PHILADELPHIA (92.3 The Fan) – The road to redemption begins Sunday for Robert Griffin III as he squares off with the rookie the Browns passed on in favor of him, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Both QB’s enter the game with much to prove but the story for both will not end simply with the result of Sunday’s game.
Griffin is now No. 25 – the 14th different Week 1 starter – at quarterback since 1999 for the Browns. He hopes he can stay healthy and be productive enough to keep the Browns from going to No. 26. The former Heisman trophy winner and No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft showed off his arm in the preseason hitting on several deep balls but he struggled with intermediate routes.
He’ll be leading one of the youngest teams in the league that boasts 17 rookies, including 13 draft picks, which has many predicting another long season for the Browns.
“We have an opportunity to do something special,” Griffin said. “Everyone has the same goal at the beginning of the year and that is to win every game, and we are no different.”
Griffin was the NFC’s offensive rookie of the year in leading Washington to the playoffs in 2012 but injuries and controversy dominated his final 3 seasons with the Redskins that saw him not take a single snap in 2015. He claims that he isn’t feeling any pressure to prove that the Browns made the right decision.
“It doesn’t faze me or it is not anything that I focus on it at all,” Griffin said. “Carson is a great player. He played well in college and he has an opportunity to fulfill his dreams in the NFL. I root for guys. I’m not a ‘Negative Nancy.’ I’m not rooting for guys to fail. Our team has a goal, and after the game, I will be everybody’s friend, but during the game, it is time to play.”
Wentz, who says that he is healthy, was unable to play in the final 3 preseason games after sustaining a hairline fracture in his ribs during the Eagles’ preseason opener.
“Obviously, missing some reps in the preseason was frustrating, but I feel very ready,” Wentz said this week. “I feel very confident. I have felt ready for a while now. Missing the reps, it kind of is what it is, but I’m very confident that I’m ready to go.”
He’ll look to stick it to the Browns, who decided that Griffin was a better option and traded the second pick to Philadelphia before the draft.
“That is kind of all in the past now,” Wentz said. “The pre-draft process was pretty rigorous and pretty all over the place for me. I’m excited I’m here in Philadelphia, and I’m ready to go for Week 1.
“I don’t need extra motivation. I’m just really excited to finally get out there and get my first start.”
The game also features the coaching debuts of new Browns head coach Hue Jackson and Doug Pederson for the Eagles. Pederson is No. 3 on the Browns’ quarterback list. He went 1-7 in 8 starts for Cleveland during the 2000 season. Jackson looks to become the first Browns coach since Bud Carson debuted with a 51-0 shellacking of the Steelers in 1989 to win his first game – a losing streak that has spanned the last 9 coaches.
Death, Taxes and 0-1 – The Browns have lost an NFL-record 11 straight openers and are 1-16 in Week 1 since 1999. Their only win came in 2004 – a 20-3 thumping of the Ravens under coach Butch Davis.
The Last Time – Sept. 9, 2012: Eagles beat the Browns 17-16
All-Time Series – Browns lead 31-16-1
Rankings – CBS Power Ranking: Browns No. 32, Eagles No. 29; AP PRO32: Browns No. 32, Eagles No. 28
Browns Probable Starters – OFFENSE: WR Corey Coleman, LT Joe Thomas, LG Joel Bitonio, C Cameron Erving, RG John Greco, RT Austin Pasztor, TE Gary Barnidge, WR Terrelle Pryor, QB Robert Griffin III, RB Isaiah Crowell, FB Malcolm Johnson
DEFENSE: DE Xavier Cooper, NT Danny Shelton, DE John Hughes, OLB Emmanuel Ogbah, ILB Demario Davis, ILB Christian Kirksey, OLB Joe Schobert, CB Joe Haden, CB Jamar Taylor, FS Jordan Poyer, SS Ibraheim Campbell
Injury Report – OUT: CB Marcus Burley (groin); EXPECTED TO PLAY: Emmanuel Ogbah (hamstring), DB Tracy Howard (hamstring), WR Ricardo Louis (hamstring), CB Tramon Wlliams (toe)
Uniform – White jersey, orange pants, orange socks
Broadcast – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the PNC Bank Cleveland Browns Radio Network; TV: WOIO-TV 19 (CBS)
Kickoff – 1 p.m. Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania