In Hue Jackson’s first year as Cleveland Browns head coach, one of his priorities was to come up with a plan to get the most out of quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Jackson was dealing with a quarterback who had a track record of staying in the pocket too long, waiting too long to see the throw and taking too many hits. Griffin also had issues making reads and getting the ball out on time. Jackson, for the most part, was starting over with Griffin.
We saw in Cleveland’s second preseason game how Jackson can help turn Griffin things around. Griffin had a good game against the Atlanta Falcons, a positive for him going forward.
Jackson will do many of the same things with Griffin that he did with Andy Dalton when Jackson was the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator. There will be clearly defined route concepts. He wants quick timing throws to get the ball out. He wants defined reads for Griffin, so he’s not standing in the pocket waiting for things to develop. Jackson wants him to see things quickly and get it out so he doesn’t get hit.
Here’s a good play from last week. It was a mirrored flat/curl concept on both sides, with the tight end on a sit route in the middle. Griffin read the play well, saw the tight end was covered and went backside to the two-receiver side of the formation. He hit Rashard Higgins for 10 yards.
Griffin’s 29-yard touchdown to Gary Barnidge was a good concept, and great execution. It was a mirrored post/wheel concept (“mirrored” meaning the plan was to run the same route concept on both sides). When you have mirrored routes like that, you’re picking a side and making a throw, so it’s not a complicated read. The Falcons ran man coverage with a safety in the deep middle, so Griffin knew the safety wouldn’t be a factor on the wheel routes. Griffin knew he would have the wheel to Barnidge against man coverage. But Griffin still needed to make a great throw because safety Keanu Neal had really good coverage on Barnidge. And Griffin made a great throw with precise ball placement.
You could see in the Browns’ first preseason game that Griffin still was too slow eliminating what wasn’t there because he doesn’t have a natural feel for timing and anticipation. In the second game there were more quick timing throws with mirror routes. These are basic routes that are in everybody’s playbook, and they help maximize QB play.
Jackson will also play to Griffin’s strengths as a runner. You could tell in the second game that read option will be a part of the offense. Here’s a 22-yard gain on a read option. It’s also a positive that Griffin slid at the end of his two longest runs because he shouldn’t take hits.
Here’s one more play from last week’s game. This isn’t a play where the read was impressive because it was just a single read and Pryor beat Desmond Trufant’s coverage, but it’s a reminder that Griffin has always thrown the deep ball well. This is a nice deep throw, and something you’ll see from the Browns offense this season. Jackson called a go route to Pryor on his first play in the preseason opener too; he knows that’s one of Griffin’s strengths. That’s something he couldn’t necessarily do with Dalton, who is a good rhythm quarterback but not one who can stand in the pocket and drive the ball downfield.
It’s also worth noting here that Pryor is very intriguing. The Browns have one of the best wide receivers coaches in the NFL, Al Saunders. So it isn’t a surprise that Pryor has made strides and looks like a wideout. Saunders is detail oriented and that’s paying off. On this play Pryor had a late burst and tracked the ball really well.
From Griffin’s first preseason game with the Browns there was one play I wanted to highlight, and that’s an interception. Even though it looked like this was a mistake by Griffin, the blame should be on Barnidge. Griffin didn’t make the wrong throw. He is taught to throw it where he did against a “two shell” look with two deep safeties. He expected Barnidge to be where he threw it, but Barnidge needed to bend his route to the open middle.
What coaches are trying to do in the preseason — especially when starting over with a quarterback, like Jackson is with Griffin — is build. They’re trying to give players execution confidence, and building that week to week. This is evident in the Jackson-Griffin relationship, especially in the second preseason game.
The second preseason game was a nice building block. You can see Jackson’s plan to rejuvenate Griffin’s career.
Previously on Greg Cosell’s QB Study
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.