- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2012

There have been plays during training camp when it appears quarterback Robert Griffin III might have hit the snooze button on his internal alarm clock.

Two seconds, three seconds, four … and there’s Griffin, still holding the ball as the pocket collapses around him.

Defenders aren’t allowed to contact the quarterback during training camp, and that’s a good thing because Griffin has been taking his time to go through his progressions as he learns the Washington Redskins’ offense and how to play against NFL pass coverages.

Whether that’s a normal growing pain for any rookie or whether Griffin, specifically, is struggling will become clearer in the preseason opener against Buffalo on Thursday.

Griffin believes it’s just part of his learning process, a benign and temporary step in his overall development.

“Sometimes in practice I try to err on the side of not throwing the ball into coverage a little bit too much just because our defenders know exactly what’s coming at them every single day,” Griffin said Monday. “They’ve known this offense for a long time. I think in the games things will open up a lot more and I’ll be able to get the ball out of my hands.”

Rookies have much to learn, though, and it’s unreasonable to expect Griffin’s timing to be impeccable right away.

Veteran quarterback Rex Grossman had similar difficulties during his rookie season with the Chicago Bears in 2003. But he did not face the same expectations to produce immediately that Griffin does. Grossman was the 22nd-overall pick, as opposed to Griffin being the second, and Grossman was Chicago’s third-stringer.

“A little overwhelmed at first with what you’re doing in terms of just how you have to constantly be on your [game] about everything,” Grossman said. “The defenses know, they can sense what’s happening. They are smarter, faster, stronger, and you have to be perfect. They understand route concepts, so it makes you have to be on time every single play.

“If it’s not, bad [stuff] happens.”

That’s been apparent in recent days. Griffin went five training camp practices without an interception, but they’ve become more frequent.

Take Kevin Barnes’ interception last Thursday. Barnes undercut a throw intended for Brandon Banks near the left sideline. Griffin tried to complete a similar throw earlier in practice, but it was too high for Barnes to intercept.

Barnes outsmarted Griffin the second time, though. He began the play by covering Terrence Austin, but when Banks ran a shorter route underneath it, Barnes jumped that and caught Griffin’s pass.

“I had underneath coverage, but obviously I didn’t want Robert to know because he’s a pretty smart guy,” Barnes said. “It’s a very aggressive coverage, but I kind of slow-played it and allowed the blitz to get there. And then by the time the blitz got there, he had to get the ball out of his hand, and I jumped it.”

Coaches are hoping such plays in practice prepare Griffin for the various coverages and blitzes he’ll face during the regular season.

“When you look at something, you go back, you’re hoping after you put your quarterback through it, he won’t make the same mistake again,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

Grossman didn’t get completely comfortable with his timing until his second season, after he had a full offseason and training camp working with the first team, he said.

As he sees Griffin face some of the same difficulties dissecting coverages and making decisions, he believes Griffin’s play will be refined in the game.

“You don’t want to waste reps because your left guard or somebody got beat,” Grossman said. “I know he believes a lot of those, he would have escaped quicker and got out of there and would have made a great play, probably. I think he doesn’t escape to go through his progressions.”

On Thursday night, Griffin’s progress finally will be measured by a live defense. It’s an important first test, but he sees a more gradual progression, one that will make his internal alarm clock more precise.

“It just comes with time,” Griffin said. “You’ve got to learn when to run, when not to run, when to get the ball out of your hands and when to throw the ball in the dirt.”

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