September 26, 2018

The Weekly Say: Grading Manziel’s first three starts

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — There are still plenty of questions when it comes to Johnny Manziel.

Three starts into his CFL career Manziel has flashed some of the same potential that once made him a first-round NFL Draft pick. On the other hand, the Alouettes’ new starting pivot has yet to find the end zone, throwing five interceptions in the process — albeit only one over his last two starts.

There have been ‘wow’ moments, many of them coming from his ability to escape the constant pressure he’s been under. The completion to B.J. Cunningham comes to mind, where he rolled out to his left and threw a strike to the receiver along the sideline, eventually setting up a short-yardage touchdown by Antonio Pipkin.

And there have been moments of frustration, like a late game-clinching interception last week, or two other miscues — one a near-interception and the other a fumble negated by penalty — that would have been all over the highlights had they counted.

Depending on who you ask, Manziel’s trajectory in the three-down game is significantly varied. Some will tell you the sky is the limit, while others believe he’ll be out of the league as early as next year.

Through three starts, how do we grade out Johnny Manziel? More in The Weekly Say.

Progress Report: How would you grade Johnny Manziel‘s first three starts?

Last week’s loss to Winnipeg dropped Johnny Manziel to 0-3 as a CFL starting pivot (The Canadian Press)

Don Landry: I’d grade Manziel out at about a C+, overall, and getting better. His first outing, against Hamilton was a disaster, obviously, for a number of reasons. Showed a little better against Ottawa before being injured and then gave us more to believe in during last week’s loss to Winnipeg. Trending upward.

Marshall Ferguson: C+. Expectations might have been too high based on his situation and that hurts his grade, but this is more about what surrounds Johnny than his ability to make individual plays.

Jim Morris: I’d give him a C. I think last week he showed his mobility and ability to make throws. I think he’s still trying to get comfortable with the Canadian game, the different defences and larger field. A better offensive line would help but he also needs to make better decisions.

Matthew Cauz: I am not going to go the easy route and say “incomplete” so I’ll go with a C-. He looked totally unprepared in his first start, got injured in his second and was sacked five times by the Blue Bombers. Oh, and he has yet to throw a touchdown pass. Based on those past two sentences it feels like I am being kind with my grade, but have the Alouettes really put him in a position to succeed? His failures fall on so many doorsteps and he did have some moments against the Bombers, so I’m sticking with my C-.

Chris O’Leary: D+. The grade is mostly results-based. To me, if you’re starting, you should be ready and capable of producing for your team. Manziel hasn’t thrown a touchdown in three games and he’s 0-3. He has looked better in each of his games and the talent on the field with him (or any Als QB) should be considered when trying to determine how good he actually is, but I wonder if he’d be a starter on any other team in the league right now.

Jamie Nye: D-. The only reason it isn’t an F is due to the fact that I see improvement and a little more confidence through the first three starts. Manziel didn’t go through camp with Montreal, then the concussion, then the flu. It’s been a lot of roadblocks to him getting his feet under him in Montreal and I think we’re starting to see it.

Fan Poll
How would you grade Johnny Manziel's early progress as a starter?
A- to A+
B- to B+
C- to C+
D- to D+

True or False: The REDBLACKS are a legitimate Grey Cup contender.

Trevor Harris and the REDBLACKS offence are heating up after back-to-back wins (Arthur Ward/

Nye: TRUE! They are now in control in the East Division and with home field in the Eastern Final, it’s proven to pay off the last two seasons. They’ve also just beaten Edmonton and Saskatchewan back to back. A running back like William Powell in the post-season is going to pay off huge as he can take over a game.

Morris: True: In the CFL East, no team is out of Grey Cup contention.

Cauz: True. They have a clear identity on offence with Harris throwing to Sinopoli and Ellingson and Powell running the ball. On the other side of the ball Ottawa has a top-three defence.

Landry: Tralse. My answer is tralse. I just have no real idea what to make of the Ottawa REDBLACKS right now and don’t at all feel comfortable trying to size them up. At times they’ve looked formidable, including this past weekend against Edmonton. Games like that make you lean to “true.”At other times, they’ve been horrible (that night in Toronto), so false. Who are they? I really don’t know right now.

O’Leary: True. Well, no…false. Maybe true. I think? I find it hard to put my faith in a team that doesn’t have a consistent offence at this point in the season. But when that offence is there, Ottawa looks very tough to stop.

Ferguson: False. Until they show consistency I’m not a believer.

Fan Poll
Are the REDBLACKS a legitimate contender?

Jonathon Jennings’ performance against the Ticats was _____.

With Travis Lulay sidelined, Jonathon Jennings came through in the clutch for the Lions (The Canadian Press)

Cauz: Tempting. Damn, I am so tempted to bang out a 1,500 word “Look out CFL, 2016 Jonathon Jennings is back!” column. Hamilton has a damn good defence, yet Jennings dummied them late in the game when it counted the most. But I’m going to show some restraint and wait a couple weeks before I jump back on this bandwagon.

O’Leary: A throwback. If the Lions can get that type of play from Jennings, they’ll have a tough decision to make when Travis Lulay is ready to return.

Nye: Reassuring for Lions fans…. frightening for the opponents. Jonathon Jennings was lacking one thing over the last year and a half. Confidence. That comeback performance, and some of the tough throws he made, should only build confidence for Jennings, who, with the backing of a stronger defence, could do some damage down the stretch.

Landry: Just what he and the Lions needed. Jennings needed a night like that to reclaim his confidence. The Lions needed to see that he can be the man if Travis Lulay can’t get back and remain in uniform the rest of the way. With a defence like BC’s, all they need is a decent offence and Jennings’ outing against Hamilton showed he can give them at least that.

Morris: Flashes of his vintage self. Now he has to keep doing it for the rest of the season.

Ferguson: Timely. The placement on some of those throws on the last drive were incredible.

Fan Poll
Is the old Jonathon Jennings back?
Yes, and he's here to stay
No, still need to see more