RG3 can make Redskins great, if his knee holds up
Robert Griffin III wants to have it both ways.
He doesn’t hesitate to remind everyone that Washington Redskins
coach Mike Shanahan left him in the game too long after the
quarterback went down with a knee injury during the season-ending
playoff loss in January.
Yet, Griffin got frustrated he wasn’t allowed to practice more
during training camp and play in preseason games as he worked his
way back from the injury. He said he didn’t like, and didn’t fully
understand, Shanahan’s cautious and more pragmatic plan.
The bold statements only reinforce the fact that the Redskins
are now Griffin’s team, with everyone else – including Shanahan –
in tow. He’s a talented and worshipped megastar in only his second
year in the league, and he’s willing to lead the club as far as his
twice-reconstructed right knee will let him.
No one is pining for the alternative. The Redskins endured two
decades of doldrums before Griffin arrived and led them to an NFC
title in his rookie season. He’s good enough to make the club a
regular Super Bowl contender for a decade.
Still, he realizes the need for harmony. There was enough of a
backlash from his comments about Shanahan for him to tone down his
act, at least a little.
”Coaches coach, players play,” said Griffin, practicing his
new favorite cliche recently at a Redskins luncheon. ”And all of
us together, we can do great things.”
Assuming his knee holds up.
Five things to watch as the Redskins prepare to open the season
Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles:
DOC’S DECISION: He’s the most famous doctor in the NFL, but even
Dr. James Andrews’ reputation can take a hit when RG3 is involved.
Andrews was on the sideline during the playoff game and gave the
tacit approval for Griffin to stay in, thus giving the fans someone
to blame in addition to Shanahan when the quarterback’s knee
finally gave out. Now Andrews must give the medical clearance for
Griffin to play in Week 1. There’s no doubt that this time the
doctor, like Shanahan, is going to err on the side of caution.
While everyone likes backup Kirk Cousins, there will no doubt be an
uproar if Andrews decides Griffin isn’t ready.
THE GRIFFIN PLAN: Griffin ran the zone-read to near perfection
last year, giving defenses a new wrinkle that left them stymied.
Opponents have been studying it and will try to adjust, but Griffin
will need to adjust as well. When he decides to run, he needs to
slide more often or get out of bounds to avoid the type of hits
that caused him to miss all or part of four games last season.
Griffin also makes it clear that he’d like to be more of a
traditional pocket passer, but taking away the zone-read would
eliminate the very thing that makes him such a unique threat.
RG3 VS. SHANNY: If the Redskins win, any differences between
quarterback and coach can be happily swept under the rug. But if
things go sour, the Griffin-Shanahan dynamic will be something to
watch. Shanahan is in the fourth year of a five-year contract, and
he didn’t start winning until Griffin showed up. If it comes down
to a choice between one or the other, owner Dan Snyder will
probably choose the franchise player who has the talent to
revolutionize the game.
SAFETY PLAN: Griffin’s knee isn’t the only one under scrutiny.
Safety Brandon Meriweather tore his right ACL last season, and he’s
been slower to heal that RG3. He missed the first three preseason
games, and it’s far from certain he’ll be full-go for Week 1. This
matters because safety is the Redskins’ most worrisome position.
The defense ranked 30th against the pass last year, and – if
there’s no Meriweather – the starting tandem will likely be a
rookie sixth-round draft pick (Bacarri Rambo) and a career backup
better suited for special teams (Reed Doughty).
FAMILIARITY BREEDS SUCCESS? The Redskins sure hope so.
Twenty-one of the projected 22 starters were on the team last year,
and Shanahan and his coaching staff have remained mostly intact
since he came to Washington in 2010. With some financial
maneuvering, the club was able to rework deals and retain several
players who appeared unaffordable when the team suffered a salary
cap penalty imposed by the NFL. As a result, most everyone knows
the schemes by heart, and few starting jobs were up for grabs
during training camp. The final cuts to determine the 53-man roster
will surely include players who would’ve made the team only a
couple of years ago. ”It’s nice when you have some tough decisions
to make,” Shanahan said. ”When it’s easy to find your top 53,
usually that’s not a good sign.”
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