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A Sense of Unease

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Today, the Browns turn to rookie phenom Johnny Manziel. I hope that this article is a reminder of the foolishness associated with trying to guess what a rookie will do in his first few NFL starts, or how silly it is to second guess a competitor with Johnny Manziel's track record. And yet....

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I'm meeting the news of Johnny Manziel's promotion with a healthy mix of anxiety and excitement. Here's why.

1. The coaching staff clearly preferred to red-shirt Manziel and give him a full season to acclimate to the NFL.

There may be limited value to being the scout team quarterback, but it's objectively true that being forced to learn how to run an offense at the same time a QB is being asked to learn how to be an NFL professional is a difficult transition that a VERY select pool of talent has been able to accomplish. Ray Farmer and co. identified a redshirt season as the best way to maximize Manziel's potential, and only a complete collapse from Hoyer has caused them to deviate from this plan.

2. Manziel was incredibly raw coming out of college, even compared to the average NFL rookie

It's been documented a thousand times, but Manziel only played for two years in college before going pro, and he operated for two years in an Air Raid offense that doesn't remotely resemble an NFL playbook. This isn't an offense that Kyle Shannahan can take much from to ease Manziel into his first start, like he did with Robert Griffin III. This is "Men are Venus, Women are from Mars" type of stuff.

3. Rookie QB's struggle. Tremendously.

Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr are the latest examples of what happens when rookie QB's see playing time. They struggle, and hopefully use the experience to find critical areas of their game that need work as the enter their Sophomore seasons. Even some of the best quarterbacks of our generation have had very difficult rookie campaigns. (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, etc)

I think that Browns management was taken aback in the preseason at seeing how much work Manziel needed on using proper footwork, transferring his weight, and reading a defense.

4. There's too many rookie parts filling critical roles on offense.

Left Guard, Center, Running back, WR. Center and RB are especially challenging, as these positions could be an asset to Manziel's knowledge of blitz pickup and protection schemes, when staffed by veterans. Expect Cincinnati to blitz Manziel early, often, and relentlessly through the A gaps to try to exploit this, while keeping linebackers and defensive ends in contain positions to mitigate the running threat.

5. Risk of injury

The overwhelming response from fans regarding Johnny's ability to immediately make an impact in the offense is that he will use his legs to compensate for what should be a simplified playbook and questionable (in his first start) accuracy. The problem with that is that Manziel just can't afford to take big hits, and will have to show a high level of understanding for when those hits are coming when his adrenaline is keyed to the max.

At the end of the day, the Browns want the Aaron Rodgers version of offensive execution; a QB that beats teams through the air, and uses his legs to scramble and pick up yards when things are covered down field. Manziel is just not big enough to take the toll that has already (recently) destroyed the health of another Shannahan system QB.

6. The "simplified" playbook may have stunted Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton's development.

Year one of the Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III experience were some of the most electric seasons we've ever witnessed. However, in their second years, an attempt to migrate to more pro-style concepts backfired as neither quarterback was able to re-adjust when the league got film on their game styles. Ideally, you want to maintain the same system and playbook you'd use, but in a simplified form. One internet personality refers to it it as the "Big Ben's crayon and scissors playbook."

I want to be clear on this one fact: I'm exceptionally excited to see Johnny Manziel play football for the Cleveland Browns this Sunday at First Energy Stadium. I'll be there, with bells on, cheering for the Browns and praying for success with Manzel. I just hope that whatever misgivings the Browns had about starting Manziel in week 1 have been assuaged, and that none of the inevitable lumps the Manziel could take in the game stunt his professional development or creativity.

Let's wreck this league, and spend just one off-season ignoring the draft eligible quarterbacks and what it would take to get one of them.