As he observes the Washington Redskins, who are attempting to change the fortunes of their franchise with a rookie quarterback at the helm, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis gives Mike Shanahan and team management a thumbs-up.
Last season, Lewis found himself in a similar situation when his team took then-TCU star Andy Dalton in the second round of the NFL Draft, and named him the starter from Day 1 of the 2011 season.
Dalton passed for 3,398 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as he helped lead the Bengals to a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance. Dalton initially was named a Pro Bowl alternate, but then made the AFC squad when New England’s Tom Brady had to withdraw.
Lewis and the Bengals used the same philosophy last season that the Redskins aimed to use to ensure success for Robert Griffin III, surrounding him with a strong defense, a solid rushing attack and weapons on offense to help ease the pressure on their rookie signal caller.
“I felt like the rest of the football team realized where we were and that we really had to do a fine, fine job on defense: limit plays, limit explosive plays, limit the score and get the ball back as often as possible for the offense, and secondly, be able to run the football effectively to keep the pressure off of him,” said Lewis, whose Bengals take on the Redskins at FedEx Field Sunday.
The Bengals also worked to design an offense that played to Dalton’s strengths by incorporating many of the features that he was accustomed in TCU’s spread offense. Lewis says that the Redskins’ decision to do the same for Griffin is the right move.
“It was a very similar situation, because the Redskins have done a great job of creating the offense with their quarterback, which is the same thing that we were doing,” the coach said. “We were [thinking], the quarterback is your offense, so there was no preconceived offense or anything, because we were starting from scratch.”
But unlike Dalton, Griffin brings an additional element to the Redskins’ offense with his ability to make plays both with his arm and his legs. Through two games, Griffin has completed 39 of 55 passes for 526 yards and three touchdowns and an interception. He also has rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Lewis said the Bengals will have their hands full trying to shut down Griffin.
“Well, you really have to play very, very disciplined football. Everybody has to get their job done, and you have to make a play when you’re put in position to make a play,” Lewis said. “[The Redskins] isolate a play, they use the whole field. They’ve done an effective job of creating an offense different…than what they showed in the preseason. They came out against New Orleans and showed their run game…They obviously worked hard on it without putting it out there in a real game.”