Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III had an uneven preseason debut last week, but he looked much sharper last night, completing six of just eight pass attempts for 96 yards and two touchdowns, including a 50-yard touchdown to Terrelle Pryor. He also added 36 yards on three rush attempts. Both of his touchdowns came in the form of explosive plays.
The Browns offense got things off on the wrong foot with a three-and-out, but Griffin stayed in for three more drives, and managed to put the ball into the end zone twice during that span, within the first 18 minutes of the game.
While new head coach Hue Jackson belabored the responsibility of naming a starting quarterback through much of the offseason, he did not wait very long into training camp to give Griffin that honor over Josh McCown and rookie Cody Kessler, a third-round pick, ahead of their first preseason game.
The former second-overall draft pick has had a tumultuous NFL experience since leading the Redskins to a rare playoff berth his rookie season. He was forced to sit on the bench for all of the 2015 season, and then signed a two-year, $12 million contract as he looks to turn his career back in the right direction.
The first preseason game offered mixed results, including an interception thrown in the red zone, but last night’s performance was certainly much more encouraging, as should go without saying, and he showed better pocket presence overall.
He also showed the good sense to slide on the time that he took off running, which had been a criticism of his game in the past, and which has resulted in an injury or two that sidelined him. He faked a handoff to take the ball around the left end for a 22-yard gain to begin one drive, and slid to give himself up before two defenders converged on him.
While Griffin’s offseason performance during the spring drew mixed reviews, his deep ball has apparently been consistently a part of his arsenal, and he has shown that through his first two preseason games with multiple long completions to Pryor, and with a 29-yard touchdown strike to his tight end last night.
He also appears to have developed enough of a rapport with Pryor and first-round draft pick Corey Coleman to allay fears of the offense struggling with communication breakdowns in the early goings of the season.
Whether or not Griffin succeeds in Cleveland’s offense will be one of the most interesting storylines to follow in the division. His has certainly been an up and down journey, and he currently finds himself at a crossroads.
Of course, the Browns themselves are also at a crucial moment, with what they now hope is the regime that will actually take them to the next level and actually produce a winning season. Griffin will not be able to do that alone, and they have their share of issues to work out before the season starts.