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Manziel to be evaluated in final two games

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BEREA, Ohio — The season is all but over for the Cleveland Browns, so as per usual at this time of year they will use the final two games to evaluate players for next year, particularly rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Manziel made his first NFL start on Sunday in a 30-0 loss to the Bengals. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards, was sacked three times and threw two interceptions.

The Browns are barely alive in a race for a wild-card spot. They have not given up, but head coach Mike Pettine has already committed to starting Manziel against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., next week. He indicated he will start Manziel against the Ravens in Baltimore on Dec. 28 in the final regular-season game.

The Browns have two first-round picks next year – their own plus the one acquired from the Bills during the first round of the 2014 draft. Brian Hoyer will be an unrestricted free agent without a new contract. They must get a feel of what kind of quarterback Manziel will be.

Pettine said it is unfair to judge a quarterback after just one start, especially when the rest of the team plays as poorly as the Browns did against the Bengals, but they still have to learn about Manziel and have a limited time to do it.

“No matter what happens (in the final two games), we’ll have a sense, but it’s something that I don’t think it’s going to confirm one way or the other the opinion,” Pettine said. “He could hit it out of the park the next two and they’ll still be doubts. He could not play very well the next two; there’d be a ton of doubts.

“We’re going to see him play and then see how it goes from there. We can’t look back and say we wish we had played him more games now that we’re for all intents and purposes close to being eliminated. So we’ll see.”

Manziel played most of the fourth quarter of a 26-10 loss to the Bills on Nov. 30 in his only extensive playing time of the season before Sunday. He led a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in that game and scored on a 10-yard run. He played the entire game against the Bengals. The Browns crossed the 50 only once.

“It’s very humbling,” Manziel said on Monday. “I feel like they had a good scheme and came out very aggressive and very ready for that game and we didn’t come out that way and match that intensity early. When you get down a little bit, it’s hard to claw your way back in and we just didn’t ever bring that intensity from the get-go.”

The Browns have thrown only one touchdown pass in the last six games. Brian Hoyer threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Hawkins in the 23-7 loss to the Texans on Nov. 16.

REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS

–PASSING OFFENSE: F — Johnny Manziel made his first NFL start and by his own admission does not get a rookie pass. His numbers were awful — 10 of 18 for 80 yards with two interceptions. He and the offensive line were not in sync most of the day. He missed open receivers. The second interception he threw cost the Browns a touchdown.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus — The Browns used only 17 running plays. Their longest gain was a 10-yard run by Manziel. Isaiah Crowell did not run with the authority he has shown in the past; he gained 17 yards on seven carries. The only bright spot was no one fumbled.

–PASS DEFENSE: B — The Browns held Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to a 53.6 passer rating and 117 yards passing. Craig Robertson intercepted a pass, but as has been the case the last two months the Browns did nothing with the takeaway. The Browns have 22 takeaways over the last nine games and only three touchdowns to show for it.

–RUSH DEFENSE: D — The tone of the game was set on the first drive of the game when the Bengals marched 81 yards on 14 plays. Jeremy Hill sliced through the Browns for 148 yards. The Bengals rushed for 248 yards. It was the highest one-game total by an opponent this season. Poor tackling by the Browns throughout the game was one reason the Bengals dominated time of possession, 38:52 to 21:08.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C — The Browns used four different kick returners and averaged just 20.2 yards a return. Garrett Hartley, the kicker signed on Saturday after the Browns cut Billy Cundiff, never got off the sideline because Spencer Lanning kicked off the only time the Browns did kick off. Lanning launched seven punts for a 47.9 average.

–COACHING: D — The Browns came out flat, and that has to fall on the coaches. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did not call the right plays to get Manziel untracked and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil did not make adjustments to stop the Bengals running game.


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