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Johnny Manziel a 'nightmare' to defend, Whitner says

The last time we saw Johnny Manziel in extended action, the rookie quarterback was overwhelmed by the speed of the NFL game in a deflating preseason showing.

After watching Manziel operate the Browns' scout team for 14 weeks, safety Donte Whitner told NFL Media's Albert Breer that Cleveland's new starter is a "nightmare" to defend.

"You see him being Johnny Football," Whitner added. "You don't see him trying to duplicate anybody's quarterbacking style, just sitting in the pocket. If something's not right, you see him using his instincts and his intangibles, breaking the pocket. That's where I can see growth."

Two Browns veterans also relayed to NFL Media's Aditi Kinkhabwala that the biggest difference between then and now is that Manziel has "become a pro."

Manziel has one advantage over Brian Hoyer in that No. 1 receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, both Pro Bowl selections in 2013, are healthy after missing 10 and six games, respectively.

Gordon is looking forward to working with Manziel after struggling to get on the same page with Hoyer the past couple of weeks.

"I think he's got enough, he's got what we need right now to move forward and pull off these last three wins," Gordon told Breer. "He's willing to do anything, extend a play, and make something out of nothing. That mindset isn't in everybody. A lot of guys will quit, take a sack or throw the ball away. That's not what he does."

Even in a season in which running quarterbacks have struggled to develop as passers, there's reason for hope that Manziel can inject life into the Browns' moribund offense on a short-term basis.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan noted last offseason that Manziel is "very similar" to Robert Griffin III, who authored the best rookie season by a quarterback in NFL history with Shanahan's help in unfurling a masterpiece of an offense that borrowed heavily from RGIII's Baylor scheme.

Breer confirms that the creative Shanahan has already incorporated elements of Manziel's Texas A&M offense, which could throw defenses for a loop over the next three weeks.

If this week's signs out of Cleveland are to believe, Browns fans will see a different "Johnny Football" than the one who was clearly not ready for prime time in August.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews the Week 15 schedule and recaps the Cardinals' win over the Rams. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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