CLEVELAND — Johnny Manziel’s getting another shot at the Bengals.
With Josh McCown nursing injured ribs, the Browns will start Manziel at quarterback Thursday night when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals.
Manziel made his first NFL start last season against Cincinnati, losing 30-0 while being chased, roughed up and taunted by the Bengals
Now, he’s facing one of the league’s four remaining unbeaten teams on short notice.
McCown was unable to practice on Tuesday night because of his ribs and Browns coach Mike Pettine announced the decision to start Manziel on Wednesday before the team left for Cincinnati.
“On the short week we realized that Josh just wasn’t going to be able to get to the point where he could go,” Pettine said. “Johnny has worked hard to prepare himself. He is excited about his opportunity and we are all looking forward to the challenge we face in a good Bengals football team.”
McCown played through severe pain in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Arizona. The 36-year-old said Tuesday he was having difficulty breathing and sleeping because of his ribs. If he’s not able to play at all, the Browns will have third-string QB Austin Davis active against the Bengals.
This will be the second start this season for Manziel, who won against Tennessee in Week 2 when McCown was sidelined with a concussion. Manziel replaced McCown late in the second half the past two weeks.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, who is also being investigated by the NFL for a recent domestic dispute, will be able to show a prime-time TV audience his improvement since his rookie season. The Browns have been pleased with Manziel’s dedication and progress following a rough first year, which was followed by a lengthy stay in a rehab facility.
Manziel won his only start this season, completing 8 of 15 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-14 win over the Titans. Manziel, though, fumbled twice on plays where he was under pressure.
His starting debut against the Bengals last season couldn’t have gone worse. He passed for just 80 yards, threw two interceptions and endured some taunts from Bengals defenders, who relished the chance to take down the hyped QB.
Pettine said Manziel has come a long way since that performance.
“He’s a different player,” Pettine said. “I just think we’ve all seen it from going back to the amount of work in the spring to training camp.
“When the rush became live, I think that’s where you saw that he made his biggest improvement with his demeanor in the pocket. That it wasn’t as frenetic, that his feet were calm.
“I just think he has a really good understanding of what we’re doing, understands the plays, what’s designed for what. All the intricate details, he has a much better grasp of and it’s shown when he’s been out there.”
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