Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Johnny Manziel a fit for Jaguars
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has just begun the process of evaluating college quarterbacks in preparation for the upcoming draft, but he may have offered a clue about which kind of quarterback he would prefer.
During his weekly meeting with the media in mid-December, he was asked if he grits his teeth and worries when he sees quarterback Chad Henne scramble. Not only did he say no, he said he wished Henne would scramble more.
"I get excited when they [quarterbacks] scramble," he said. "I think guys need to scramble. I think quarterbacks need to get first downs with their legs as well as their arms. I encourage scrambling.
"I encourage throwing it up and trying to get pass interferences and I encourage scrambling because I think both of those things happen in the NFL. Take a chance. When you have a chance to launch one, launch one. When you have a chance to run, run, because yards are hard to come by."
A seemingly perfect fit just became available on Wednesday when Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel submitted paperwork to the NFL to be included in May’s NFL draft.
Maybe that's reading too much into what Fisch said, but there is no college quarterback in the country that fits Fisch’s description better than Manziel. There’s no one who scrambles better, frustrates defensive coordinators more, embarrasses all-conference players and pulls big plays out of nowhere better than Manziel.
The two other players generally considered among the top quarterbacks in the draft -- Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles -- don’t compare. Bridgewater is the best pure passer, most NFL ready and most polished quarterback in the draft and he’ll likely go No. 1 overall, but he’s not the kind of improviser and scrambler Manziel is. Bridgewater moves exceptionally well in the pocket and can run if needed, but he doesn’t do it often -- he has rushed for 164 yards and four touchdowns on 226 carries, an average of 0.7 yards per carry.
Bortles ran for 561 yards (2.3 per carry) and 15 touchdowns in his three seasons at Central Florida.
Manziel rushed for 2,169 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. He ran for 181 yards against Louisiana Tech in 2012.
Quarterbacks are ultimately rated by what they do as a passer and Manziel certainly has more work to do regarding his skills in the pocket than Bridgewater. There are questions about whether he can sit in the pocket, scan the field and find an open receiver, not only because of his penchant to scramble but also because of his height (6-foot-1).
But there are few quarterbacks who can play the entire game in the pocket. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are a rarity in today’s NFL. Quarterbacks have to at least be able to get outside and scramble for a first down every once in a while or move around to extend plays. That’s what Fisch meant when he said he encourages his quarterbacks to scramble.
Things rarely go as planned on the field, and games are often determined by what happens on two or three broken plays. That’s where Manziel excels, and there was no better example of that than his 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Labhart in which he tried to leap over a defender, pulled his leg free from an apparent sack, rolled left and found Labhart wide open.
Manziel isn’t the best quarterback in this draft. That’s Bridgewater, and that’s who the Jaguars would most likely take if he’s somehow available with the third pick. Fisch wouldn’t have a problem with that, either, and the offense would be the same style it was with Henne and Blaine Gabbert, bigger quarterbacks who don’t scramble much.
But if he’s not, then Manziel -- whom Todd McShay predicted the Jaguars would take in his first mock draft -- would be the best option.
And Fisch will most likely end up answering questions about whether Manziel is scrambling too much.