Daily Focus: Rising expectations for RG III in Cleveland justified?
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Rising expectations for RG III in Cleveland justified? Expectations will have been raised in Cleveland this morning, thanks to two huge throws from Robert Griffin III against the Atlanta Falcons last night. The first came on 1st-and-10 with 7:52 left in the opening quarter, beating the Falcons’ best cornerback in Desmond Trufant to hook up with Terrelle Pryor for a 50-yard touchdown pass. His second touchdown of the night came on 1st-and-10 with 12:40 left in the second quarter, this time finding tight end Gary Barnidge, who had beaten Falcons’ 2016 first-round draft pick, safety Keanu Neal, downfield and caught the ball on his fingertips on his way into the end zone.
Statistically, RG III did a fine job, completing six of the eight passes he attempted, with two touchdowns and an NFL quarterback rating of 154.2, while also rushing for 36 yards on three carries—not bad for 23 snaps of work. We also got a strong glimpse of what the Browns’ offense should look like in the regular season, too, with Griffin throwing two passes traveling more than 20 yards downfield, while three of his throws were behind the line of scrimmage. The Browns have talented playmakers, who at this stage all have a question mark of some form, but HC Hue Jackson looks like he wants to put the ball in their hands early and often.
The Browns’ offense is going to be interesting to watch this year, and the contrast from last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers to this week is something that Browns fans should keep in mind as the season gets under way. Griffin was fantastic last night, but inconsistent the week before, when he completed just one pass that travelled at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He’s had a tumultuous career so far, much of which could be argued wasn’t his fault, but as he grows back into his role of starting quarterback in the NFL, the expectation should be that there will be some incredible highlights, like we saw last night, but also some inconsistency, like was saw against Green Bay. That being said, for a team that has struggled as much as the Browns have for much of their recent history, big plays and a quarterback that can make them more competitive in most games is definitely a step in the right direction.
Steelers in trouble without Big Ben, but not just because of Landry Jones’ four picks: The big story during the games last night was the fact that Pittsburgh Steelers backup Landry Jones threw four interceptions on 20 passing attempts. That doesn’t tell the full story, however, with one of those interceptions coming off of a pass breakup in the end zone, and another coming as a result of Jones being hit as he got rid of the ball. On the night, he completed 12 of the 20 passes he attempted, but three of his four non-intercepted incompletions came as a result of dropped passes, so it wasn’t all bad, though you can’t forgive at least two of those throws.
That being said, the Steelers are in big trouble if Ben Roethlisberger goes down injured, and that’s because of how big the drop-off between him and backups Jones and Bruce Gradkowski is. Roethlisberger was our top-graded quarterback in the entire NFL (including the playoffs) last season; 2015 was his highest-graded season since 2012, and second-best since our first season of grading back in 2006.
Jones saw 121 snaps in the regular season last year, his first regular-season action since entering the league in 2013, and the results were not good. He finished the year with a grade of 49.2 on those 121 snaps. Gradkowski didn’t play at all last season, and has been better than Jones in the past, but his best season since 2006 was 2009, when he earned a grade of 73.5, never getting above 64.3 since then. As with most teams in the NFL, if the Steelers’ elite starting quarterback goes down injured, their backup likely isn’t going to produce anywhere near Roethlisberger’s level.
Big night for Lions WR Marvin Jones against former team: The reports of new Detroit Lions—and former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver—Marvin Jones this offseason have been glowing. When the PFF training camp tour was in town he had a nice day, showing off his skills with a couple of sideline grabs. He caught the only pass thrown his way in the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, and had four receptions for 65 yards last night, the highlight of which was a 32-yard sideline grab early in the first quarter.
Jones was our 38th-highest graded receiver in the NFL last year, with an overall grade of 79.0, but we have seen even better from him, with a grade of 85.2 back in 2013, before he missed all of 2014 due to injury. Outstanding with the ball in his hands, Jones forced 12 missed tackles on 69 receptions last year, and has forced 27 missed tackles on his last 128 receptions. He joins Golden Tate in Detroit, who led all wide receivers with 30 missed tackles on 90 receptions last year, so defensive backs should be on high alert to try to avoid missed tackles when they play the Lions this year.