RICHMOND — In the final minutes of Washington’s practice on Monday, Robert Griffin III faced the task of driving his team 65 yards in a minute and 51 seconds while orchestrating a no-huddle offense.
He completed a short pass to receiver Aldrick Robinson on first down, and on second-and-6 came under pressure almost immediately. Griffin, backing away, threw the ball at the feet of running back Alfred Morris, just off the line.
The play drew hearty applause and cheers of encouragement from offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
“Good job, Robert!” McVay yelled.
For an incompletion? Yes, because Griffin had demonstrated an understanding of a concept his coaches have tried to get through to him.
For the past two weeks, McVay and head coach Jay Gruden have preached the importance of quick decision-making, and improved execution while running the two-minute offense.
Griffin has adamantly stated that he hates throwing the ball away in practice – even when a defender rushes in, then holds up on a would-be sack. Griffin would rather continue with the play at least get the practice of carrying it out fully than he would forfeit the opportunity.
Gruden last week said, however, that Griffin indeed needs to do a better job of getting the ball out of his hands, even if it’s just practice. Part of the process involved convincing Griffin that throwing the ball away isn’t always a bad thing.
“We’ll address that,” Gruden said last Tuesday. “I think he’s so athletic that he thinks he can keep a lot of plays alive and maybe he can. It’s hard to say, ‘Would he have got me?’ I don’t know. But I think there’s a point in time where he’s got to not make a bad play worse. That’s something we’re going to preach and eliminate the negative plays.”
Griffin ran the two-minute offense on Sunday, but he and the offense sputtered. The flow and tempo wasn’t good, and the execution spotty. He again held onto the ball too long at times, and other plays forced throws.
“I yelled a lot today,” Gruden said with a laugh Sunday. “Receivers, quarterbacks, linemen, defensive linemen, we had a couple false starts today. It wasn’t the most crisp practices I’ve ever seen, but yeah, nothing really specific. The receivers might not have been blocking, might have been a sloppy route. They dropped a couple balls today and dropped a couple yesterday, so, just trying to clean it up, man. Keep everybody on the same page, moving forward.”
So, the throw-away on second down 24 hours later represented forward movement and a change in the quarterback’s thinking.
Griffin regrouped, came to the line and completed a pass to Santana Moss for a 9-yard pickup and the first down.
“We talked about throwing the ball away in practice, and I hate doing that,” Griffin said sheepishly. “But in the two-minute drill, just to get used to it, you have to throw the ball away when nothing is there. A lot of times – and I’ll say yesterday in particular – I’ll go through all the reads, and the defense does a great job covering everybody, and you’ve got to get rid of it so you can move onto the next play. I might not have done that in the instance yesterday, but today we had a play, and I threw the ball in the ground, just to get onto the next play. It was second down, got to third down, got a play, move the chains, we’re still going on our drive. So, those are little things you’ve got to learn from.”
Griffin went on to complete another four passes on six attempts. Then, on first-and-goal from the 10, he zipped the ball in to Robinson on a slant route from the left slot. Robinson scored, and Griffin sprinted to the end zone and congratulated his teammate before heading back up field with an extra pep in his step.
“I felt like we came out in the two-minute drill … executed what we needed to, moved the ball down the field efficiently, and scored a touchdown,” Griffin said. “It was a lot smoother today. We felt like we were able to get into a rhythm, everybody being in the right place, making the right checks at the line. That’s what training camp is about. Some days you’re going to have those days that are up and down, and today was a day where we were climbing a lot.”
Griffin & Co. still have a ways to go. The execution throughout the day, and even on that drive, was not flawless. But coaches felt encouraged. Given that the third-year quarterback is essentially starting all over with a new coach, overhauled offense and a new mindset focused squarely on developing him into a pure pocket passer, who also has game-changing mobility, plenty of bumps and pot holes lie ahead.
“It’s going to take time,” Gruden continues to say.
But for one day, the steps forward – however small – were noticeable.
Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.
The Redskins have a walkthrough Monday afternoon at 4:10 and one more practice in Richmond Tuesday morning. That one is not open to the public.
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