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Friday, April 16, 2021

Johnny Manziel, Andy Dalton face off Thursday in Cincinnati

Johnny Manziel is getting another shot at Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Thursday night’s showdown (7 p.m. NFL Network) of Texas-bred quarterbacks – Manziel is from Tyler and played at Texas A&M, Dalton hails from Katy and starred at TCU – will be a rematch: Manziel’s first NFL start came against Cincinnati last season, a game the Bengals won 30-0.

Manziel is getting the start in Cincinnati this week because Cleveland’s Josh McCown is sidelined with injured ribs. McCown was unable to practice on Tuesday night and on Wednesday Browns coach Mike Pettine announced the decision to start Manziel.

“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 this 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 2-6 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 highly 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.

Dalton, meanwhile, has led the Bengals to a 7-0 record while completing 66.2 percent of his passes (153-231) for 1,992 yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also has two running touchdowns.

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