QB ROBERT GRIFFIN III: Where to begin? Griffin saved his best for when the games counted, and the offensive game plan helped him. Six screen passes on the opening drive, although not all scripted, helped him get comfortable throwing the ball and build some momentum.
His decision to keep the ball and run around the right edge for 12 yards on the Redskins‘ second offensive play presented the Saints‘ defense with a dilemma it never quite solved. He turned the corner quickly and burst upfield, and from there New Orleans’ linebackers had to respect Griffin as a threat to run. As a result, they repeatedly sacrificed their depth in pass coverage, which opened up the middle of the field for intermediate completions.
Griffin extended several plays with his feet, one of his most valuable traits coming out of Baylor. One thing on my mind after the regular season was that Griffin did not once make me say, “Wow,” during training camp practices or preseason games. It’s not that he was less than advertised, but in noncontact practices and in a vanilla preseason offense we didn’t see what makes him great. Well, the “wow” moment occurred on the first play of the second quarter.
On a designed bootleg left, Griffin decided not to throw short to FB Darrel Young running toward the left sideline. Instead, he stiff-armed FS Malcom Jenkins in the backfield, changed directions and threw all the way back across the field to a wide open TE Fred Davis for 26 yards. His athleticism and playmaking ability in space and ability to throw deep and accurately were all displayed.
Griffin also was tough in the pocket and willing to take hits in order to get the ball out. He took a shot from Jenkins on the 88-yard touchdown to WR Pierre Garcon, but he got as much power into the throw as he could have with Jenkins closing on him. He also took a vicious hit while rolling out on the fourth-and-1 throw to WR Aldrick Robinson. The Redskins won a game-changing pass interference call in the end zone on the play.
One of the most tantalizing elements of Griffin’s performance Sunday is that there was obvious room for improvement. He threw behind WR Santana Mosson a 14-yard completion in the third quarter when he didn’t step into the throw and let his front shoulder fly open. Moss had a step on the cornerback, and a ball out in front of him would have resulted in a big gain. Griffin was credited with a fumble after a botched play-action fake. The quarterback-running back exchange was problematic during the preseason opener in Buffalo, remember. And Griffin’s legs got tangled up with RB Alfred Morris‘ on at least two plays.
Another negative: Griffin forced a throw to Moss in coverage on a sprint-out in the first half. CB Johnny Patrick came off the receiver on the outside to jump the Moss’ ‘out’ route from the slot, and Griffin was lucky it went through Patrick’s hands in the end zone. That kept the Redskins‘ drive alive, and they scored a touchdown two plays later.
WR ALDRICK ROBINSON:Robinson had an excellent game catching passes in his NFL debut. His hands were sure, even when he was drilled after catching the ball, which he was by FS Malcolm Jenkins on a 13-yard completion over the middle in the fourth quarter. He opened up his hips and turned his body to catch a screen pass QB Robert Griffin III threw behind him on the opening series. The smooth adjustment enabled Robinson to maintain some speed after the catch, and he gained five yards for a first down.
On Robinson’s 29-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter, he released to the outside of CB Patrick Robinson near the left sideline but fought back to get inside position at the top of his break. Then he concentrated on the ball while Robinson was draped over him and still made the catch.
C WILL MONTGOMERY:Montgomery stood out on a solid day for the entire offensive line, which was better as a whole in pass protection than in the running game. The Redskins operated out of the shotgun on 39 of their 71 offensive plays (54.9 percent), and Montgomery’s snaps were quality. Montgomery occasionally struggled with soft or off-target shotgun snaps in the preseason, but he pretty much snapped a perfect game .That’s especially impressive because of how loud the Superdome crowd was.
Montgomery effectively cut-blocked a defender on each of RB Alfred Morris‘ touchdown runs. On the first, a 1-yard plunge, Montgomery cut down DT Brodick Bunkley, who was a menace to LG Kory Lichtensteiger for much of the game. That, paired with the surge Lichtensteiger and LT Trent Williams generated on the left, opened a path for Morris‘ first NFL touchdown.