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Rookie Roundup

Posted Aug 9, 2014

How the Cleveland Browns' new players fare against the Lions

DETROIT -- The number eight overall pick, cornerback Justin Gilbert, did not suit up against the Detroit Lions due to a groin injury. But the five of the Browns’ other draft picks did. Some analysis on how they fared:

Johnny Manziel

For a rookie quarterback in his first ever NFL game, there is a ton to be happy about with Manziel’s performance. Under the guidance of Manziel, the Browns’ offense looks and feels completely different than when his teammate Brian Hoyer is on the field. Most people will look at Manziel’s six carries for 27 yards as the chief reason he’s making this a legitimate quarterback debate a challenging decision.

But there’s so much more than that.

There were very few mental mistakes from Manziel. Mike Pettine attributed a delay of game penalty called on Manziel to an issue with the play clock itself, and was happy his quarterback didn’t burn a timeout. Throwing-wise, Manziel looked quite accurate in his four series of work – 7-for-11 on 63-yards passing. He made quick reads on passes and smart decisions when to run. He never appeared flustered. And who knows, if Dion Lewis doesn’t fumble, Manziel might’ve put the Browns in the end zone. Let’s also remember this: his praiseworthy practices last week came with the first-team. He may get that chance to start next Monday against the Washington Redskins.

Manziel handled his press conference like a 10-year veteran. He knows he’s not a finished product.

“That list could go on for days,” said Manziel of what he still needs to master. “But I think for me, it was a good start. You have to start somewhere. You have to set a foundation. You have to get your feet wet. I got my first preseason game under my belt.”

Joel Bitonio

We’ll have to back and review the game tape before properly grading Bitonio. But the first game genuinely seemed like it did not overwhelm the Nevada rookie. Ben Tate found several holes in the middle rushing for 25-yards on six carries. Bitonio said he thought the first-team offensive line really established themselves early on, by getting to the second phase of their blocks on linebackers.

“I thought we did a good job of reaching our guys and creating momentum in the ground game,” said Bitonio in the locker room after the game. “Alex Mack was making some good calls. We got to the linebackers well. It was a whirlwind but I’m happy with my first ever NFL game.”

Chris Kirksey

It will be a theme repeated all week: there is no substitution for live game reps. Kirksey played virtually all of the second half and even saw a few snaps in the second quarter, finishing the game with three tackles. Kirksey broke up a deep pass covering rookie counterpart Eric Ebron. We actually saw quite a bit of Kirksey on special teams Saturday in Detroit. He made a solid tackle on a punt return. For his first season, this may be where the linebacker from Iowa shines the most.

Terrance West

It wasn’t a major surprise, but Terrance West received a snap with the first-string offense. On a third-down play in the first quarter, West was flanked next to Brian Hoyer in the shotgun. He got open on the route too, but Hoyer was flushed out of the pocket and threw the ball away. It’s too early to gage whether West will indeed be the Browns’ third down running Week  One in Pittsburgh, but it seems as if the coaching staff is weighing that as an option.

West looked swift on his biggest run of the night, a 10-yarder. He moves his feet quickly when shuffling by defenders. He wants more production from himself (10 carries, 22-yards), and the offense in general.

“We need to score touchdowns when we get close to the end zone,” said West. “That’s how you win games. We’ll get better.”

Pierre Desir

Desir missed a couple tackles when he was inserted into the lineup in the first half. He has room for improvement, for sure. But coming from Linwood the Browns coaching staff knew the pace of the NFL was going to be a big adjustment. He got his first NFL preseason action and the coaches wanted to get him on the field plenty and they accomplished that. Desir finished with two tackles. It’s worth mentioning Desir looks gigantic in pads for a cornerback and his size is only going to help him progress as a contributor to this defense.