- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is not yet ready to look ahead.

There are still five games left in a miserable 2013 season and it would be easy for Griffin to start planning for the offseason work that he missed last year recovering from major knee surgery. He won’t give in to the temptation.

“Once you start doing that, you’ve officially given up and you probably shouldn’t step on that field,” Griffin said. “My focus right now is [the New York Giants] and that’s all I’ve got.”

Still, at 3-8 Washington is not making the postseason this year. There will be no NFC East title celebrations, no more big games at all. And Griffin and coach Mike Shanahan have acknowledged throughout the season that the absence of any substantial offseason work has been one factor of many in his struggles.

Griffin has surgery on Jan. 9 to repair a torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his right knee. For months he worked to rehabilitate the knee, hoping to be ready for the start of training camp. But for most of his team’s offseason workouts, including OTA’s and minicamp, Griffin was relegated to the sidelines, where he threw passes to teammates Pierre Garcon, Fred Davis and Jordan Reed. It was all he could do.

Griffin took part in offensive meetings, but that’s a far cry from working at full speed on the skills he’ll need to become a better drop back passer. That was not a strength of his anyway coming out of Baylor when he was the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL draft. That’s been evident this season when the knee injury has robbed Griffin of the explosiveness that made him so dangerous as a rookie. If he becomes better pocket passer it will take work. That just wasn’t available to him last spring and summer

“We tried to do things a year ago that gave [Griffin] the best chance to be successful and things that he could do very effectively that I thought he was very good at,” Shanahan said. “The drop back passing game takes some time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

But Griffin wouldn’t budge when asked if he has a plan in place already to prepare for a critical 2014 season. He still has to stay healthy over these final five games, after all, and head into the offseason ready to make the necessary progressions.

“There are always things you can work on, but that will be between me, my coaches and whoever else I work with,” Griffin said.

But it’s obvious what will demonstrate growth in that area. There’s a comfort level in the pocket that needs to be reached. Better performances from the offensive linemen in front of him would help there. So would not holding onto the ball so long.

Griffin, who played in a far less complex offense in college at Baylor, must read coverages better, understand what personnel the defense has put on the field, develop a feel for when to use his elusiveness to step up in the pocket at the right time and buy himself a precious extra second or two. If he identifies a specific blitz package he must get rid of the ball quicker.

It all adds up, according to Shanahan. The hope is that by next summer some of the old explosiveness will return. Griffin will be able to make some of the plays with his legs that he did much of last year before a December knee injury limited him and the torn ACL and LCL in the January playoff loss to Seattle finished him off.

And that’s why these final five games are so important. Do they matter in the long run to the Redskins? No. The competitive portion of 2013 is done. But Shanahan says he won’t turn to backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, either, barring another injury to Griffin.

That’s because Griffin needs all of the repetitions that he can get under game conditions if he has hope of developing those pocket skills and making a significant leap forward next season. He will get them. The rest is up to him.

“It’s a growing period,” Shanahan said “And if you take a look at so many of these quarterbacks, you go back and think of all the Hall of Fame quarterbacks, they’ve had much tougher years than what we’re going through so far. It doesn’t happen overnight. But he’s got all the ability in the world to make that big jump. You just have to be patient.”



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