The second week of the preseason started Thursday with only two games, but it had plenty of storylines. Robert Griffin III unsuccessfully tried to survive behind an awful offensive line. Tyrod Taylor made his push to sew up the Bills' starting quarterback job, and Johnny Manziel continued to show signs of life.
In this week-to-week league, it's hard not to compare the changing fortunes of two of the league's biggest names at quarterback. RGIII has inspired a lot of optimism this offseason, but he has taken a ton of hits in two preseason games. In eight drop backs Thursday night, he was hit six times, sacked three times and fumbled twice. He wound up leaving the game with a concussion, although his injured shoulder was "OK," according to coach Jay Gruden after the game.
The dumbest hot take of the night came from columnists and Twitter goons faulting Gruden for leaving Griffin in the game. It was early in the second quarter of a preseason game and some of Griffin's biggest hits were his own fault. Griffin can only get better by playing with his fellow starters, and avoiding those hits as much as possible.
Manziel was far from perfect in relief of Josh McCown, but he is showing improved maturity with his decision making. He was solid overall for the second straight week, while McCown threw two interceptions in three drives.
Griffin is expected to remain the starter in Washington, while Manziel is locked into the backup job for now. But change is the only certainty in the NFL, and both of their depth-chart spots are written in pencil.
Here's what else we learned Thursday:
- NFL Network's Michael Robinson pointed out how sometimes the big hits that Griffin takes are his fault. He didn't recognize a potential free rusher before one snap, and wound up taking a shot as he delivered a pass. Griffin also fumbled twice, and the play he was hurt on came after he simply dropped the ball. Gruden indicated that Griffin would likely remain the starter for Week 1, assuming he can get healthy in time.
- Taylor showed poise on third downs, making a number of NFL throws to keep drives alive. He also ran for 41 yards on four carries. Coach Rex Ryan said after the game the team won't announce a starter until the week of the season opener, but Taylor has to be the leader in the clubhouse. Matt Cassel did not play Thursday night. EJ Manuel was up and down in the second half, and led a game-winning drive against fourth-teamers.
- McCown is too much of a gambler to be a quality veteran caretaker of an offense. He often throws the ball off his back foot, seemingly up for grabs. It's not like he's suddenly learned how to be careful at age 36 with poor skill position talent around him.