Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Plays show what Johnny Football can be

By Pat McManamon

BEREA, Ohio -- What looked like a tough day for Cleveland Browns rookie Johnny Manziel changed on one rollout late in the offseason practice, when he stopped at the right sideline and threw across the field to Jordan Cameron.

The pass would have gained about 40 or 45 yards and was a thing of beauty, a spiral thrown perfectly from one sideline to the other that dropped right into the hands of Cameron as he was chased by two defenders.

Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer
Johnny Manziel has shown flashes of brilliance in Browns practice, but he's still behind Brian Hoyer on the depth chart.
Oddly, one of those was nose tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen (all 330 pounds of him).

Manziel energized the team with the throw. As Cameron caught it, the players on the field all roared with approval.

"Pretty sweet, huh?" wide receiver Nate Burleson said.

The next two plays were a little more of a glimpse into Johnny Football. On one, he rolled left and fired across his body to Cameron. The ball was almost caught but the pass was broken up. The next featured another rollout left, with Manziel throwing to the right and completing it to Gordon.

In a series of practices when lack of contact takes away some of what Manziel can do -- escape the rush, move around -- those three plays provided a glimpse into why the Browns drafted him.

"It's difficult when he's got the red shirt on and the defensive guys know they can't tackle him," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "It's hard to get glimpses of that. But we did some design rollouts with him and he's shown when he can get in the open field, he can run through an angle and he can eat up some ground pretty quickly."

Manziel's first throw of the practice was picked off by an aggressive Donte Whitner. He also had a poor sideline throw intercepted. Pettine attributed one to a bad read, another to a bad route by a receiver. But that's what this time of year is about -- taking chances and learning.

Manziel is behind Brian Hoyer on the depth chart -- Pettine made that clear -- and he's behind to the point that Pettine said he'd probably keep Hoyer limited at next week's minicamp, much to Hoyer's chagrin.

"It's tough to see someone else do your job," Hoyer said.

He quickly added, though, that he understands the thinking on limiting the risk as he recovers from a torn knee ligament.

And Hoyer can leave the offseason of work knowing the Browns treated him with kid gloves -- as if he's the starter.

The play of the practice, though, belonged to Manziel. And his teammates knew it.

"He's an exciting guy," Cameron said. "He'll make plays out of nothing. I guess that was one of them. It was a great throw."

Which led to two more exciting plays.

"I like to see Johnny make big plays," Burleson said. "He's another guy that you guys like to talk about quite a bit. When a quarterback gets in a rhythm and gets a little confidence, chin pokes up, chest sticks out a little more and they play better. When he gets in a rhythm he's a special athlete."

The Browns might want to think about Kitchen that way as well. A nose tackle was running right behind Cameron -- "He was grabbing my jersey," Cameron quipped -- in chase of the Pro Bowl tight end.

"The first thing I asked was, 'What the hell coverage were we in?'" Pettine said.

Pettine said Kitchen simply recognized the play, which the offense had run well in previous practices, and made a great effort to try to cover it.

"I think he just sensed the play coming because we've been burned on it a couple times in practice," Pettine said. "So he just latched on to him and started running. It was actually pretty funny."