Manziel finds end zone, RG3 doesn’t in Browns-Redskins opener
CLEVELAND — Josh McCown scored on his first preseason possession with Cleveland. Robert Griffin III and Washington’s starters still can’t find the end zone.
McCown threw a touchdown pass in his debut for Cleveland and backup Johnny Manziel scrambled for a TD as the Browns, busting out new uniforms for the first time, built an early lead before losing 20-17 to the Redskins on Thursday night in their exhibition opener.
Signed to stabilize Cleveland’s troublesome position, McCown connected with the wide-open Travis Benjamin on a 2-yard TD in the first quarter.
"He looked lonely, so I threw him the football," McCown said.
Griffin went 4 of 8 passing for 36 yards during two possessions. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon dropped a long toss that would have been a TD.
Kirk Cousins rallied the Redskins, who trailed 14-3 in the second quarter. Cousins ran for a TD and went 12 of 14 for 154 yards.
Washington lost starting tight end Niles Paul to a broken ankle and running back Silas Reed sustained a knee injury.
"I’m sick about it," coach Jay Gruden said of Paul’s season-ending injury. "He means a lot to this team."
McCown, who went just 1-10 as a starter last year with Tampa Bay, completed all five passes in his one series.
Washington’s first-team offense didn’t produce a touchdown in the preseason last year, foreshadowing Griffin’s struggles in his third season.
Griffin has improved in training camp under new quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.
RGIII took a hit in the midsection on one play while rolling away from pressure, but still completed a 22-yard pass.
"You’re going to get hit every now and then," Griffin said. "I thought we did a good job moving the ball. Get in, get out and that’s all you can ask for."
Manziel made a smart play darting 12 yards for his TD. But the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, trying to turn things around after a poor rookie season, stuck to his promise and skipped his signature "money" sign.
TIGHT END TROUBLES
Redskins: In addition to Paul’s injury, TE Je’Ron Hall hurt one of his thighs. Washington was already missing TE Logan Paulsen, recovering from a torn toe ligament.
Browns: WR Marlon Moore injured his ribs in the first half. Before getting hurt, Moore forced a fumble when he wrapped up Washington’s Andre Roberts.
ON THE SIDELINE
Redskins: Starting WR DeSean Jackson sat out with a shoulder injury sustained during training camp. Outside LB Ryan Kerrigan was held out following arthroscopic knee surgery.
Browns: Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Joe Haden both sat out. Thomas, who has never missed a snap in his NFL career, hurt his right leg during practice earlier in the week. Haden has been slowed by a hamstring issue the past week. Terrelle Pryor, attempting to switch from quarterback to wide receiver, didn’t dress because of a lingering hamstring injury.
Redskins: RB Matt Jones ripped off a 23-yard run in the second quarter and finished with 38 yards on five carries. The third-round pick from Florida was checked for a concussion.
Browns: With Thomas out, first-round pick Cam Erving started at left tackle. Erving was called for a holding penalty that was declined.
Redskins: The secondary lost track of Benjamin on Cleveland’s first TD. As McCown bought time, Benjamin crossed the end zone without a defender picking him up.
Browns: CB Justin Gilbert, a major disappointment as a rookie, got beat by Garcon and was lucky the Redskins’ wide receiver couldn’t handle Griffin’s throw. Gilbert was beaten on other completions.
Redskins: Kai Forbath made field goals of 52 and 33 yards.
Browns: Carey Spear converted a 47-yarder in the third quarter. He’s batting Travis Coons for Cleveland’s starting job.
Pettine downplayed the Browns’ interest in running back Ray Rice, suspended and released by Baltimore last year following a domestic violence incident.
"It is premature to talk about that," Pettine said. "We are comfortable with where our room is. I know a lot of people have connected the dots given his circumstances and ours, but it is too early to talk about it."