Robert Griffin III will wear a headset instead of a helmet during the Washington Redskins‘ preseason finale Wednesday night against Tampa Bay. Coach Mike Shanahan plans to sideline his starters to preserve their health and to allow them to begin focusing on the regular-season opener at New Orleans on Sept. 9.
That means Griffin’s first NFL preseason is finished after only 31 pass attempts. Some other rookie starting quarterbacks, such as No. 1 pick Andrew Luck and eighth-overall pick Ryan Tannehill, have thrown more than twice that amount.
Griffin and Shanahan aren’t worried about his readiness, though. Repeating game situations in practice throughout the summer has sufficiently prepared him for what opposing defenses will throw at him beginning next month, they say.
“Whether it’s goal line, backed up, everything he has put us through has come up in some form or fashion in the [preseason] games,” Griffin said after Monday’s practice. “I think that he’s done a great job of that, just getting us all ready — not just myself but everybody ready for those situations.”
Shanahan this summer prioritized situational team drills in practice to prepare Griffin for the regular season. The sound of Shanahan hollering some down and distance before a series of team drills was common at Redskins Park.
“We’re trying to put him in second and 10, third and 15, the toughest situations you can,” Shanahan said. “Because if they can execute in those situations, then the first-and-10 and second-and-1-to-6 is pretty easy. You try to do that to all quarterbacks where it becomes second nature, but it does take some time.”
Often it was the first-string offense against its defensive counterpart instead of the second string. They scrapped the seven-on-seven drills run more frequently in past years. Instead, linemen were included.
“We try to keep it simple, and hopefully that will make him grow when he can master the simple things,” receiver Pierre Garcon said.
Limiting Griffin’s playing time in order to preserve his health and keep his game a mystery to opponents seems an intriguing tradeoff, but Shanahan doesn’t it see it as a sacrifice, even though Griffin did not play as much in three preseason games as Shanahan had hoped.
He was on the field for 26 plays in the first half against Chicago instead of the 30-35 Shanahan anticipated. And against Indianapolis on Saturday, the first-string offense was on the field for 34 plays. “A little less than I wanted,” Shanahan said.
Meanwhile, veteran quarterbacks with playoff experience such as Eli Manning (43), Matt Ryan (60), Ben Roethlisberger (41) and Joe Flacco (60) have attempted more preseason passes than Griffin.
Griffin at least showed promise when he did throw. He completed 20 of 31 attempts for 193 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was an exceptional 103.3.
After Saturday’s game, though, Griffin alluded to a possible negative affect of his limited number of throws. After three deep passes fell incomplete, he emphasized the importance of experience.
“Those types of things and situations you have to get used to a guy’s game speed,” Griffin said after the game. “Once we are in the season, and we get more reps at those deep routes, we will hit those like there’s no tomorrow.”
Griffin on Monday clarified his thoughts.
“I don’t think we needed game time,” he said. “We don’t need to go out and miss a couple more deep balls and then we’ll hit them. It’s just about throwing the deep balls. We need to practice that a little bit more in practice.
“It will just take a little bit of time, not a whole season or anything like that. That comes with more practice, not necessarily missing throws in games.”
Griffin has a less than two weeks of practice to get it right before the real games begin.