Tonight is the night we've been waiting for since we heard NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell say back in April, "With the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the Washington Redskins select quarterback Robert Griffin III from Baylor University."
There has been a lot of talk, a lot of hype because all we've wanted to do since April is see the kid out on the field. So obviously a lot of Skins fans, as well as football fans, are going to have their eyes on Griffin. We here at Redskins101 will also have our eyes clued to number 10 but we'll be watching for specific things.
For instance how he handles the pass rush. The Buffalo Bills made it a point this off-season to upgrade their front seven with the corner stone being the signing of defensive end Mario Williams. Tonights match-up offers a great test for both squads. The Bills are going to want to see what they've invested their money in and are going to pin their ears back and come after the rookie quarterback. On the flip side the Skins need to know how Griffin will handle the rush since the defensive fronts in the NFC East are all pretty terrifying.
Obviously the first goal for the offense is to block the Bills pass rush, but with the patch work line the Skins have I'm quite sure a blitz or two will make it through. Believe it or not this is a good thing (author's note, it's a good thing as long as RG3 doesn't get hurt) because we'll get a look at what Griffin does under pressure in a game that doesn't count. Will he take a sack, will he throw the ball away or into coverage for an interception, or will he take off running?
These are things I'm looking forward to seeing out of the rookie. Too many times last season we saw Rex Grossman either take the sack (resulting in way too many fumbles) or foolishly throw the ball into double coverage to have it picked off. As long as Griffin doesn't do either of those things too often he's already an upgrade.
Next on my RG3 watch list is how he manages the offense. Once he steps onto that field he needs to take total control over the other ten guys on the field. He can't be passive like Jason Campbell once was for this organization. He needs to be like former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. He needs to be a general out there. Who cares that he's a rookie, he needs to hold his team accountable for their errors. If someone misses a block he needs to say something, if a receiver runs the wrong route he needs to say something. Of course this all won't take place in the first preseason game, but by mid-season I want to players afraid to go back to the huddle when they've screwed up. That's how it was in Buffalo during their hey day with Kelly and he ran probably the most efficient offenses in the history of the NFL.
Last on my RG3 watch list is what he does when he does take off and run. Obviously with a quarterback like Griffin you are going to have designed running plays for him and there are going to be other times when a play breaks down and instead of taking a sack or throwing it away he'll take off and run. When he does that is he going to be like Mike Vick and take the big hit or is he going to be smart and slide or get out of bounds?
From what I've seen from camp most of Griffin's designed running plays are bootlegs to the outside so he shouldn't have a problem getting a few yards and getting safely out of bounds, however, as we've all seen when a passing play breaks down the quarterback is usually in the center of the field and takes off up the gut. When that happens their choices are slide or take a big hit. Griffin needs to know that any yardage he gains on a busted pass play is a positive (especially on first or second down) and he doesn't need to risk his health for an extra yard or two (the only exception being late in a regular season game on third or fourth when the team is behind). Odds are with the Bills defense we'll see a busted pass play or two and we'll see Griffin take off. At no point during this game should he take the hit. He should get as many yards as he can and the second a defender gets within four yards of him he should slide.
My next focal point for the evening will be the offensive line. Because of the NFL's unjust cap penalty against the Redskins and Cowboys our hands were tied this off-season. We could go after some of the linemen we wanted because their price tag was just too high. We basically had to make due with what we already had on the roster. Of course knowing our luck some of those guys are already injured. There is a bright side here though. Our line was built for Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme and we finally have a quarterback mobile enough to roll-out of the pocket so the line doesn't have to work as hard as they would in a traditional scheme. This will also give Griffin an advantage of seeing more of the field and making it easier for him to escape if the protection breaks down.
RG3 wasn't the only addition to the offensive side of the ball this year. The Skins picked up wide-outs Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon. Morgan has been hampered by injury this training camp and is questionable for tonight but it will be interesting to see how quickly Garcon and Griffin can get on the same page. One of the main reasons guys like Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney were let go this off-season was because the Skins wanted to get younger at wide-out and have guys grow in the system with Griffin. If Garcon and Griffin bound quickly we could see many years of that duo lighting up Fed-Ex Field. How quickly Griffin can bound with not just Garcon but with the receiving corps in general will determine this team's success in 2012.
The defensive front seven is probably the most solid part of this team and I'm eager to watch them get after the Bills but they'll only be as good as the defensive backfield. If the corners and safeties can provide decent coverage than we should see quite a bit of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The position I'll be watching very closely is the safety position. Since the unfortunate passing of Sean Taylor it has been musical chairs back there. The Skins have yet to find that perfect balance of run stoppers and pass coverage guys to go back there. Brandon Merriweather of great interest to me. The Skins took a risk in signing him and he's already had one off the field issue before training camp. Now it's time for him to show us why the Skins signed this former first rounder.
There are of course many things to watch for tonight but these were just some of the major changes this team made during the off-season and ones that we hope pay-off sooner then later.
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