The Browns seem to have caught a huge break because the Washington Redskins announced tonight that standout quarterback Robert Griffin III is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup Sunday by fellow rookie Kirk Cousins.
“The decision was not my own,” Griffin wrote on Twitter. “But I will be there for my team!!! In every way I possibly can.”
The Browns (5-8) will host the Redskins (7-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday. Cleveland is hoping to capitalize on the switch at quarterback as it seeks a fourth consecutive victory.
Griffin, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, mildly sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee Dec. 9 in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens when he absorbed a hit from defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Cousins, a fourth round pick, then came to the rescue by throwing a touchdown pass and running for a two-point conversion to force overtime in the Redskins’ 31-28 triumph.
Griffin leads the NFL with a passer rating of 104.2 and has thrown 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. His mobility and efficiency running read option plays makes him a headache for defenses.
“Every week in our league we’re playing gifted athletes,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “[Griffin] just happens to be significantly more gifted than most.”
Griffin practiced Wednesday through Friday and is listed as questionable on the injury report. The Browns prepared all week as if he would play, so they’ll need to shift their focus to Cousins and be careful not to underestimate him, even though he’ll be making his first career start on the road.
“We don’t have much film on Cousins outside of the preseason and the last minute of the last game,” Browns rookie free safety Tashaun Gipson said. “He’s definitely capable of getting the job done, but not to disrespect him, he’s not a Robert Griffin. … If we see Cousins come out there and he takes the first snaps under center and that’s who’s going to be the quarterback of the day, we’re just going to adjust on the fly and go from there.”
The Redskins believe Cousins can help them extend their winning streak to five games.
“Very confident,” Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris said during a conference call. “He stepped in last week and helped us win the game. That’s a lot of pressure to be on him for him to step into that situation. The game’s on the line, but he didn’t fold under pressure.
"I’ve always had confidence in Kirk. I played against him three of my five years in college, and I knew he was a great quarterback [at Michigan State]. I told him during OTAs, I was like, ‘You’re going to be a great quarterback one day. Whether it’s at Washington or somewhere else in this league, you’re going to be a great quarterback.’ He was like, ‘You think so?’ I was like, ‘I know so.’”
The Browns just hope Cousins doesn’t show any greatness Sunday.