We don’t know how Robert Griffin III will play when the games count. Every year preseason games produce many results that seem important at the time, and never bear fruit in the regular season.
But it’s possible we’re seeing the start of a cool story. Griffin made a couple nice throws in the Cleveland Browns’ first preseason game. In Cleveland’s second preseason game, he looked really good.
Griffin hit Terrelle Pryor (who might be authoring a great story himself) for a 50-yard touchdown. Then later, Griffin showed nice touch and ball placement on a 29-yard touchdown to tight end Gary Barnidge.
After each touchdown pass Griffin celebrated quickly by himself. He has earned that.
Griffin didn’t play at all last season, stuck on the bench behind Kirk Cousins for the Washington Redskins. Cleveland was probably his only opportunity around the NFL to enter this season as the unquestioned starter, so he signed with the Browns. If he doesn’t take advantage of this chance, his next job will likely be as a backup.
The Browns aren’t expected to do much this season. But at this point in the preseason, they’ve been interesting to watch. Griffin is a fascinating story, and he has looked like a nice find for the Browns.
It’s possible he improves under Browns coach Hue Jackson’s tutelage. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 96 yards in Cleveland’s 24-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and also had 36 yards on three rushing attempts. Pryor beat Damarious Randall, a 2015 first-round pick who had a nice rookie season, for a 49-yard catch last week. On Thursday he beat the Falcons’ Desmond Trufant, one of the best cornerbacks in the league. The former Oakland Raiders quarterback isn’t just mopping up in garbage time against fourth-string corners; he’s beating some of the best defensive backs in the NFL. He might be an exciting player this season. And give Griffin credit for delivering him the ball.
Maybe the Browns finally have a quarterback and they’ll be fun to watch this season. It has been a while since either statement was true.
The Cincinnati Bengals are replacing a lot on offense and might be without tight end Tyler Eifert early in the season as he recovers from ankle surgery. But the offense looked sharp in a 30-14 win against the Detroit Lions.
A.J. Green looked like his normal self with a great jumping catch over the middle. Rookie Tyler Boyd, who got an unexpected start, had a 26-yard catch and a 12-yard touchdown. Jeremy Hill, coming off a disappointing season, looked quick on a couple of runs. He had a 9-yard touchdown, though the Bengals’ offensive line deserved a lot of credit for burying the Lions’ front seven on the play. Andy Dalton finished 7-of-9 for 78 yards as he tries to repeat his fantastic 2015 season.
The Bengals have established themselves as one of the NFL’s best teams (before the playoffs, at least), and still have a lot of pieces in place. But losing receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency, and the uncertainty with Eifert, leaves them with some questions on offense. It didn’t look so bad on Thursday night though.
We know that Eddie Lacy is in good enough shape to carry the Green Bay Packers if called upon, for at least one long drive.
Lacy was given nine carries on the opening drive of the Packers’ 20-12 win over the Oakland Raiders, a large amount even in games that count. The good news is, he looked fantastic.
Lacy, coming off a 2015 in which he was overweight and drew plenty of criticism for it, had 45 yards on those nine carries. He broke a 20-yard run with a nice burst through a big hole. He cut hard and finished drives. He converted a third-and-2 and a third-and-goal. And at the end of the drive, he went over the pile and pushed his way into the end zone for a touchdown.
He looked like he did his first two seasons with the Packers.
Lacy’s night was done after his workhorse drive, but he proved his point. He ran hard no matter how many times the Packers called his number. His weight loss this offseason was a huge story — and yes, when you watch the Packers you spend a good deal of time trying to ascertain if Lacy is in good shape (it’s hard to tell with all the pads he wears) — and it seems like he’s seeing the results.
If the Packers get the Lacy from Thursday night, their run game should be fine.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings: Tyler Lockett played well late in his rookie season last year, and he seems poised to be a big part of the Seahawks’ offense this year. He had an 8-yard catch early in Seattle’s first drive and then a deep 31-yard catch over veteran cornerback Terence Newman later in the possession.
New England Patriots 23, Chicago Bears 22: LeGarrette Blount looked a lot better in New England’s second preseason game. He had 69 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. With Jimmy Garoppolo set to start the first four games, the Patriots will probably run a little more than usual. They need Blount to be a big part of that.
Philadelphia Eagles 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 0: The Pittsburgh Steelers can’t feel too good about Landry Jones as their No. 2 quarterback after Thursday night. Jones started for Ben Roethlisberger — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin held out all his key offensive starters — and threw four first-half interceptions. Ouch. Many of the interceptions were bad decisions or poorly thrown, like his first one that was returned by Nolan Carroll for a touchdown. Bruce Gradkowski is out for a while with a torn hamstring, so the Steelers don’t have many other options. They need to hope Roethlisberger doesn’t miss any time.
• Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman looked like he did at his peak in 2015. He was fast and decisive against the Browns. He had 42 yards on four carries, with an impressive 19-yard touchdown run. He squeezed through the line and used his power and speed to get to the corner of the end zone. Freeman wore down a bit in the second half of last season, but on Thursday he looked fresh and ready for the regular season.
• While Landry Jones looked bad for the Steelers, the Eagles’ defense deserves credit for picking him off four times and getting a shutout. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is good at devising a defense, and the Eagles’ defense has looked strong through the first two preseason games.
• The Detroit Lions’ starting offense had a good first drive, though it stalled close to the goal line and ended in a field goal. Matthew Stafford looked sharp, hitting Anquan Boldin and Golden Tate early in the drive and then completing three straight passes to new acquisition Marvin Jones. Stafford, who played very well in the second half of last season, was 8 of 11 for 113 yards against the Bengals and spread the ball around well.
• Shaun Hill got a surprise start at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater practiced all week and there was no indication he wouldn’t start, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press said, but then Hill got the start instead at Seattle. The Vikings said sitting Bridgewater was a coach’s decision.
• It’s just the preseason and new coach Doug Pederson isn’t going to use his full playbook, but the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense has looked very conservative at times this preseason. Aside from a 22-yard, leaping catch by Nelson Agholor, almost all of quarterback Sam Bradford’s passes were barely beyond the line of scrimmage. Perhaps it’s a stripped-down version of Pederson’s offense we’re seeing before the regular season.
• The Oakland Raiders are another offense that hasn’t shown much this preseason. Quarterback Derek Carr had a surprisingly quiet night, completing 9 of 13 passes for only 38 yards, with one interception. The Raiders’ offense should be fine, with a lot of skill position talent and Carr coming off his second season in which he barely missed 4,000 yards passing, but it has been sluggish early in the preseason.
• Jeremy Langford was the Bears’ best threat on Thursday. He had 55 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, and showed nice open-field moves on a 34-yard run. Langford played OK as a rookie last season, and is now in line to replace Matt Forte as the Bears’ starter. He looked ready for that role on Thursday night.
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