Robert Griffin III and Pierre Garcon were done playing in last Thursday’s preseason game, but their work day was not finished. While their Washington Redskins teammates competed against the Buffalo Bills on the scoreboard and against each other for roster spots, Griffin and Garcon reviewed the 14 plays the first-string offense ran.
“We’re still in training camp,” Garcon said, “so we still got a lot of learning to do.”
Not only that, but Griffin and Garcon have a lot of growing to do — together. The Redskins‘ biggest offseason additions are charged with turning the team’s beleaguered offense into a high-octane force.
“We came in together, and we’re looking to grow together as a quarterback and receiver,” Griffin said. “Of course I’m going to have chemistry with him.”
Evidence of a budding connection was clear in Washington’s 7-6 victory. Griffin completed three passes to Garcon on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, the first-string offense’s third and final series. The receptions went for 20, 18 and 20 yards. The final catch was a screen that Garcon punctuated with a flip into the end zone.
Their success on that drive was exactly what the Redskins envisioned when, in a three-day span in March, they signed Garcon to a five-year, $42.5 million contract and traded four draft picks, including three first-rounders, to move up to draft Griffin.
“Pierre came in here highly touted; RG, same thing,” said veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who routinely covers Garcon in practice. “They hook up a lot in practice. You saw the touchdown in the game, so it’s a lot to look forward to.”
The early stage of their relationship has been a veritable honeymoon phase. Garcon was among the group of receivers that visited Griffin at his home in Waco, Texas, earlier this summer for a bonding session.
Each player offers only glowing remarks about the other, as they contemplate what they could potentially accomplish together.
“He’s a talented guy, very strong,” Griffin said of Garcon. “He’s confident going across the middle because he knows nobody can really punish him because of his body building and the amount of work he puts in in the weight room. He’s definitely an explosive receiver. Got great hands, downfield speed, and he’s big and tough. So I think he’s got the total package.”
Both players understand their relationship must be cultivated, and they each have experience to help them accomplish that.
Griffin turned around Baylor’s football program and won the Heisman Trophy last season with the help of top receiver Kendall Wright.
“You could say Pierre reminds me of Kendall,” Griffin said. “Just their attitude, they’re so competitive. Pierre doesn’t want to let anybody beat him in anything — tic-tac-toe, jacks, it doesn’t matter what it is. He just wants to win.”
During Garcon’s four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, he witnessed how quarterback Peyton Manning and receiver Reggie Wayne worked together and how successful they were on the field.
“Those guys in Indy had a long history,” Garcon said. “It wasn’t built over one year. Hopefully, that’s what we’ll have out here in D.C.”
Coach Mike Shanahan has seen some great pairings during his career, and he believes Griffin and Garcon could be the next. He coached John Elway and Rod Smith with the Denver Broncos. Steve Young and Jerry Rice dominated while Shanahan was the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator in the 1990s.
Several threads connect those relationships.
“Number one, you last a while,” Shanahan said. “Elway and Steve Young, they both were able to mature in the system. Steve [was] in the 49ers system and Elway [was] in the Broncos system all the way through their career. I think that really helped both of them. They have those guys work that long together; you start to add up some numbers.”
And so it’s probably premature to expect greatness from Griffin and Garcon. But the quarterback is 22, and the receiver is only 26. They have time to make it work the way Shanahan has witnessed in the past.
“They both have that ability,” Shanahan said. “It’s easy to say that, especially in your first year, but I really do believe that Pierre is very, very special. I think, as we talked about, Robert is very special. But a lot of work [is required] between now and then, and hopefully we can keep on improving. We’d like to be in that company in the future.”
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