The 49-yard go route from Robert Griffin III to Terrelle Pryor was an exciting way to open the preseason under new coach Hue Jackson. Griffin stood tall in the pocket and lofted a nice pass for Pryor to run under.
Things went downhill from there for the Browns in an uneven effort Friday night that ended in a 17-11 loss at Green Bay.
Jackson wasn’t pleased with his team’s efficiency. The offense that he directs scored its only touchdown on a one-play drive after being handed the ball at the 10-yard line. It added a field goal, and the defense chipped in with a safety.
Preseason openers aren’t particularly pretty by nature. This one had more than its share of ugly, with a few highlights sprinkled in.
Here are some takeaways from the first true test of the Jackson era.
ROOM TO GROW
Jackson would’ve felt a whole lot better about his quarterback and the first-team offense if Griffin had read the defense correctly and not tried to force a pass to Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge over the middle. But the best scoring chance for the starters disappeared into the hands of Packers defensive back Micah Hyde.
Griffin took responsibility for the interception and absolved Barnidge of any blame. That’s the right thing to do — even if it’s not true — and showed growth for someone who irritated teammates in Washington by pointing fingers after poor plays and games.
Griffin played 11 snaps in two series and went 4-for-8 for 67 yards with no points and a 39.1 rating against a lot of Packers backups. He came through healthy, which is noteworthy for someone with his injury history and who hadn’t taken a live snap since last preseason. He absorbed three hits after he threw, as the line continues to work through the free agent losses of center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
“I haven’t been hit in a long time,” Griffin said. “I was telling Coach and some of the guys, you don’t want to get hit but it feels good to just be back playing football. There’s no nerves or anxiousness, just excitement to be back on the field playing the game you love with great people.”
Center Cam Erving allowed a linebacker through for one pressure, right tackle Austin Pasztor was beat around the edge and a screen was a wreck from the start as Griffin took another hit.
“You’re going to get hit every now and then,” he said. “And after our two series of playing, I got a chance to go talk to the offensive line and they’re telling me, ‘Hey, we’re going to be better.’ And I’m telling them, ‘Hey, I’m going to be better.’”
BACK TO SCHOOL
Jackson will have plenty of issues to address when the team reconvenes Sunday. The Browns made too many dumb mistakes to win, or make a coach feel good about himself.
Rookie linebacker Joe Schobert extended Green Bay’s opening drive by running into the punter. Rookie quarterback Cody Kessler took two safeties that could’ve been easily avoided. Young running back/returner Raheem Mostert muffed a free kick that robbed the Browns of a possession.
Kessler, a third-round pick, ran out of the end zone under pressure on the first safety and said he thought he had more room because he saw a second line behind the back of the end zone.
“But it’s not an excuse,” Kessler told reporters. “I’ve got to (have) more awareness on that and know where I’m at on the field, and I’ve got to see that.”
The mistakes weren’t exclusive to the young.
Veteran quarterback Josh McCown cost the team a touchdown when he crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing to wide-open tight end Connor Hamlett. Just prior to that play, McCown threw the ball slightly out of bounds when he had Pryor open in the end zone.
Griffin also had a mental miscue when he threw out of bounds over the head of Barnidge, nullifying a pass interference penalty.
Second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah and third-rounder Carl Nassib had been silent through two weeks of training camp but made plenty of noise against the Packers.
Ogbah played about three quarters and recorded a game-high six tackles with two quarterback hits and a sack. He showed great athleticism for a man his size (6-foot-4, 275 pounds), chasing down the ball carrier from behind.
Ogbah was drafted to play outside linebacker but has been practicing on the line. On Friday night he played end in the base 3-4 system and end and tackle when coordinator Ray Horton used a four-man front.
Nassib, a 6-7, 275-pound end, got an effort sack when the quarterback couldn’t find a receiver and Nassib kept coming. He added a pressure and three tackles.
SHOW YOUR STUFF
Mostert’s in a battle with Terrell Watson and Glenn Winston to be the No. 3 running back, and the coaches gave him the chance to show he deserves a roster spot. Mostert rushed five times for 43 yards, including a 27-yarder, and dropped a pass in the flat from McCown.
Mostert has an edge on Watson and Winston in special teams, but the muffed free kick continued his pattern of dropping punts. He’s returned kickoffs in the league, and is in the running for that job, but he’s not ready to handle punt returns.
With three preseason games left, Mostert appears to have the advantage over Watson and Winston.
AND THE REST
McCown’s value to the Browns as the No. 2 quarterback grew Friday night. Not only did Kessler show he’s not ready for the big stage, Austin Davis sustained a concussion. Griffin is the undisputed starter, but if he gets hurt, McCown would provide the only chance of keeping the season from spiraling out of control.
The coaches are giving Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 pick in 2013, every chance to prove he’s worth keeping. He played his usual outside linebacker spot with the second-team defense, then switched to inside linebacker in the fourth quarter. It’s highly unusual for a first-rounder with his experience to be on the field so late in the first preseason game. Mingo, who also played on special teams, came free for a sack but missed the tackle.
Patrick Murray has a leg up to unseat Travis Coons for the kicking job. Murray got the only chance Friday, nailing a 46-yard field goal.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.