BEREA, Ohio -- From questions about his 5-foot-11, ¾ frame (thanks, Marvin) to his relationship with Brian Hoyer (more fruitful than you think), Johnny Manziel covered several topics in his first interview as an NFL starter.
Some things Manziel has said before -- learning how to be a pro the last three months, putting in the time in the facility, trying to earn the trust of the coaches and players.
But one issue he addressed in particular will serve as a crucial barometer for success over the next three games and long term -- how he blends the Johnny Football persona with the sound football the Cleveland Browns need behind a playoff-caliber defense.
His identity in Cleveland must lie somewhere in between.
Here’s what Manziel said on that topic:
“There are going to be times when I try to make a play that you guys have been accustomed to seeing over the last couple of years,” Manziel said. “It’s not going to be exactly the same, it may not look exactly the same, but at the same time when we need to make plays as an offense I’ll try to provide a spark and be smart while doing it.”
It’s not just on Manziel to find that sweet spot. The onus falls on the Browns' offense and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to straddle the fence between game-manager and game-breaker.
The Browns are playing Manziel because the offense needs a lift. Stripping him of his playmaking ability, his improv -- what makes him him -- would contradict the point of having him on the field.
But the defense is playing too well to get too risky. As several Browns offensive linemen have said, it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is if Cleveland can’t run the ball. The offense is built around pounding the ball 30 to 40 times a game. Or maybe it was built that way for Hoyer and needs to be tweaked because of Manziel's threat to run.
Either way, expect the run to set up the pass for Manziel, who must look pass-first from the pocket.
“On every dropback pass, he can’t look to turn it into a punt return,” coach Mike Pettine said.
None of this seems too big for Manziel, who must validate that feeling when on the field Sunday. He’ll run a pro-style offense with some wrinkles to utilize his athleticism. The Browns would be smart to give Manziel at least a few deep-ball chances. My guess is he’ll connect on one. Go deep early. First down, maybe. Rollout and boom.
“Go out, execute offense and move the ball down the field and don’t get caught up in all the clutter and try to go out there with a free mind," Manziel said.