- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It took only two plays against Cleveland on Monday night for the Redskins’ grand offseason plan to shine through.

Facing second-and-5 from his own 28-yard line, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III took the snap, dropped three steps in the pocket and scanned downfield. Lined up wide to Griffin’s left, Pierre Garçon ran a skinny post but couldn’t break free from a defender playing bump coverage. Out wide to Griffin’s right and off the line of scrimmage, newcomer DeSean Jackson slowly gained strides on cornerback Joe Haden.

Griffin waited on Garçon, his primary read, before turning his focus in Jackson’s direction. There, he found Jackson coming off his break on a corner route and threw. Twenty-three yards downfield, Jackson hauled in Griffin’s pass before tumbling out of bounds.

Those types of plays – the chunk yardage, explosive gains – were what the Redskins envisioned when they signed Jackson to what was essentially a three-year, $24 million contract in early April. In Washington’s 24-23 preseason victory on Monday at FedEx Field, Jackson was able to show what he can do.

“It’s good to get out there in a game environment and fly around with my teammates,” Jackson said. “We know it’s only a preseason game, but it’s really just getting the timing down and getting acclimated now back into a game [situation].”

Both Garçon and Jackson were held out of the Redskins’ preseason opener on Aug. 7 because of injury – Garçon a strained hamstring, Jackson a sprained ankle – and Monday was the first opportunity for the offense to come together, if only briefly.

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All told, the Redskins’ starters played 25 snaps – and were on the field for five additional plays called back because of penalty – in their first run together. Garçon played 20 snaps and Jackson saw 17, his workload slightly lessened after left tackle Trent Williams landed on him during an interception return as he tried to make a tackle on Haden.

That interception – the only one thrown by Griffin, who otherwise went 6-for-8 for 112 yards while playing into the second quarter – demonstrated the pitfalls of the Redskins’ offense as constructed. Facing third-and-14 on Cleveland’s 27-yard line, the Browns pushed back the right side of the Redskins’ offensive line, leaving Griffin little room in the pocket to make a throw.

The quarterback still tried to find Jackson on a deep right out route, but without room to step into his throw, the pass lacked sufficient zip. Haden, who had four interceptions in a Pro Bowl 2013 season, beat Jackson to the ball and returned it 34 yards.

“I just can’t throw it late – and if I do, it has to be a humdinger,” Griffin said. “It wasn’t a humdinger. I kind of floated it out there, and that’s what happens when you play good corners like Joe Haden. If you make a mistake, they’ll make you pay for it. The good thing that I got from that is obviously, I learned from it and then we came back the next drive and had a big completion – which is what you have to do as a quarterback.”

That big completion was a 49-yard strike to Andre Roberts on the final play of the first quarter. Roberts, a speedster who was signed in March to be the Redskins’ secondary receiver before Jackson became available, ran a slant-and-go out of the left slot to free himself up from free safety Tashaun Gipson.

Roberts put the Redskins at Cleveland’s 8-yard line, but they couldn’t convert. Six plays later, Washington was left a yard shy, with the Browns withstanding three consecutive rushing attempts from running back Alfred Morris.

“Offensively, we haven’t got a lot of chances at goal line periods in practice or in games,” said coach Jay Gruden. “It was a great chance for us to line up there and get things corrected.”

Gruden’s goal for Griffin is to simplify the quarterback’s reads, allowing him to go through his progressions and quickly put the ball in his receivers’ hands.

Because of the injuries, Griffin hasn’t been able to do so with regularity throughout training camp. Jackson had two grabs for 34 yards, Roberts had two for 54 yards and Garçon, who had a team-record 113 catches last season, was not targeted at all on Monday.

Teams typically hold their starters out of the final preseason game, meaning the Redskins have just one more live situation – Saturday at Baltimore – to work out some of the kinks at game speed before moving on to the regular season.

“I just think we did a good job of getting our weapons involved,” Griffin said. “DeSean had some catches. Dre, Pierre, and just finding different ways to get the ball in their hands and let them make plays. As far as me personally, for reads and all that stuff, it’s just me being a quarterback. I enjoy the process of continually getting better and I thank God to have Jay and the guys that I have in this locker room helping me.”

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