Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel continues to work on his recovery and learning the new offense — at the same time impressing the coaches with his effort since returning to the team.
The Browns still think Manziel, their first-round pick last year, has a chance to emerge as the quarterback of the future in Cleveland.
New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo praised Manziel’s offseason work ethic during the past two weeks with words like “great,” “fantastic” and “awesome.”
“Johnny’s been great,” DeFilippo told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s been fantastic. What he wants to talk about, before he stepped foot back in this building is his business. All I know is Johnny the football player, and he’s been awesome. He’s been working hard, very hard with myself and (quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell), and doing what we want him to do on the field.”
DeFilippo, the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach for three seasons before replacing former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, said Manziel is taking his job seriously, unlike some of the criticism in his rookie year.
“All I know is this: From the moment he stepped in this building from the last two weeks, he’s been nothing but a consummate professional,” DeFilippo said. “He’s spent every hour that he’s been allowed to spend in this building. We give them worksheets every Tuesday and every Friday, and they’re done to the unbelievable detail that we need an NFL quarterback to do. From that standpoint, like I said I can’t predict the future, but all I can do is tell you right now Johnny Manziel is putting himself in a position to be a quarterback in the NFL.”
On Friday, head coach Mike Pettine said veteran quarterback Josh McCown will be the team’s No. 1 passer throughout offseason workouts, minicamp and into training camp.
Pettine then went a step further, revealing McCown is the favorite to be the Browns starting quarterback this season over Manziel.
DeFilippo was asked if Manziel fits his style of offense.
“If Johnny Manziel’s our quarterback, we’ll have an offense to fit his skillset,” DeFilippo said. “I watched a lot of Johnny’s tape his year coming out of college and I gave him a draft evaluation grade. They ran a lot of the same pass concepts as you run in the NFL. Johnny’s game is just a little unorthodox. He likes to escape the pocket, he does a lot of impromptu stuff and the thing Johnny’s doing right now is he’s improving his game of being a NFL quarterback and he’s making great strides in doing that.
“I’m the last guy — the last guy — that’s going to take Johnny Manziel’s athleticism away from him. I will not do that. I refuse to do that.”
Manziel was drafted in the first round last year because of his unique playmaking ability, but in two starts as a rookie he appeared shell-shocked and ended 2014 on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
Manziel, back with the team after he was discharged from 10 weeks of rehab on April 11, is trying to put his rookie failures and past partying behind him.
“Those spread guys, the ball is out so quick a lot of times on those bubble screens and quick passes,” DeFilippo said. “He’s got to have a time clock in his head on the throws down the field. The other thing that’s going to be really different for him he’s working on it hard is the protection part of it. They only had two or three protections at A&M, and we’re going to ask him to do a lot more at the line of scrimmage in terms of a protection standpoint.
“I wasn’t in this building last year, so I don’t know how he prepared, I don’t know how he didn’t prepare. I don’t know anything that happened here last season. I had plenty of other things on my plate, but I’m looking forward to seeing Johnny come out this year with a new frame of mind, new mindset, new outlook and see how he does with this offense.”