Film Study & the Johnny Manziel Hype Train


The Cleveland Browns Pre-Season opener was full of intrigue, mostly due to Johnny Manziel. Following the Browns Scrimmage, and now following the game against the Detroit Lions, the media has hyped Manziel as “closing the gap,” “taking the lead over Brian Hoyer” and “Likely to be named Week 1 starter soon.” We take a look at the film and see whether the Manziel Hype Train is going to fast or is right on track.

What is clear to most is that Manziel’s athleticism, creativity and arm strength are not concerns. Yet for Manziel the concern is in his accuracy, going through his progressions and making appropriate decision in time. For each passing play Manziel made Saturday night we will judge whether he did or did not have accuracy, go through his progressions and make timely decision. Then we can get an idea  on what to make of the Manziel Hype Train:

2nd Quarter

Situation: First and 10 on own 32 yard line. 7:31 Left in Half

Pass Play #1: 6 Yard Completion to Anthony Armstrong

Accuracy Yes – In front of Armstrong where corner couldn’t break it up, in stride.

Progression No – Completion to first read.

Decision/Timing  Yes – Hit back foot, threw ball to open receiver on time/rhythm, releasing before the receiver made his cut.

3rd Quarter

Situation: First and 10 on the Lions 49. 14:51 Left in Quarter

Pass Play #1: Scramble up the middle for 3 yards

Accuracy N/A – Pass not attempted

Progression No – Manziel looked at his primary receiver, saw a hole in the line and took off running for 3 yards.

Decision/Timing – No – While the left end was coming free Manziel gave up on the pass play to run quickly, trusting his legs.

Pass Play #2: 2 Yard Completion to Dion Lewis

Accuracy Yes. Not the prettiest of throws but hit Lewis right between the numbers.

Progression No – Manziel pumped to his first receiver felt outside pressure and started to try to scramble.

Decision/Timing No – His first read hadn’t started his break but could of been hit just at the first down marker. Once he felt pressure he immediately wanted to get out of the pocket but the defensive line contained. He found Lewis leaking out just before getting hit. Positive yardage under pressure is a positive.

Situation: First and 10 on own 30. 9:16 Left in Quarter

Pass Play #1: 14 Yard Completion to Taylor Gabriel

Accuracy Yes – Manziel hit Gabriel where only he could catch it, between 4 Lion defenders.

Progression No – Completion to first read.

Decision/Timing Yes – Manziel hit his back foot, after play action, found his man and fired. The throw was in a tight window but was solid, low and quick not giving the Lion defenders time to react.

Pass Play #2: Incomplete Pass to Gabriel

Accuracy – No – Overthrew receiver by a couple feet.

Progression No – Worst so far. Stood with his body turned looking only for Gabriel to get open, never looked elsewhere.

Decision/Timing No – Gabriel broke open late but was covered well. Dion Lewis over the middle, likely his check down receiver was open for a decent gain, 5 or so yards.

Pass Play #3: Scramble up the middle for 16 yards

Accuracy N/A

Progression No – After looking off his first receiver, on his way to his second read, Manziel saw the opening and took off running for a big gain.

Decision/Timing Yes – Manziel didn’t give time for any other routes to open up but had a huge gain. Gabriel seemed open in the middle of the field (without watching All 22 coaches film tough to see what was over the top) which would of gained a first down as well. The big gain meant it was a good decision. He made the decision to run quickly which is concerning.

Pass Play #4: Incomplete to Willie Snead

Accuracy Yes – Hit Snead right at chest high on the comeback, right on the sideline. Snead should be able to get his feet in but Manziel’s throw didn’t lead him out of bounds.

Progression – Yes – First time Manziel went through his full progressions on the naked boot. Looked at his back and tight end while Snead ran his route.

Decision/Timing Yes – With no pressure Manziel seem comfortable to scan the entire field in front of him. He didn’t take off and run. Didn’t pull the ball down. Didn’t try to reverse fields. He could of hit a receiver a bit quicker but solid decision making overall. Best overall play so far by Manziel within these categories.

