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Johnny Manziel drawing praise from Browns

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BEREA, Ohio -- Eleven practices into training camp, the in-house report card on Johnny Manziel is encouraging.

The Cleveland Browns second-year quarterback drew praise on Tuesday from position coach Kevin O'Connell, who went out of his way to talk about Manziel's renewed focus this offseason after the quarterback spent most of the winter in rehab.

"From the day I came in, in the spring, and we finally got the players in the building, and from Day One -- in the building, in the classroom -- he's been phenomenal around Josh (McCown) and the other quarterbacks and myself and (coordinator John) DeFelippo," O'Connell said. "As far as just digesting -- whether it's install one to specific situational work to protection, he is doing everything on a daily basis that we're asking him, and then some, within the confines of the rules, and really just starting to flourish."

O'Connell spoke specifically about Manziel's improvement in grasping protections, adjustments, blitz pressure and diagnosing a defense, saying: "He's just approaching every day as a pro and he's getting better and he's a talented guy."

Manziel has shown an uptick in play in recent practices and performed well in Friday's scrimmage, leaving one reporter to ask if a "light has gone on" with last year's first-round pick.

"No, I think it's just reps," O'Connell said, while acknowledging that Manziel has "absolutely" grown as a pocket passer over the spring and summer despite having a lot "put on his plate.

"His patience and his ability to trust his feet, we talk about that a lot. Trust his feet and his eyes and, with his physical arm talent to make throws, good things are going to happen," O'Connell continued. "You see him getting through his progressions. We talk a lot about progressions and protections, and it's kind of something that's scattered -- a lot of different topics -- and there's a lot of little things you have to focus on in playing the quarterback position, but when you start getting comfortable with that, the game starts slowing down for guys."

Manziel did very little at Tuesday's practice, sporting a sleeve over his right arm and even throwing the ball lefty before scrimmage got underway. Coach Mike Pettine acknowledged that Manziel was dealing with "a little elbow soreness," saying the team would rest "any of the guys" if they felt the same.

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Pettine told reporters that he fully anticipates Manziel to play in Thursday's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, a sentiment echoed by O'Connell, who said of the Washington tilt: "We're expecting him to get ready to roll."

It was silly from the start to lay final judgement on Manziel after seven quarters on the field, but his radioactive persona contributed to the unfurling mania a season ago. The Browns would love to have drafted a young game-ready passer from Day One -- Manziel has been the opposite -- but there is more than one route to success in the NFL.

Any improvement from last year's No. 22 overall pick is a welcomed sight, but the next step is showing it on the field. With the elbow a non-issue, we'll get our first look at the new Johnny Manziel come Thursday evening.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses Steve Smith's retirement news and predicts the training camp QB battles.

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