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Cleveland Browns' Hue Jackson likes what he sees in QB Robert Griffin

By The Sports Xchange
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Cleveland Browns' Hue Jackson likes what he sees in QB Robert Griffin
Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III points up to the crowd after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on December 11, 2016. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

Tuesday is normally a day off for the Cleveland Browns, but since they play on Saturday in a home game against the San Diego Chargers, they were given Monday off.

Front and center working with the first team as the starting quarterback Tuesday and Wednesday was Robert Griffin III. He will be making his third straight start when the winless Browns play the Chargers in their final home game on Christmas Eve.

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It might take a Christmas miracle for Cleveland to win its first game since Nov. 23, 2015.

Coach Hue Jackson did not name Griffin as the starter until Monday. Fifteen minutes after the Browns lost to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Jackson said that "all options are on the table." After reviewing Griffin's performance, Jackson determined that the quarterback played better than it appeared to the naked eye.

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"I thought he started managing and running our offense with efficiency. I thought he was in rhythm," Jackson said. "For a moment there, we looked like the offense that I've come to know a little bit, and I thought there was an uptick in performance."

Griffin was sacked five times by the Bills. He had eight carries, and a couple times ran before he should have, Jackson admitted. Griffin could be excused for being gun-shy; the Browns have given up 53 sacks - seven short of the 60 allowed by the 1999 expansion team that finished 2-14. They allowed 54 sacks in 2008 when they finished 4-12.

"There were a couple times he might have escaped a little early because maybe he felt some pressure or color (Buffalo players) showed up," Jackson said. "But again, to me, that's just from playing. You have to continue to play and keep your eyes downfield and remain a passer. I think that comes with playing the game a little bit when you haven't played in such a long time."

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Griffin completed 17 of 28 passes for 196 yards against the Bills. He scored the only Browns' touchdown on an 18-yard run. A week earlier against the Bengals, in his first game back after missing 12 weeks (including the bye) with a shoulder injury, he was 12 of 28 for 104 yards with one interception. He has no touchdown passes in three starts.

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"I'm just trying to go out there and lead this team the best I can and try to give us the best chance to win," Griffin said. "So if that means I have to run a little bit more, I'll run a little more. If that means I need to throw a little more, I'll throw a little more.''

It won't be a surprise if Griffin gets itchy feet on Saturday when he looks across the line of scrimmage and sees the San Diego rookie Joey Bosa. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end leads the Chargers with 7.5 sacks.

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The Chargers, who at the end of November had slim playoff hopes, have lost three straight games to slump to 5-9. It is their second three-game losing streak of the season. They are coming off a 19-16 home loss to the Oakland Raiders.

The Chargers at least can say they have been in some close games. By contrast, the Browns have lost seven straight by double digits and their last close game was a 28-26 setback at Tennessee on Oct. 16.

-- Left tackle Joe Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl for the 10th time. It is a Browns' franchise record, surpassing fullback Jim Brown and tackle/kicker Lou Groza, who each went to nine Pro Bowls.

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"It's always an honor to be recognized by the fans, coaches and your peers," Thomas said. "It's a feeling that never gets old. When I think about Jim Brown and Lou Groza, I think about not just two of the greatest Browns, but two of the greatest players to ever suit up in the NFL. It's humbling to be mentioned in the same sentence as them.

-- Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has a torn ligament in the knuckle at the base of the middle finger of his right hand. Despite the injury, he is determined to play against the Chargers on Saturday and the season finale with the Steelers on Jan. 1.

Pryor leads the Browns with 67 catches for 877 yards, but he has five catches for only 22 yards in the last two games.

"Terrelle has a reputation now,'' Jackson said. "People know who you are and are trying to take you out of the game, and we're trying to get it to him. Sometimes the ball doesn't go where it should or protection doesn't hold up. It's a variety of different things."

-- The Chargers have to fly across the country to play a game on Christmas Eve in Cleveland with no chance of getting out of the AFC West basement. Jackson said it would be a huge mistake to expect the Chargers to roll over and mail it in.

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"I've watched (Chargers quarterback) Philip Rivers do that quite a few times before," Jackson said. "I know what kind of player he is having been in that division for a little while. He's a tremendous competitor and he likes to try to win every game. So, he will have not just their offensive team but he will have that football team ready to play."

-- Not to dispute the wisdom of Jackson, but Rivers and the Chargers played very poorly on a cold, wet October afternoon four years ago in Cleveland. The Browns held the Chargers without a touchdown in the 7-6 victory. Rivers completed 16 of 34 passes for 154 yards.

Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden also struggled in bad weather, but the Browns got the only touchdown they needed on a 26-yard run by then-rookie running back Trent Richardson. Richardson finished the day with 122 yards rushing.

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