Browns Saturday: Expecting the unexpected from Johnny Manziel

BEREA, Ohio — The major intrigue with Johnny Manziel’s first start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals obviously goes well beyond who wins the game.

But the intrigue is simply because there’s intrigue, because everyone from Jim Brown to the team’s coach said they are eager to see what Manziel can do.

“None of us can say we truly know,” Brown said Friday.

The team has seen Manziel in practice, but the only experience the team has with Manziel going full speed was against Buffalo, when the Browns were down 17.

The Bengals' defense has not played well this season and has given up a lot of yards to running quarterbacks. But the Bengals also have had a week to prepare for Manziel.

“The whole world will find out Sunday,” defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said.

Catching up on other items Browns:

  • O’Neil said this as a coordinator facing a guy as quick and nimble as Manziel: “I’m glad I don’t have to defend it. It could be a major headache.”

  • One might guess the Bengals approach will be to “mush rush” and keep ends wide. The mush rush was passed on through Bill Belichick by an ex-Browns broadcaster, the late Casey Coleman. It refers to keeping the tackles in position in front of the quarterback, with ends wide to protect the scramble. That approach dares Manziel to win the game with his arm.

  • Inside linebacker Craig Robertson was the Browns' nominee for the annual Walter Payton Award, given to recognize a player’s community service efforts.

  • Mike Pettine said this about Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill saying the Browns were not that good after the 24-3 Browns win in Cincinnati: “Rookies are inherently … fill in the blank.”

  • It’s worth remember that in 2012, Robert Griffin III was injured and rookie Kirk Cousins started for the Washington Redskins against the Browns in a Redskins playoff season. Cousins played extremely well and Washington won 38-21. His offensive coordinator in the game: Kyle Shanahan, now with the Browns.

  • Shanahan on how working with Cousins helped him with Manziel: “I feel like the main thing you want to do is make [the quarterback] feel confident. Try to give him stuff that he knows, stuff that he can execute and allow the guy to just play.”

  • Numberfire.com puts the Browns playoff chances at 6.5 percent, with a 2.6 percent chance of winning the division. The Steelers have the highest percentage of winning the division at 37.6 percent.

  • Bengals DE Wallace Gilberry on Manziel’s mania, via Bengals reporter Coley Harvey: “That’s just who he is. The kid has a personality. And that has nothing to do with football. We understand that. I could care less about how he parties or who he parties with. That’s his business.”

  • From ESPN Stats & Information: Manziel has left the pocket on six of his 11 dropbacks. He’s 1-for-4 passing for 12 yards on those plays, but has 13 yards and a touchdown on two runs. That means in the pocket, he’s 4-for-5 for 51 yards.

  • The Browns have lost their last nine games in December and January, the longest streak in the NFL. Their last win in the final two months was over Kansas City on Dec. 9, 2012.

  • The Bengals' final three opponents have won 64.1 percent of their games. That gives them the second-toughest schedule in the league for the final three games.