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Robert Griffin III’s quest to rekindle his career in Cleveland seemed to be a futile endeavor, considering the Browns’ putrid history when it comes to quarterbacks. But after two preseason games, the reclamation project couldn’t be going better. On Friday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, RG3 will look to pick up where he left off a week ago when the Browns played another NFC South team.
Griffin was one of the best players on the field last week, going 6-of-8 passing for 96 yards and two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons. He also ran for 36 yards on three carries. Though it’s too early to say whether he’s back to his 2012 Rookie of the Year levels, he’s shown many of the skills that propelled him to superstardom four years ago. Perhaps most importantly, Griffin says he’s committed to sliding, meaning he won’t unnecessarily put himself in harm’s way.
In order for Griffin to mature as a quarterback, it’s vital for him to improve as a pocket passer. He’s done that so far in Cleveland, largely thanks to quarterback-turned-wideout Terrelle Pryor. RGIII and Pryor have hooked up on a couple of deep passes this summer, including a 50-yard touchdown against the Falcons.
Enigmatic wide receiver Josh Gordon will likely be active for the first time this preseason, just three weeks since the NFL reinstated him after his yearlong suspension. Gordon was suspended indefinitely last February for multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. He’ll serve a four-game ban before he’s able to play in 2016.
Trade rumors have been swirling around Gordon for most of the week, though Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson quickly shot them down. Strangely enough, it’s been suggested that the Browns are helping to propel the rumors, perhaps out of concern that one more misstep could end Gordon’s career.
The Browns drafted receiver Corey Coleman with the No. 15 overall pick this spring for Gordon insurance, and he’s expected to take the field for the first time this preseason as well. He’s been sidelined with a hamstring injury for the last two weeks.
Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Jameis Winston, followed up an impressive preseason debut with a relative stinker against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Winston went 3-of-10 passing last week for just 28 yards, though he did connect with Mike Evans for a 4-yard touchdown.
It might have been a down performance from Winston, but it doesn’t compare to kicker Roberto Aguayo’s week. The highest-drafted kicker in Bucs history has struggled mightily in games and is scuffling in practice now, too. He missed three of his six kicks on Tuesday and has sought help from a “mental coach” to overcome his yips.
One other Bucs rookie is shining this preseason, however. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who was drafted No. 11 overall his year, intercepted two passes last week. He could be a major contributor in the secondary as soon as this season.
After changing head coaches for the fourth time since 2009 this offseason, the Buccaneers appear to be a directionless organization. But the performances of several highly drafted players could reverse their fortunes — that is, if they play up to their potential on a weekly basis.
How to Watch
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Phil Simms
Online: NFL Game Pass