Johnny Manziel made his CFL debut with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a preseason game against the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night.
He finished the game 9-for-12 with 80 yards passing, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed twice for 10 yards.
In total, Manziel was at the helm for five drives, but one of those came with seven seconds remaining in the first half, so it doesn’t really count.
The 25-year-old came into the game with 3:38 left in second quarter. The drive started at the Hamilton 19-yard line. His first throw was a nine-yard out to the wide side of the field. Receiver Jalen Saunders was his first read on the play, so it was a fairly simple completion from that perspective. Sure, it’s to the wide side of the field, but it was a relatively simple throw.
On second-and-inches, he scrambled to his left, threw the ball to Felix Faubert-Lussier, who was on Manziel’s right. Not an easy completion to make and probably not a throw you want to make too often in the regular season (it’s kind of against the grain). It earned the Ticats a first down though.
On first-and-10, he went back to Faubert-Lussier, who was his first read, for a seven-yard gain. second-and-3 was a handoff that resulted in the gain of one yard. And on third-and-2, he was sacked on a blitz. Turnover on downs. That was Hamilton’s sixth turnover of the game.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad first drive for a guy who hadn’t played football in a while. He completed his first three throws. Two of them were fairly routine.
On his second drive, the Ticats took over at their own 21-yard line with 44 seconds left in the half. Manziel was in shotgun when his center delivered a low snap which the quarterback bobbled. He managed to pick up the ball before rushing a throw to Harvey Binford. The receiver dropped the ball, but he would have been tackled for no gain had he caught it.
On second-and-10, Manziel completed a pass over the middle to Rashard Lawrence, who lost a fumble on the play. He would have been short of the first down anyway. That was Hamilton’s seventh turnover of the game.
The third drive began at the Hamilton 29-yard line with seven seconds left. first-and-10 was a handoff. second-and-8 ended up being a play-action scamper for eight yards by Manziel.
Manziel came back out for the third quarter. He got the ball back at his own 13-yard line with 11:10 left. On first-and-10, he threw the ball away as he was about to be taken down by a Toronto defender. On second-and-10, he completed a pass to Binford, but he was short of the first down. Punt.
Manziel’s final drive was his best one.
Hamilton got the ball back with 8:35 left in the third quarter and they started on their 29-yard line.
After a Ticats running back gained four yards on first down, they called a timeout. Manziel went to the sideline before completing a big pass to Lawrence for a first down.
On first-and-10, he rolled out to his right and completed a pass to Damarr Aultman for a big gain.
Not bad at all.
After the Hamilton running back went off for a 10-yard on first down, Manziel scrambled for two yards on first-and-10. Manziel then completed a seven yard pass to put himself in a third-and-1 situation. Instead of keeping it simple in that situation, he was in shotgun. With an Argos defensive lineman in his face, he managed to complete a pass to Aultman for a first down.
After two handoffs that resulted in a first down, Manziel was given a 22-yard penalty for intentional grounding (spot-of-foul penalty). On second-and-32, he handed the ball off to his running back, who put the Ticats in a third-and-13 deep in Argos territory. Manziel had to fetch another low snap before he was tripped up.
The entire drive lasted 7:20, which isn’t terrible at all.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad performance from Manziel. There’s some rust he has to shake off, but that’s not shocking. He was able to throw on the run a couple of times, which is something he does well.
There’s no doubt that teams will do their best to keep Manziel in pocket or force him to go left. He’ll have to show that he can make plays in those situations if he’s going to be successful in Canada.
The Tiger-Cats kept things simple enough for him on Friday. He never really pushed the ball too far down field. That’s a big reason why he finished 9-for-12.
It’ll be interesting to see how much action he sees in next week’s preseason finale in Montreal.
Oh by the way…the Argos won 36-18.