- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Forgive Rex Grossman if you catch a glimpse of him drooling this week, salivating at the thought of Arizona coming to town Sunday. And excuse other quarterbacks you might see exhibiting a tic, evidenced by excessive lip-licking and hand-rubbing.

Because judging by results from Week 1 of the NFL, teams aren’t simply pass-happy.

They’re pass-ecstatic.

The gold standard for productive air attacks has been 300 yards, but it’s uncommon for fine-tuned passing games to click right away. It usually takes a while for quarterbacks, wideouts and linemen to adjust against hostile defenses playing at full speed when the regular season begins.

However, if the first week is any indication, we’re on the way to more air miles than the busiest frequent flier.

Carolina QB Cam Newton - a rookie who was totally puzzled and perplexed during the preseason - shredded the Cardinals for 422 yards, the NFL record for passing yards in a debut. He also scratched history another way.

Dating to 1940 (as far back as possible on pro-football-reference.com), the Panthers were just the 12th team to pass for 400 yards in Week 1 - and New England and Miami made it 13 and 14 on Monday night.

Meanwhile, Grossman threw for 305 yards in Sunday’s 28-14 victory against the New York Giants, validating belief, at least momentarily, in both Mike Shanahan’s offense and Donovan McNabb’s demise.

The Redskins, indeed, have shown flashes of brilliance with Grossman calling signals, executing the same plays that were dreadful with McNabb under center. Sunday marked Grossman’s fourth start for Washington and his third 300-yard game.

I’m going out on a limb, but here goes: He’ll notch another one against the Cardinals.

Inflation has affected the NFL as much as our spending power, so 300 yards aren’t what they used to be. But the number of such games we’ve already witnessed is mind-boggling.

Before this season, rarely did more than two or three teams - if any - pass for 300 yards in the opening week. No more than six teams accomplished the feat in a season, and that happened just twice, in 1999 and 1984.

Five teams reached the total in just three seasons (2009, 1994 and 1982).

Know how many teams surpassed the mark this year? Almost half the league, 14.

Forget about 300 yards. There have never been as many 400-yard outings out the box. The grand total entering this season was 12, and the only time it happened more than once in the same season was in 1994, when Dan Marino (473) and Drew Bledsoe (421) squared off in the same game.

But with Monday’s shootout between Tom Brady and Chad Henne, four passers eclipsed 400 yards in Week 1, including Newton and Drew Brees. With 517 yards, Brady joined Norm Van Brocklin (554 yards in 1951) as the only QBs to pass for half-a-grand in the opening week.

Yes, changes in rules and philosophies have made the NFL more wide-open than ever. Yes, it’s easy for QBs to pad their stats when their team falls behind and has to throw on every down. And, yes, hefty yardage totals don’t always equate to victories, as Henne, Newton and Brees were on the losing side (though eight of the 11 other QBs with at least 300 yards won).

But some coaches embrace the possibilities that exist in the wild, blue yonder, installing offenses with multiple sets, targets and outlets. Elite-level QBs such as Brady and Brees and Aaron Rodgers thrive in those systems, stretching fields and stressing defenses.

No one is going to confuse Grossman with the aforementioned trio, which is fine. He barely beat out a four-year veteran with four games of experience. And while I advocated publicly that Grossman should be the starter, part of me wanted Shanahan to pick John Beck, for the sheer thrill of the unknown.

The triggerman obviously makes a difference (see: McNabb). But we keep hearing how Washington’s offense is just like Houston’s, which ranked among the NFL’s top four in 2008 and 2009, when offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan held the same position with the Texans.

Grossman’s familiarity in the system and the Shanahans’ belief in him - not to mention the confidence bred by both factors - is reason enough to believe the Redskins are playing the best option at quarterback to emulate Houston’s results. His first touchdown pass Sunday, to Anthony Armstrong, couldn’t have been thrown better no matter whose name you mention.

Then again, based on so many 300-yard games already, the name on the jersey is being rendered irrelevant. Which could be a good omen for the Redskins and Grossman - especially against Arizona.

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