"Obviously, that was not the first career start I would have hoped for or expected when the Bengals came to our stadium last year," Manziel said Wednesday, per the Akron Beacon Journal. "I did learn from it, and I feel much more confident in my abilities now because of the progress I feel like I've made over this season. My experience in that game from last year should help."
Still, NFL Media's Brian Billick doesn't expect a comfortable evening for Johnny if Bengals coach Marvin Lewis plays his cards right.
"I wouldn't play a single snap of man coverage versus Johnny Manziel," Billick told Andrew Siciliano during Wednesday's version of Around the NFL. "I would not turn my back on him, because that's the only thing he seems capable of doing. I'd bring a four- and five-man rush, slow play it, I don't care if you sack the kid, just don't let him out of the pocket. Play change-up zone behind it and he'll throw a whole bunch of interceptions."
Said Pettine: "(Offensive coordinator) John DeFilippo will start to call a play, and then he knows what it is. He can finish it for him. He has a good understanding of the call sheet. He knows on certain plays, 'Hey, if I get pressure, this is the side I'm going to work. If I get quarters coverage, I'm going to go work over here.' He knows what the plays are designed for, and then the next step is identifying the defenses and the protection part of it. All the details of NFL quarterback play, he's so much more on top of this year, just being in Year Two."
After calling Manziel "a midget" last season, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was more diplomatic this week, saying: "If Johnny Manziel is the quarterback, we played him last year. We've seen he's had some opportunity this year in the regular season. Our guys will be aware of that, and we have to adjust on the fly."
Playing out on national television, Thursday's game, airing exclusively on the NFL Network, offers Manziel a chance to redeem his sinking stock since the Texas A&M star was picked up by Cleveland in the first round of last year's draft. Play well, and the Browns might be convinced to hand over the keys and find out what they have in Manziel before the draft.
Unless they already know -- something Billick argued Wednesday.
"I don't have any faith right now that he can be a viable NFL quarterback, but Cleveland needs to find out," Billick said. "And he needs to be in substantive games taking substantive snaps. Well they've missed that opportunity to a degree, and their hesitancy to put him in -- I keep saying they need to have him in to decide. Well, I think they've already decided and know that he is not the guy."