Saturday night was the official beginning of this year's celebration of the sport we call football. Why? Because the man that wears No. 2 finally took the field on national television. That man is Johnny Manziel.
What's the difference between the SEC defenses Manziel faced weekly in college and the second-team defense of the Lions that Manziel faced tonight? Honestly, I wouldn't be able to tell you. And what was the difference between the receivers that Johnny Football utilized tonight and Texas A&M's former wideouts Mike Evans and Ryan Swope? Well, that difference was the difference for Manziel.
Just like when he was at A&M, Johnny Football moved the ball, he escaped from the pocket and even used his legs like he did against Duke in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl several months ago. As we all know, it's hard to take much from a preseason game. But for Johnny, there were positives. He committed zero turnovers, scrambled from the pocket and made sure to slide, and converted a drive for a score (albeit a field goal). He operated behind a line that was abysmal and his receivers' inability to look for the ball, rather than just catch it, was bad. With starters such as Josh Gordon -- who played even with his looming year-long suspension due to marijuana usage -- Manziel's seven completions turn into nine, easily. Even with all that, Manziel was semi-successful.
What about former South Carolina quarterback and Browns rookie Connor Shaw? Did you watch him play at all? I'll be honest, that's a trick question. For some wacky reason, the Browns failed to play Connor Shaw and went with ol' Tyler Thigpen who wasn't able to lead the Browns to a score on the final drive. And yes, I watched until the bitter end. The first time and last time I'll ever watch a preseason game in its entirety, and former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore probably influenced that as he surgically led the Lions to a game-winning drive to win 13-12.
In other former quarterback news, Zach Mettenberger made his debut last night in Nashville for the Tennessee Titans -- although, his confrontation with the Alabama fan at the bar the other night might've been better than this one against the Packers. The former LSU quarterback turned in a less-than-stellar outing for the Tennessee Titans as he completed four out of seven passes for 87 yards, including a horrific interception, wrapping up week one of the NFL preseason.
So what players have impressed so far? Here are five rookies that impressed me in week one:
- Blake Bortles (UCF, No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft to the Jaguars): As many hoped, Bortles looks to be the guy in Jacksonville. His talents were on display as he distributed the ball to multiple receivers, throwing for 117 yards and leading his team to a 16-10 win. And wins for the Jaguars are always a good thing, preseason or not.
- Lache Seastrunk (Baylor, 186th pick in the NFL Draft to the Redskins): Now, people might or might not know this guy. After transferring from Oregon, Seastrunk was pretty solid for the Baylor Bears if you disregard his injuries. His burst of speed and strength through tackles allowed his name to float around preseason Heisman talks, even though nothing panned out. In his first preseason game, Seastrunk carried the ball 12 times for 63 yards and was a weapon for the Redskins the entire night.
- Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois, 62nd pick in the NFL Draft to the Patriots): What impressed me about this guy was his awareness and leadership. Garoppolo threw for 157 yards and converted the only Patriots touchdown as they lost, 23-6. With the Patriots, we always talk about the replacement for Tom Brady, and with Garoppolo's precision and ability to stand in the pocket and throw the ball across the field, he looked to be that guy.
- Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt, 42nd pick in the NFL Draft to the Eagles): Did we expect anything different from Jordan Matthews? He's been a winner everywhere he has been and is your typical down-to-down receiver in the NFL. He wasn't able to score touchdowns or garner that long reception, but his four catches for 14 yards was enough for me as to his progression to the big stage.
- Michael Sam (Missouri, 249th pick in the NFL Draft to the Rams): Now, this might or might not be a popular pick among many, but Sam did impress. I know this is considered a sentimental pick, but as much as Jadaveon Clowney was displaying his ability to get in the backfield and get to the quarterback, Sam matched that pound for pound. Take it for what it's worth, but I think Sam really impressed the Rams.