Could RG3 be losing his footing as Redskins' starting QB?
AUG 24, 2014 2:15a ET
It has been a rocky start for Robert Griffin III.
While the Redskins’ first-team offense continues to search for its first trip inside the opponent’s end zone this preseason, Griffin displayed old tendencies in a 23-17 loss against the Ravens on Saturday night. It didn’t startle head coach Jay Gruden after the game, though.
"I feel confident about where he is," Gruden said, via the team’s Twitter account.
Griffin, whose five of six drives ended in either a turnover or punt, had a non-descript outing, completing 5-of-8 passes for 20 yards and an interception.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound sprinter-turned-quarterback was also sacked three times by a relentless Ravens defense. What’s most concerning, though, is how the sacks happened.
Marching deep inside Ravens’ territory on the team’s first series, Griffin noticed his first read was blanketed in coverage and rolled right. Ravens rookie cornerback Terrence Brooks, who one play earlier intercepted an RG3-pass but it was negated by a defensive penalty, tested Griffin’s speed and forced him out of bounds.
Griffin’s second sack came on a similar play in the second quarter, when he recognized good coverage and bailed right. This time, Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan took a good pursuit angle and ushered Griffin out of bounds.
The bright spots were there, but they were few and far between.
On the Redskins’ final offensive series of the first half, Griffin telegraphed a pass in DeSean Jackson’s direction. If not for an offsides call, cornerback Dominique Franks had a chance at a pick-6. The drive ended miserably as the offensive line collapsed and Griffin was sacked again.
After Griffin opened up the second half with an interception, Gruden opted for backup quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Cousins’ showing wasn’t perfect, but he did seem to bring a spark to the unit, orchestrating a 13-play, 81-yard scoring drive which was capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss.
Cousins’ two-touchdown performance against the Ravens’ backup defense surely won’t open internal discussions about a potential quarterback change, but he did appear to be the more polished pocket passer, which reports indicated earlier this month.
Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann articulated his opinion on the subject during the telecast.
“Let’s stop beating around the bush,” Theismann said, via The Washington Post. “Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has. Now, Robert is learning to work out of a pocket. He doesn’t look as smooth or as comfortable throwing the football. I mean, your eyes will tell you everything you need to know.
“It’s going to be a decision that Jay Gruden is going to have to make,” Theismann said. “Right now, Robert Griffin III is his quarterback. Now, if there was a quarterback competition, it wouldn’t be a competition. Kirk Cousins would be the man I believe he would have to go to, because of the efficiency with which he has run [the offense]. Now Kirk, like I said, is basically a drop-back quarterback. I see Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, I see Kirk Cousins that way. …”
While Griffin opened himself up to unnecessary criticism this past week for his offerings on Twitter, his play on the field didn’t do much to quiet his doubters.
All it took for the Bills’ starters to score their first touchdown of the preseason was to face another team’s backups.
After painfully struggling for the entire first half, quarterback EJ Manuel was able to shred the Bucs’ second-team defense in the third quarter of Saturday’s 27-14 loss. While it’s a sign of progress, the Bills were a mess for their first seven drives, mustering just 59 total yards.
“We’ve got to execute,” head coach Doug Marrone said, via the team’s transcript. “We’re not getting beat physically. What we’re doing is not executing well.”
A new-look offensive line, with the addition of left tackle Cordy Glenn, looked to find its bearings. While rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins was held out for precautionary reasons, turnovers and penalties stalled drives and Manuel heard the groans from an unhappy home field.
While the slippery playing surface can be used as an excuse for Manuel’s first interception, he was inaccurate and erratic for most of the game. Manuel missed on more than a few throws, but it also didn’t help that the offensive line was out of sync. The most alarming issue is Manuel not connecting on very basic throws.
Running back CJ Spiller appeared dejected on a screen play, which was negated by an illegal block in the back. Spiller, though, wasn’t perfect, either. Aside from an 18-yard run up the middle, he finished the first half with just seven carries for nine yards. Also, on the second drive of the game, Spiller caught a short pass and the ball was jarred free by Bucs linebacker Lavonte David for Buffalo’s second turnover.
