Johnny Manziel's goal this preseason is to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
So far, mission accomplished.
In an 11-10 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills, there was no brighter spot for the Cleveland Browns than Manziel's play at quarterback.
At one point, Manziel's numbers were 9-of-11 for 112 yards, one touchdown and a 138.9 quarterback rating.
"I want to have these (coaches) go into the film tomorrow and turn on the tape and say, 'This guy's really doing things right and this guy's really fighting hard to pick things up and make some plays,'" Manziel said. "I felt like things were slowing down."
With the Browns pinned up against their own 4-yard line early in the fourth quarter, it looked like trouble when the Cleveland offense trotted onto the field. Manziel's first two drives of the second half resulted in punts.
This time would be different.
Manziel was able to buy the offense some breathing room after two intermediate, quick-strike passes in the flat to tight ends E.J. Bibbs and Manesseh Garner. Five plays later, on a third-and-3 from the Cleveland 35-yard line, the first-round talent of Manziel jumped off the page. On a play-action fake, Manziel danced away from blitzing linebacker IK Enemkpali in the backfield, rolled all the way to his left and slung a 37-yard laser into the outstretched arms of wide receiver Darius Jennings. The throw had the entire FirstEnergy Stadium crowd jumping out of its seats.
With eyes set on getting Cleveland into the end zone, Manziel made what some are calling the best throw of his young career two plays later. In the I-formation with wide receivers Josh Lenz and Shane Wynn split out to his right, Manziel again was under fire after a play-action fake. But instead of fleeing the pocket -- a college habit he's been trying to shake -- Manziel sprang in the pocket, pivoted with his feet and launched a 21-yard touchdown to Wynn.
The touchdown drive had coach Mike Pettine lifting both fists above his head in celebration, while Manziel's mentor, Josh McCown, sprinted onto the field to show his praise.
"Everything, the read, to step up, the play from the pocket – it was everything as a young quarterback you want to see him grown into," McCown said. "I am really, really proud of the way he played. It was awesome."
"I just thought he saw the field well," Pettine said, referencing a key point in Manziel's development. "He placed the ball, made some good throws, used his feet when he had to, and I think that is the area of his game where when he does move and he is successful with it, he is moving with a purpose."
Many in the press box speculated Manziel's night would end after the touchdown toss. But the 22-year-old played the duration of the game, and there were no equivalent highs to his length-of-the-field scoring drive. Running with mostly third-stringers, Manziel finished the rest of the game going 1-for-7 on pass attempts and 10-for-18 total for 118 yards.
"I thought toward the end of the game, it got a little ragged with that line out there when he was running around," Pettine said.
Pettine also made it clear there is no quarterback controversy going into next week's preseason contest in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers. The third game is when the coaching staff heavily evaluates the starting unit, somewhere McCown has been from Day 1.
But in case there is an injury, the Browns are realizing they are starting to develop a solid, young quarterback with sky-high potential.
"Would I like to be in there with the ones? Sure, but that is not my call," Manziel said. "If that decision does come, I will be ready to hop in there, but for now I am making the most of the opportunities I am getting."