Robert Griffin III's two touchdowns highlight second-game growth
CLEVELAND -- Robert Griffin III provided needed relief for the Cleveland Browns in their second preseason game.
After a blasé opener, Griffin had a second game full of life. In five first-half possessions, Griffin had two touchdown passes -- 50 yards to Terrelle Pryor and 29 to Gary Barnidge.
Amidst all the discussion about Griffin's skills or lack thereof, one that can't be argued about is his ability to throw the deep ball. His arm strength and touch make that one of his better skills, and he showed that ability on both throws Thursday night in a 24-13 Browns loss.
The 50-yard TD pass allowed Pryor to race past Desmond Trufant for the catch. The 29-yarder to Barnidge down the sideline was a perfectly thrown ball that only Barnidge could catch and only a strong-armed quarterback could throw.
Robert Griffin III looked more at ease on Friday than he did last week, throwing two long touchdown passes. AP Photo/Ron Schwane
The play required distance and touch. Griffin provided both.
Griffin's performance does not signal he's back to his rookie form, but it was no mirage either. He took needed positive steps from Game 1 to Game 2. He did not turn the ball over, threw and ran well, and scored two touchdowns.
This was a game he -- and the Browns -- needed.
QB depth chart: It would take a front-end loader to upset this depth chart. Hue Jackson commits to a quarterback and stays committed to him until there's no longer a reason to do so. Game 2 had to be a pick-me-up, as Griffin looked good, played poised and showed that he can be effective as a runner and passer. His 132 total yards in the first half were 83 percent of the Browns' offense.
Maybe that player could start: Rookie defensive lineman Carl Nassib has this thing he does -- he makes plays. Given opportunities, Nassib takes advantage. He's around the ball, pressures the quarterback and plays a smart game. And he does it after missing the entire offseason. Nassib is quiet and largely unnoticed -- until he plays in games. Consider the third quarter, when on a third down Nassib provided a strip sack that turned the ball over. Nassib sacked Matt Simms, forced the fumble and then recovered.
Who got hurt? Rahim Moore left the game and was evaluated for a concussion on a play in which he was penalized 15 yards. Other than that, the Browns reported no injuries. Receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman were both in uniform, but did not play. Them dressing out might indicate that both will be on the field next week when the Browns practice in Tampa Bay, and perhaps even play in the third preseason game.
A surprise player who impressed: The Browns acquired cornerback Jamar Taylor on the final day of the draft. Taylor was a second-round pick in Miami in 2013 but never worked out with the Dolphins. The Browns hope a change of scenery would help him, and it appears it has. Taylor was active against Atlanta, breaking up a third-down throw and providing tight coverage. Taylor's emergence means he has supplanted K'Waun Williams as the team's nickelback. If Taylor keeps playing like he has been, he could well push for the starting spot held by Tramon Williams.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked ... : Much better than in Game 1. Griffin had two touchdown passes, and the defense held the Falcons scoreless after Atlanta completed a TD drive on its first possession. A game that started poorly on both sides of the ball turned into a 13-7 lead thanks to Griffin's touch on deep throws and better play from the defense. This was a step forward for a team that needed a positive step after a blah opener.
One reason to be concerned: Late in the first half, Cameron Erving sailed a snap so high over Griffin's head that all he could do was turn and chase it down. This has been a disturbing pattern. In a practice a little over a week ago, Erving had two snaps fly over Griffin's head and two that Griffin had to leap to catch. In the preseason opener, he had two high snaps Griffin had to leap to grab. Griffin might not have touched the errant snap Thursday with a stepladder. In a game that matters, that kind of a snap could be very damaging.
Defensive concerns: Atlanta's first-team offense opened with a 71-yard touchdown drive. In the first half, the Falcons had 234 yards of total offense -- though 75 came on the Falcons' final possession with backups in the game. Griffin's production on offense made the numbers less impactful, but the coaches won't like the numbers. Atlanta eventually ran 79 plays and totaled 498 yards, which shows the oddity of preseason. Atlanta won going away, but the Browns had to feel good about what they saw from Griffin in the first half.
Sweet revenge: Pryor was flagged for a 15-yard personal-foul penalty early in the game after he and Truant got into a tussle. That Pryor later beat Truant for a touchdown reception later made him feel good. "Me and Trufant, we were battling and mouthing back and forth," Pryor said in quotes distributed by the team. "It was good because he hit me on the first play, and it was good to get back at him. I’m a competitive guy."