ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Some thoughts and observations about QB Robert Griffin III’s preseason debut, in which he completed 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards, threw for a touchdown and posted a passer rating of 145.8:
Griffin is running a scaled-down offense during the preseason, so there were three main criteria on which to judge him against Buffalo: decision-making, accuracy and timing. Considering his uneven play during training camp, his debut went as well in those three areas as anyone could have hoped. Reviews from coaches and players were positive inside the locker room after the game.
Linebackers bracketed Davis to the sideline, and then Hankerson was not open against three deep defensive backs in a Cover-3 look. The Redskins’ offensive line deserves credit for protecting Griffin long enough to make that read.
“In the NFL, from what I’ve heard, you don’t get very many opportunities to get to your last read, so that felt good,” Griffin said. “Coach was happy. He told me good job after that play.”
On the 18-yarder, Griffin dropped seven steps from under center and faked a handoff. Coaches have worked extensively with Griffin on such drops because he operated mostly out of the shotgun at Baylor. The footwork required is a bit unfamiliar to him, and he also has to turn his back to the defense on the play-fake.
Garcon, on that route, had the option to continue deep or cut it off, depending on the coverage. The Bills took away the deep ball by keeping both safeties high, so Garcon cut off the route. Griffin was on the same page as his receiver and anticipated the shorter route against the deep coverage he saw, too. He then stepped into the throw and for a nice chunk of yardage.
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While Griffin excelled at the basics against Buffalo, it’s important to keep this performance in context. Several reasons for his uneven play in training camp involve elements of the offense that were left out of the preseason game plan.
For example, Griffin has been inaccurate at times when he has to reset after faking a draw or some type of option read. Well, the Redskins didn’t run any of those option fakes on Thursday. Early in camp, he was inaccurate throwing while rolling to his left. He never made that throw against Buffalo. He might have had one opportunity (the first play of the third series), but the linebacker contained the keeper, and Griffin had to dump the ball quickly to TE Niles Paul.
Think of it this way: Griffin got an A in Quarterbacking 101 on Thursday. He’ll graduate to a more difficult level during the regular season.