Friday, March 25, 2016

Robert Griffin III, Part Deux

Trying to be fair . . .

Five reasons Robert Griffin III will be successful as the Browns’ newest starting quarterback:

~ He has a very strong arm. That is one attribute he has not lost since taking the National Football League by storm as a rookie in 2012.

~ He also has not lost any of the speed and quickness that made him one of the most dangerous running threats at his position.

~ He is a quick study, able to enter a huddle and take command right away.

~ He will benefit from the teachings of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton with regard to reading defenses and delivering the ball on time.

~ He is only 26 years old, well short of his NFL prime years.

Now, five reasons The Third will not be successful as the Browns’ newest starting quarterback:

~ He has not played in a game since the 2014 season and it takes much longer to chip away the rust for quarterbacks than any other position on offense.

~ As it stands now, he will be forced to throw to one of the worst wide receivers corps in the entire NFL.

~ His new offensive line is considerably weaker with the departure of center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. As a result, the running game, which wasn’t that good to begin with, and the passing game, mediocre at best, will suffer.

~ As a result, The Third will have to rely once again on his legs to make plays. And that should translate into injuries and numerous games missed.

~ All of which means he is a strong candidate to become a 26-year-old young man who will look and feel much more like a 35-year-old veteran.

And a sixth . . .

~ Unless his buddies on defense suddenly become opportunistic and give The Third numerous chances to work with short fields, he will be forced to begin a vast majority of drives deep in his territory.

The odds heavily favor the latter grouping. But don’t tell that to a great number of Browns fans who are star gazing with The Third’s arrival. They see more than just potential for the road ahead.

Many will expect miracles from him, the kind that thrilled Washington Redskins fans four years ago. He was clearly the face of that franchise at the time. Didn’t take long for it to slip out of focus and then disappear altogether.

Do not confuse the quarterback the Browns just signed with that quarterback of four years ago. To do so is to dream a dream that is more likely to turn into a nightmare than come true.

The Browns are hopeful The Third’s football talent is still there and doing everything they can to justify their faith in him. If he fails, it won’t be because he didn’t get enough help.

As if the coaching of coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wasn’t enough, the club has hired noted quarterback guru Tom House to work with him and straighten out some of his mechanical flaws, which include a slow release and quickly recognize opposing defenses.

Fans who follow the NFL closely probably recognize House as the man who has worked with the likes of Tom Brady, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer.

But he is perhaps even more famous as the man who caught Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home in the Atlanta Braves bullpen, where he was a left-handed relief pitcher, in April 1974.

Breaking down the differences between the 2012 Redskins offense and current Browns offensive roster, one cannot help but notice the distinct disparity of talent that enabled The Third to be so successful.

The Redskins’ ground game featured rookie running back Alfred Morris, who ran for 1,613yards and 13 touchdowns. And The Third threw to the likes of Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson, who combined for 2,260 yards and 17 touchdowns.

All that offensive balance enabled The Third to run for 815 yards and seven touchdowns before injuries not only short-circuited that season, but possibly his entire career.

The Browns have no one even close on the current roster who can produce numbers like that in an effort to take pressure of their new quarterback. Unless, that is, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sees fit to reinstate wide receiver Josh Gordon, The Third’s teammate at Baylor, from his one-year suspension.

That will help, especially if Gordon can replicate his dynamic 2013 season, but this offense needs a whole lot more to make The Third’s job less stressful. 

Big boss Sashi Brown, Jackson and the scouting staff have more holes to fill than they realize. With the loss of 40% of the offensive line, a pair of safeties (one a starter), two starting linebackers and whoever might leave before the college draft, this defense very well might be worse than last year’s, which was awful at best.

The Browns will have 10 selections in the lottery, including the second overall. They have one each in rounds two, three, six and seven, two in the fourth round and three in round five.

Signing free agent inside linebacker Demario Davis will help, but too many holes remain if returning defensive coordinator Ray Horton has any shot at improving that side of the ball.

In answer to the question “What were the Browns thinking?” when The Third agreed to a two-year contract, it is becoming clear they believe they can resurrect his career to the point where he can come close to, if not exceed, what he did as a rookie.

One thing is certain: The professional football world will be watching. Much like Johnny Manziel was the focus of the mass media in his first Cleveland training camp a couple of years ago, the Browns once again will be in the middle of a media circus this summer.

The Third almost certainly will be placed under a microscope by the likes of ESPN, FOX Sports, NBC, CBS and a significant number of large major metropolitan newspapers. These outlets love comeback stories. And his very well could be the main one this season.

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