As an NFL scout, your job is to study football players, then come up with an easily understood way to describe what you've seen. There are several descriptive terms that routinely show up in scouting reports. Words like explosive, instinctive and powerful are found in hundreds of such reports on a yearly basis. However, there are a few rare cases where those scouting terms don't do justice to the player. Such is the case with Robert Griffin III.
I've watched every snap of Griffin's rookie campaign, and I've been stunned at how quickly he has become a dominant force in the National Football League. The Washington Redskins didn't pull out a win in Sunday's NFC East battle with the defending Super Bowl-champion New York Giants, but Griffin's jaw-dropping ability was once again on full display. His stat line looks impressive on paper -- 20-of-28 for 258 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and 89 rushing yards -- but you had to actually watch this game to gain a full appreciation for RG3's ability. He led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that was filled with one incredible play after another. Facing fourth-and-10, he calmly eluded two of the most athletic defensive ends in the NFL, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul, and delivered a 19-yard strike to tight end Logan Paulsen. He followed that Houdini act by scampering around the right side for 24 yards before he eventually culminated the drive with a beautiful, 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss.
Griffin is a very rare quarterback because of his combination of skills. As a passer, he has incredible poise, touch, accuracy and arm strength. He currently leads the NFL in completion percentage (70.4 percent) and he's third in passer rating (101.8). As a runner, he is incredibly explosive and elusive. He has already racked up 468 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
I've never studied a quarterback with RG3's specific skill set; therefore, it is very tough to come up with the correct description for him as a player. I'm open to any and all suggestions, but for the time being, I think I've found a word that fits: Exceptional.
Didn't see this coming
Terrell Suggs has built quite an impressive résumé since the Baltimore Ravens selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, he's been to five Pro Bowls and he is also the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. While all of those achievements were impressive, they were each relatively predictable. However, I don't think anyone could've predicted what he accomplished Sunday afternoon in Houston.
After having surgery in May to repair his right Achilles tendon, Suggs was expected by most football people to miss the entire 2012 season. When the Ravens placed him on the physically unable to perform list, their hope that Suggs could return in time to help during the postseason was viewed as blindly optimistic. Well, I guess all of those football folks (myself included) were wrong.
Suggs returned to the Ravens' starting lineup Sunday, far earlier than anyone could've anticipated. Not only did he play in the game, he was a standout. He recorded four tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss, and he also broke up a pass. Despite the appearance of some added weight, he looked quick as a pass rusher and was also stout against the run. He even looked comfortable in pass coverage despite only practicing for three days prior to the game.
Impressive in defeat
Despite losing the game on the scoreboard, there were reasons for these teams to be encouraged in defeat:
Cleveland Browns The Browns have been featured in this space more than any other team this season. They fell to the Indianapolis Colts 17-13 Sunday, but there were still a few reasons for Cleveland fans to be heartened. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon has taken a lot of criticism for his costly drop in the fourth quarter, but he did produce a touchdown for the third straight game.
St. Louis Rams The Rams were unable to derail the Green Bay Packers and the Aaron Rodgers Express on Sunday, but this team is definitely headed in the right direction under new coach Jeff Fisher. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for a respectable 255 yards while rookie pass catchers Chris Givens and Brian Quick both made contributions. Rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers recorded his first NFL sack, while young linebacker James Laurinaitis collected 14 tackles.
Three startling statistics
1) Ray Rice carried the ball just nine times in the Ravens' loss to the Texans. This was somewhat predictable. After watching Rodgers torch the Texans secondary, I had a feeling Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would lean too much on his own passing attack. Sure enough, at the end of the first half, Joe Flacco had already thrown the ball 20 times while Rice had a meager six carries.
2) Andrew Luck is tied for 31st in passer rating. I've watched every Indianapolis Colts game this season, and I was shocked to learn Luck's status in this category. His completion percentage is low (53.6) but he's averaging 279 yards per game and he's also rushed for three scores. He made clutch plays with both his arm and legs in wins over the Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Browns. Despite his poor rating, it's clear to me that he has had a tremendous impact this season.
3) The Jacksonville Jaguars have recorded just five sacks in their first six games of the season. To put this into perspective, 14 players have more sacks than the Jaguars' entire team. Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington, for example, already has six sacks. If the Jaguars have any hope of turning their season around, they must drastically improve in this department.
These four teams produced crucial wins in Week 7:
Tennessee Titans: The Titans needed a huge game from Chris Johnson (18 carries for 195 yards and two touchdowns) and late-game heroics from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter) to defeat the Buffalo Bills, 35-34. Johnson has run much harder over the past few weeks and he's starting to produce some much-needed explosive plays for this Tennessee offense. I don't envision the Titans (3-4) ever catching up to the AFC South-leading Texans (6-1), but this win keeps them in the wild-card hunt.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys came away with a hard-fought, 19-14 win over the Carolina Panthers despite producing just one touchdown and being held to 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. The Cowboys didn't put up big offensive statistics, but they did avoid giving up a sack, and they only turned the ball over one time. This win puts the 3-3 Cowboys right back in contention in the NFC East as they return home to face the division-leading New York Giants (5-2) next week.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers fought their way back to .500 with a 24-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. This win, coupled with Baltimore's loss to Houston, puts the Steelers right back in the AFC North mix. The Steelers are only one game behind the Ravens (5-2) in the loss column and they still have both meetings against Baltimore remaining on their schedule. The Steelers have found a way to stay afloat despite suffering several key injuries. If they can get healthy over the second half of the season, they once again will be a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints (2-4) now have a modest two-game winning streak following Sunday's 35-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After Drew Brees and company dropped their first four games of the season, there is now a glimmer of hope. The defense is still a major concern, but the offense has returned to form. They still have a lot of ground to make up, but I'm not counting this team out just yet.