Johnny Manziel has yet to make his debut as an NFL starter, but if his Cleveland Browns teammates know anything about player evaluation, then it could be a long Sunday for the Cincinnati Bengals.
This week, coach Mike Pettine named Manziel as the team’s starter over the ineffective Brian Hoyer, giving Manziel the first start of his NFL career. Manziel had seen limited action throughout the season, with his longest stint coming against the Buffalo Bills, where he led the team on a touchdown drive before turning the ball over on downs.
Now, as the Browns prepare for Manziel’s first full game as starter, his teammates have some high praise. Safety Donte Whitner said that Manziel has been a “nightmare” matchup for the defense.
“You see him being Johnny Football,” Whitner said. “You don’t see him trying to duplicate anybody’s quarterbacking style, just sitting in the pocket. If something’s not right, you see him using his instincts and his intangibles, breaking the pocket. That’s where I can see growth.”
It’s not just the defense that is high on Johnny Manziel. Wide receiver Josh Gordon also said Manziel has what it takes to lead the team to the playoffs.
“I think he’s got enough,” wide receiver Josh Gordon said. “He’s got what we need right now to move forward and pull off these last three wins. He’s willing to do anything, extend a play, and make something out of nothing. That mindset isn’t in everybody. A lot of guys will quit, take a sack or throw the ball away. That’s not what he does.”
It could be a difficult task. At 7-6, the Browns will likely need to win out and get some help to make the playoffs. Current projections from FiveThirtyEight give the Browns just a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs.
So the nightmare might actually be for Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns, not the other way around.