
If you're a fan of the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning ways of quarterbacking in the NFL, there will be no need to watch Manziel. Many of the reads Manziel will make will come while on the run. Receivers will be asked to adjust their routes once Manziel sets off in scramble mode.
Manziel has been compared to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is challenged by a lack of ideal height. Wilson was productive enough to help lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win last season, although he had the help of a strong ground game and a stout defense.
The difference between Manziel and Wilson is that Wilson will stay in the pocket longer. Manziel plays as if he's compelled to go schoolyard.
We'll soon find out if there's a place in the NFL for that style to work.
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