Week 4 of the NFL preseason is in the books. Some played their way onto 53-man rosters. Others — 1,184 players, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter — soon will be looking for work.
Whether the Ravens’ Robert Griffin is among that vast number remains to be seen, but it’s a question that was raised after Thursday night’s game in Baltimore when he didn’t see the field against the Washington Redskins, the team that took him with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Lamar Jackson, whom the Ravens took in the first round of this year’s draft, received his first start of the preseason and performed well, completing all four of his passes and scrambling for a first down on a 13-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that he finished himself with a sneak from the 1.
Jackson would play the entire first half and completed 9 of 15 passes for 109 yards while adding 25 yards on the ground, and while he was far from perfect — an interception was reversed when replay showed that Redskins cornerback Adonis Alexander didn’t hang onto the ball — his performance showed the Ravens’ coaches that he’s progressing nicely.
“He executed this offense, I thought, the best he has by far,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said, per the Baltimore Sun.
Griffin, who spent the 2017 season as an unsigned free agent, had performed similarly well over the Ravens’ first three preseason games, completing 27 of 41 passes with two touchdowns and an interception while also carrying the ball 11 times for 52 yards, but he stayed on the sideline for Baltimore’s first second-half possession. Practice-squad journeyman Josh Woodrum instead took Jackson’s place and finished the game.
And so we’re left to read tea leaves. Did the Ravens hold Griffin out to avoid a needless preseason injury because they intend to keep him on the roster, or because they’re trying to trade him? Or does Baltimore intend to move forward with just two quarterbacks — Jackson and starter Joe Flacco — as it has done for nearly the entirety of Harbaugh’s now-long tenure, leaving Griffin one of the unlucky 1,184?
“Robert really didn’t need to play,” Harbaugh told reporters, warning them not to read too much into that. “I felt Lamar needed to start and we needed to see Josh quite a bit, too.
Griffin seems as if he’s feeling at least a little apprehensive, telling ESPN after the game that he feels as if he’s in “no man’s land.”
“I put my best foot forward,” Griffin said. “You go out there and you’re effective, and that’s all you can ask for. There’s no stress or worry on my end because I know I went out there and showed them that I’m ready to go. We’ll see what they decide [ahead of cutdown day].”
The decision will hinge on whether the Ravens’ coaches trust Jackson enough to be Flacco’s lone backup, or trust that he can stay healthy when called upon to scramble, as is apparently the plan. While Jackson has played well in the preseason, he’s also yet to play against a first-team defense. Griffin also has played well and has ample experience as an NFL starter, which would seem to work in his favor.
“There’s no doubt that you want Robert Griffin on your team,” Harbaugh told reporters. “He makes our quarterback room better and stronger. He looks like a starter to me. He has been a starter. Certainly a backup in this league, without question. I mean, that’s not even close. I would like to have him on the team. We’ll just have to see how the math works.”
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