Later in the first half, Manuel had nowhere to go with a pass and was swallowed up for a sack by Bucs defenders Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn. To make matters worse, Manuel fumbled the ball and Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scooped up the ball for a score. It was a painful watch to say the least.
For the Bucs, they were able to capitalize on their short fields.
The Bucs’ passing game is built on creating mismatches and quarterback Josh McCown did a good job diagnosing them.
When Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes covered speedy Doug Martin on a circle route in the first quarter, McCown pulled the trigger, connecting with his running back to set up a score. McCown’s highlight of the first half was noticing cornerback Ron Brooks defending rookie wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans put a quick move on Brooks and blew past him on the route. McCown dropped in a 26-yard pass for the score.
When the Falcons selected offensive tackle Jake Matthews with the No. 6 overall pick in this past NFL Draft, they weren’t anticipating he’d be protecting quarterback Matt Ryan’s blindside in his rookie season. Offensive tackle Sam Baker’s torn patellar tendon changed things, though.
One week after Baker sustained his catastrophic injury, Matthews made his first start at left tackle.
For the most part, it was a very strong performance. Matthews, who was flagged for holding and a false start in the first quarter, did his part to allow Ryan enough time to throw two scores in the Falcons’ 24-17 loss against the Titans. One score was hauled in by wide receiver Devin Hester, who finished with four catches for 56 yards and a score.
Credited with allowing two sacks, Matthews was challenged by a strong inside move via defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Later, backup quarterback TJ Yates, still learning the nuances of the offense, rolled left and ran into the arms of a Titans defender for the other sack.
There’s a lot to like about Matthews, who was celebrated as the most pro-ready tackle entering the league this year.
Now, he must master his craft as he’ll face the opposition’s most fierce pass-rushing threat each week.
Whose job is it anyway?
Bridgewater, whose first series began inside the Chiefs’ red zone, threw an 8-yard strike to tight end Allen Reisner for a touchdown. Then, after a 75-yard punt return via Vikings’ Adam Thielen, Bridgewater completed a 5-yard pass to Reisner for another touchdown.
It’s a small sample size, but after Bridgewater’s two-minute comeback last week against the Cardinals, the questions will continue to linger.
It does appear, though, that it’s Cassel’s job to lose, if playing time is any indicator.
Cassel, earning two-and-a-half quarters of work with the first team, zipped a perfectly placed pass into the hands of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for a touchdown in the first quarter.
A turnover-happy Chiefs squad couldn’t replicate the same type of success Minnesota had between its two-headed monster at quarterback.
Workload increases for Tony Romo
Tony Romo followed up his preseason debut with another encouraging performance in a 25-20 loss to the Dolphins.
While the Cowboys quarterback didn’t pilot any series that led to touchdowns, he showed comfort in the pocket and made accurate passes to his receivers.
However, Romo didn’t attempt any challenging throws down the field. Eight months removed from major back surgery, it has been widely noted that Romo has struggled with his deep-ball accuracy during training camp.
Romo’s 10-of-18 performance for 87 yards did feature plenty of slant and hitch routes. Recognizing off-coverage, Romo’s bread-and-butter play has become a 10-yard back-shoulder, timing pass with wide receiver Dez Bryant. The two have perfected it and it should be relied upon as he works back to regain his full health. Facing a furious Dolphins’ pass rush, Romo was drilled in the back by Olivier Vernon but got to his feet.
Romo lasted one half and it was another step in the right direction for the Cowboys’ franchise quarterback.
That’s Mr. Manziel to you
Manziel, of course, was playing against the Rams’ second-team defense, but he showed an ability to ignite the offense with his on-target ball placement and attention-grabbing scrambling.
Hoyer might be the starter, but Manziel will eventually be the finisher in this QB battle.
New Orleans in postseason form
Brees, who has been sidelined with an oblique injury, needed only three drives to put 14 points on the scoreboard.
While the Saints offense is in for another explosive season, make sure to take note of a takeaway-savvy secondary on defense. Safety Kenny Vaccaro is quietly contending for a Defensive Player of the Preseason Award, if there was such a thing.