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Manziel: 'Hoge needs to worry about his big neck ties'

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Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge has made a cottage industry out of flaming Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

On Friday, Manziel -- set to start Sunday against the Titans -- playfully threw it back at the ESPN analyst.

Every game, all season

"I think Merril Hoge needs to worry about his big neck ties," Manziel said, per Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer. "Talking about Merril, he's been that way since I decided to come out for the draft, so I guess that's part of it, but no extra motivation or extra bump for me or anything like that. It's just go out and play and quiet him with the way we go out and win on Sunday. That's what we want to do."

Manziel's fashion advice for Hoge came after a reporter asked him to respond to the commentator's scathing criticism of Johnny's work against the New York Jets.

"He's so sloppy fundamentally," Hoge said Monday on SportsCenter, per Cabot. "He was reckless at A&M, he's reckless in the NFL. He doesn't play in structure. He doesn't understand concepts and it was very evident in this game. Missed a lot of hots."

Picking apart Manziel's film, Hoge concluded: "It's very elementary: He's not gotten better in two years."

Hoge, of course, made waves before last year's draft when he said of Manziel, per ESPN: "I see bust written all over him. Especially if he's drafted in the first round."

After it became known that Manziel texted then-Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains during the draft to declare that "we'll wreck this league," Hoge labeled the former Texas A&M star a "juvenile punk," saying: "He was like that, and he's still like that."

We get it, sir. You're just not into Johnny.

Still, it's hard to dismiss the growth that Manziel displayed on a smattering of strong throws against Gang Green. A comprehensive disaster last season, burning toward rehab, Manziel took the field for a concussed Josh McCown despite missing the back half of the preseason with a sore elbow.

"If you didn't notice a change in Johnny Manziel, then I don't know," Browns play-caller John DeFilippo said Thursday. "Did he run when the lane was there? Yeah. Did we get down and was he trying to do a little bit too much at times? Probably. I think that just comes with the maturation of understanding situational football. You can't get two scores back on one drive, and I think the more he plays and the more he learns those things, the better he'll get."

Former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly told NFL Network's Around the NFL on Friday that Manziel "showed better this year than last year."

"What did he do better? Better poise in the pocket ... his accuracy was good. I thought his decision-making was good in the preseason. He can move outside the pocket and make plays," Casserly said. "Last week, the turnovers were not good, but there were some things that you saw on the positive."

NFL Media's Brian Billick, though, noted that Manziel was outplayed by Titans rookie passer Marcus Mariota, "who on Sunday anticipated some of his throws, threw them into a hole, threw them where he knew the receiver would get to it. We have not seen that from Johnny Manziel."

Hoge is welcome to his opinion, but it's packed into a climate where young passers are asked to succeed immediately. Manziel is about to make his third start -- that's too early to sell any player down the river.

Johnny's career has been a disappointment to date for a team that can hardly afford another ugly footnote under center. Turning that narrative around begins with his own play -- and it begins Sunday.

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