The Browns mounted a nine-play drive on the next series, which was the longest of the evening with Manziel at quarterback. On first down, Manziel made his best throw of the night off play-action, with an excellent fake and throw to Taylor Gabriel in a tight window for a first down, showing off a big arm and strong throwing mechanics in the pocket. On a third-and-8 play later in the drive, he got quick pressure to his right, saw there wasn't a spy in the middle of the field and took off immediately, picking up 18 yards while showing obvious explosive running traits.
After picking up that first down, the Browns ran a play-action out of the I formation. Manziel rolled to his left with plenty of time, and put it on Willie Snead a little late which resulted in a catch out of bounds. This showed off Manziel's accuracy while rolling to his left, but he has to be quicker; that should improve.
Later, on fourth-and-very short, the Browns ran another play-action with 22 personnel. Here, we saw the one play of "Johnny being Johnny." He easily could have dumped it to Ray Agnew for the first down, but instead held the ball trying to create a big play, before finally scrambling for the first down. On the next play, Lewis fumbled a straight handoff, which the Lions recovered. There wasn't a specific play that stood out on Manziel's final drive, but it became pretty apparent that he was then playing with a sub-standard group of receivers for the most part.
Overall, in a rather simplified offense that clearly will have a ton of pistol and read option principles, Manziel performed admirably. He showed that he can throw from different platforms, on the move to his left or right and when his feet are not set, while demonstrating a very lively arm that was quite accurate in this game. These are great traits to have at this level, but the Browns' playcallers rarely asked him to make difficult throws or reads. This shouldn't be looked at as a negative at this point of Manziel's development; overall, he looked quite comfortable.
As the game went on, Manziel's teammates did little to help his cause. It also has to be noted that he protected his body very well, which is something he must do in the regular season. Will that keep up? We shall see, but Saturday night was promising with his slides and getting out of bounds when he was a ball carrier.
Few seem to be talking about it, but I expect this Browns defense to be very good, and certainly improved at all three levels. In fact, I would not be surprised if it was among the best defenses in the NFL this year. Cleveland's first-string defense was very impressive in this game, and the Browns' depth should be a real strength on this side of the ball, as well.
As demonstrated by players such as Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson, a stifling, opportunistic defense and a strong running game can be a rookie quarterback's best friends. As I discussed in my post on the NFL's top offensive lines, the Browns also have one of the league's best front fives.
So while the receivers are far from ideal in Cleveland right now, the rest of the supporting cast is quite strong for Manziel. Whenever it is that he takes over as the Browns' starting quarterback, the pieces are in place for him to be successful right away. This preseason opener was a solid start.