Pass Play #5: Completion to Charles Johnson for 15 yards

Accuracy Yes – Manziel hit Johnson quickly and on the mark on the receiver screen.

Progression N/A – No progression needed on WR screen given the look.

Decision/Timing Yes. Manziel saw that the coverage would allow for the screen to work. Took the snap threw it out quickly and let his receiver make a play, almost getting the first down.

Pass Play #6: Scramble for 1 yard and a first down.

Accuracy N/A

Progression Yes – He looked to his fullback, who was open, then looked down field to make a big play all while scrambling out to his right.

Decision/Timing – No – He should have hit his fullback, Ray Agnew, out of the backfield for an easy first. He isn’t likely to escape the man coming free after him often in the NFL either. He barely made the first down as well.

Situation: First and 10 on own 15. 2:40 Left in Quarter

Pass Play #1: Completion to Terrance West for 8 yards.

Accuracy Yes – Manziel’s throw allowed West to run underneath of it, even on a touch swing pass right around the line of scrimmage.

Progression Yes – Manziel looked to his left, scanned the middle of the field before alertly getting it out to West before getting hit.

Decision/Timing Yes – With the fullback motioned out wide, where he looked first, Manziel was more cautious with his first read. Second read was covered over the middle. Good decision with tons of room for West to run.

Pass Play #2: Completion to Johnson for 7 yards

Accuracy Yes – A little high and behind but well within Johnson’s catch radius and didn’t impede his running after the catch.

Progression Yes – Manziel glanced quickly over the middle then locked on to Johnson, waiting for his route to develop.

Decision/Timing No – The route Johnson ran meant Manziel needed to stay in the middle a count longer. Once he came to Johnson he had to wait to make the throw. Manziel also waited for Johnson to break and be open before throwing the ball, his strong arm allowed him to zip it in for the first down.

Pass Play #3: Incomplete pass to Jonathan Krause

Accuracy No – Throw hit Krause in the foot/leg. It is possible that Manziel expected Krause to sit down his route there though. If so the throw would of been accurate. More information needed to change the ruling.

Progression No – Off the play action, Manziel sensed pressure that wasn’t there yet, got antsy and threw quickly.

Decision/Timing No – Manziel wasn’t in rhythm on the throw due to thinking pressure was coming sooner. It seemed Krause wasn’t expecting the throw, which could of been on either the receiver or the QB. The announcers thought it was Krause’s fault.

Pass Play #4: Completion to Gabriel for 11 yards

Accuracy Yes – Manziel, once he decided to make the throw, hit Gabriel well with a bullet.

Progression No – Manziel looked at Gabriel the entire time, pumped his way once even before hitting him.

Decision/Timing No – Gabriel was ready on the pump fake, which didn’t change anything from the defensive backs. Still a completion and a good gain but not a on time decision.

Pass Play #5: Incomplete pass to Snead

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Accuracy No – Ball was catch-able but high. Snead would of likely gotten hit hard had he caught the ball and possibly lost possession for an incomplete pass.

Progression No – Manziel went to Snead his first read the whole way.

Decision/Timing Yes – His throw was out in time, as Snead was breaking. Even though he was falling back some on the throw it was a good decision on time.


That was the end of his night going into the 4th quarter. Manziel was accurate with 8 passes on target of his 11 passes. Only 4 times did he go through any type of progressions, a big concern as he tries to unlearn relying on his legs in the NFL or starring down his receivers. Manziel was a little better with his on time decision making with 7 yes answers.

Based on this film study we want to pump the brakes on the Manziel Hype Train. The same concerns with Manziel coming out of college are still there now. His accuracy was good and the strength of his arm shouldn’t be questioned, even though no deep passes were thrown. His next opponent, the Washington Redskins, may give him less difficulty.

Are you on the Manziel Hype Train or think it should slow down?