Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora thought the preseason hype surrounding the Redskins’ rookie quarterback was so excessive that he off-handedly referred to Griffin as “Bob.” Umenyiora then changed his tune after seeing Griffin’s spectacular NFL debut in the season-opener against New Orleans.
“His name is Sir Robert Griffin. That’s what I refer to him as now,” Umenyiora told Giants media earlier this week. “Look at the way he’s performed as a rookie. You don’t see players come into the league performing like that at that stage in their career, so all the respect in the world goes to him. He’s a phenomenal player.
“I opened my mouth and said when he does anything in the league we’re going to call him his name. He’s definitely earned whatever he wants to be called.”
Griffin admits he isn’t fond of being referred to as “Bob” unless it’s by the college assistant coach who jokingly gave him that nickname at Baylor. Griffin, though, also is already media savvy enough to avoid getting into a war of words with Umenyiora that would add even more hype to what is already a highly anticipated NFC East matchup.
“Your play makes you respectable. It’s not you trying to stick it to somebody,” Griffin said during a news conference following Wednesday’s practice at Redskins Park. “I’ve never been that kind of player. I’ve never tried to single out any one guy.
“He’s a defensive end, I’m a quarterback. His job is to try to sack me. My job is to facilitate the ball to everyone else. It’s not going to be a one-on-one battle between me and Osi.”
That’s something everyone can agree upon.
Griffin’s emergence has helped the Redskins (3-3) make an early-season push to challenge New York (4-2) atop the division. Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run to cap a 138-yard rushing effort in last Sunday’s 38-26 victory over Minnesota was so spectacular that Redskins tight end Fred Davis bestowed praise by calling him “Black Jesus.”
Umenyiora described the play as “ridiculous” while not forgetting to mention Griffin’s passing acumen.
“You saw guys who are known as fast guys just trailing behind him,” Umenyiora said. “We know what type of speed he has, but more importantly, he has an arm.
“Forget all the running stuff. They’ve got a really good player on their hands and we’ve got a problem on ours.”
The Giants have faced three teams with mobile quarterbacks in Carolina, Philadelphia and San Francisco and experienced mixed results. A poor job of containing Mike Vick on scrambles contributed to New York’s 19-17 loss to Philadelphia in Week 4.
The Giants, though, had stymied Carolina’s Cam Newton (six rushing yards, three interceptions, two sacks) in the previous game. New York was just as effective in last Sunday’s 26-3 rout of the 49ers by keeping both nimble starter Alex Smith and read-option backup Colin Kaepernick in check.
Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said having already played against Carolina and San Francisco does help “a little bit” when preparing for Griffin. But he also warned that RG3 is “a lot different than the guys that we have played at this point.”
“Not that those guys are not good athletes, but (Griffin) is an extremely gifted athlete,” Fewell told Giants media. “He can go from zero to 60 (miles per hour) right now. When you put the ball in his hands, and obviously they do, they expect him to win. So you have to win your matchups against him.”
One step for Fewell may be keeping New York’s acclaimed “NASCAR” pass rush in first gear by not always sending all four defensive linemen. Griffin burnt the Vikings on his 76-yard score — the longest run by an NFL quarterback since 1996 — when wide lanes opened shortly after he dropped to throw as Minnesota rushers were charging up-field.
“We’ll try and have a plan for when he tries to get to the edges and all those things that we know he’s very capable of doing,” Umenyiora said. “But at the end of the day, he’s just going to do some things that you can’t control as a defense. He’s going to make some plays. But when we get our chance, we’re going to make some plays, too.”
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who plays alongside Umenyiora in different defensive packages, already has issued Griffin a warning through the New York Daily News by telling him, “Don’t bring it to my side. Go the other way.” Griffin, though, isn’t making a name for himself by backing down from challenges.
“This is definitely going to be heated,” Griffin said of his first NFC East game. “I’m not much of a trash-talker. If there’s trash-talking, let there be. That’s all that you can say about it. Everybody’s going to be ready to go.”