When the Washington Redskins gave up three draft picks (first rounders in 2013 and 2014 and second rounder in 2012) just to move up four slots and select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick, I was very skeptic.
Throughout the offseason, in fact, I have admittedly been skeptic of this move by the Redskins front office. There’s no doubt Griffin is a great quarterback who will be a solid professional, and was the second-best QB in the 2012 draft class. I just didn’t see how giving up three high draft picks would allow the Skins offense to succeed immediately.
Would they be able to build a potent offense around him without those two first round picks in 2013 and 2014? That was my biggest question.
But after watching Griffin tear New Orleans’ defense a new one (albeit without defensive captain Jonathan Vilma) yesterday afternoon, throwing for 320 yards and two TDs with guys such as Pierre Garcon, Aldrick Robinson and rookie running back Alfred Morris as the offense around him, RGIII has me second guessing myself.
No one is more excited than Washington fans, who have struggled at the quarterback position for years, maybe even a couple of decades. The Skins have not had a capable quarterback since at least Mark Rypien and Doug Williams in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s been long overdue for the people in D.C., and maybe. Just maybe. Griffin and Mike Shanahan’s Redskin offense can defy my criticism and compete in the East this season. Although, it’s just one game, and I will continue to stand by my statement (that Washington will sit in last place by season’s end) until RGIII further proves himself.
Griffin trumped the remaining rookie quarterbacks yesterday, by far. Andrew Luck, who’s supposed to be the most pro-ready, quarterbacked the Colts to two scoring drives but threw three picks in a 41-21 loss to Chicago’s Jay Cutler. Luck did manage to top 300 yards and put the ball into the end zone (four-yard TD pass to Donnie Avery in the fourth), but Luck only managed to complete 23 of his 45 pass attempts and never really demonstrated poise in the pocket and a strong throwing arm.
Chicago’s stout defense ate him up for three sacks and a lost fumble, in addition to those three picks. For Luck, it was certainly a forgettable game, as it was for the other three rookie signal callers: Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson.
Tannehill, the No. 8 overall pick of the Dolphins, was stuck with an unfortunate situation much like Luck, facing a very tenacious Houston defense. Tannehill really didn’t stand a chance, being sacked three times and intercepted three additional times in a 30-10 defeat on the road.
Weeden, Cleveland’s 28-year old No. 22 overall pick, had a showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles and, despite a porous performance under center (12/35, 118 yards, 4 INTs) fell just short of upsetting Michael Vick’s Eagles. Vick threw four interceptions himself, so of course Weeden got a little help from the defense in this one, but even if the Browns had pulled off a victory, Weeden’s four interception day would still not be anything to celebrate.
The fifth and final rookie quarterback to suit up for his respective team this weekend was Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who was taking on the Cardinals. Arizona, in a 20-16 victory, had a little quarterback trouble of their own with starter John Skelton coming down with what has been announced a “low ankle sprain” (timetable for return is unknown). Kolb was forced to take over as he went 6/8 for 66 yards and a TD.
Wilson was a little less impressive than Kolb in his pro debut for Seattle, looking uncomfortable in the pocket and erratic with some of his passes. He finished the day by completing just 18 of his 34 pass attempts with one touchdown and an interception. The numbers proved to look better than Weeden’s four interceptions, but he still certainly has some things he can improve on heading into his Week 2 matchup with Denver’s defense.
Lets just get right down to it, the rookie quarterbacks (aside from Griffin, who didn’t show much weakness against New Orleans), have a little bit of work to do before this weekend.
As for the rest of the NFL, there are teams that came right out of the tunnel and proved to all of us critics that the preseason doesn’t mean squat. Just look at New York, for instance. The Jets scored just one touchdown in all four of its preseason match-ups. What did they do yesterday afternoon against Buffalo? Oh, no big deal, Mark Sanchez just rocked Buffalo’s secondary for 266 yards and three TDs in a 48-28 beatdown.
It was a total team effort, too, as Shonn Greene ran for 94 yards and a TD while the defense picked Ryan Fitzpatrick off three times––Antonio Cromartie returned one of those 40 yards for a touchdown.
Jacksonville showed us that they aren’t just going to lay down for any teams. They may not have come out winners, but second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert put up a career-high 260 yards and 2 TDs, taking the Vikings to overtime before falling 26-23 on a Blair Walsh 38-yard field goal.
Other things that caught my attention on Sunday:
*Patriots revamped defense
I mentioned this in my season preview, you know the fact that Bill Belichick went out and upgraded on defense by selecting Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower in the first round. Well, it’s already starting to pay off. Hightower recorded five tackles, one of which went for a loss and recovered a fumble for a six-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Who forced the fumble? Jones did, of course. Patriots defeated Tennessee on the road 34-13.
*Manning is back in the record books
Not only did future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning make an impressive Bronco debut in his return to action, defeating the Steelers 31-19 by throwing for 253 yards and 2 TDs. But he also happened to be just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 touchdowns, joining the greats Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420). That’s quite a club, I’d say.
*Ryan, Falcons plan on sticking around
The South has been all about Drew Brees’ Saints and Cam Newton’s rookie performance last season. People seem to be forgetting about the Falcons. Well, in yesterday’s 40-point performance against Kansas City, Ryan has grabbed the spotlight once again, throwing for 299 yards and 3 TDs. Clearly he doesn’t want us to forget about good old Atlanta.
*Niners trump Rodgers, Packers
In what I thought to be the game of the week, the Alex Smith-led 49ers managed to hand Green Bay its first loss of the season, 30-22. Just remember that the Pack lost one game all of last season. Once again, Smith went mistake-less (threw just five interceptions all of last season) and the Niner defense, looking to prove last season wasn’t just a fluke, limited the Packers to just 45 yards on the ground.
*Arizona’s QB carousel continues
It was bad enough that the overpaid Kevin Kolb struggled throughout the preseason and lost his starting role to John Skelton. But now, Skelton has suffered a low ankle sprain and may miss a game or two. Can Arizona and All Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald ever catch a break on offense? The good news: they defeated Seattle anyways.
*Panthers struggle on the ground; fall to Tampa
It sure was an ugly one in Tampa Bay yesterday. Not only did Cam Newton throw two interceptions, but Carolina just couldn’t get anything going on the ground. With Jonathan Stewart out, DeAngelo Williams got the start but carried the ball just six times for -1 yards. In total, Carolina ran the ball 13 times for 10 yards. TEN. That is not a typo. Tampa dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 38 of the 60 minutes of play, yet they still only managed a 16-10 victory. This game should have been a blowout according to the numbers Carolina put up. Ugly game for both squads.
– – – – –
We still have two more games this evening, a double-header on ESPN. First game will be between AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati, with the winner being the downright leader of the division (Browns and Steelers both lost). The second game is between AFC West rivals San Diego and Oakland.
Hopefully I’ll be able to get a quick MNF preview up in a few minutes. Stay tuned!
Note: I do not own the above images. No copyright infringement intended.
« Last-Minute Preview (4 of 4): Postseason Seedings and Predictions Monday Night Preview: Two Division Rivalries Set for ESPN Doubleheader »