Alouettes regrouping after Manziel’s ugly CFL debut

Johnny Manziel reacts after throwing an interception.Johnny Manziel’s CFL debut last Friday drew the highest TV ratings of any CFL game this year, but his performance didn’t live up to the hype. Manziel threw four interceptions in the first half and was eventually benched as the Montreal Alouettes continued to struggle on both sides of the ball. If Manziel is hoping to turn his stint in Canada into a second chance at the NFL, he will need to improve as he becomes more familiar with Montreal’s playbook and the pace of the CFL in general.

Manziel was traded to Montreal by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who handed the Alouettes their Week 8 loss, dropping them to a league-worst 1-6. Any hope that Manziel would be an instant boost to Montreal’s lagging offense was dashed on his first passing play, which he threw into the arms of a Tiger-Cats defender. Manziel couldn’t be blamed for his second pick - a light toss after evading a sack that bounced off the fingertips of his receiver - but the third and fourth interceptions suggested he was having trouble gaging the timing of his receivers’ runs, with an underthrow and an overthrow both resulting in turnovers.

The Alouettes have plenty of problems beyond quarterback: the offensive line is ineffective, and their backfield is forgettable, while on defense the secondary was practically non-existent during Hamilton’s big early touchdown plays last Friday. But adding Manziel was seen as a way for Montreal to start its turnaround, and any success is expected to stem from his actions on the field. For Manziel, this could be the last real opportunity he gets to prove he can be a professional quarterback, and he spent the last week at practice focused on learning the details of the Canadian game after showing flashes of what made him such a special player in college.

Manziel’s slippery scrambling and his ability to throw long while on the run are both tremendous assets on the CFL’s wider field, and he showed how by evading Hamilton’s pass rushers on numerous occasions. He is expected to be Montreal’s starting quarterback again on Saturday against the East Division leading Ottawa Redblacks, which isn’t likely to draw as many curious eyeballs as his debut, but does promise to be a better performance featuring a more refined Manziel. After four picks in his debut, he definitely set the bar low enough.