Robert Griffin III has a go-to guy in Pierre Garcon, hopes to get other Redskins receivers involved

August 17, 2012

One thing was clear even in the limited time the Washington Redskins’ starting offense spent on the field in Buffalo last week: Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III already is confident and comfortable throwing the ball to Pierre Garcon, the wide receiver signed to a hefty free agent contract.

Now, as the Redskins prepare for their second preseason game Saturday night against the Chicago Bears, one issue is whether Griffin can remain in sync with Garcon while he finds ways to involve other receivers as well.

“I think any relationship grows the more time you spend together,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said this week. “A quarterback and his receiving corps, they spend a lot of time together through the OTAs [organized team activities, or offseason practices] and what you’re doing during summer camp. It’s a necessity. You have to get a feel for each other.”

According to Shanahan, the Redskins’ starters will play 30 to 35 snaps against the Bears, or probably about one half. That’s up from the 14 plays that Griffin and the other offensive starters logged during the first preseason game against the Bills.

Griffin completed 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in his successful preseason unveiling. Garcon was the main target, with three catches for 58 yards. He turned Griffin’s final throw that night into a 20-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

In all, four of Griffin’s six passes in the opener went to Garcon, including one that was ruled incomplete when an official ruled that Garcon failed to get both feet down inbounds along the sideline. Griffin had a completion to wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and threw another pass to tight end Niles Paul for an incompletion.

Having such early evidence that Griffin and Garcon are on the same page was a positive sign for the Redskins, who signed Garcon to a five-year, $42.5 million free agent contract in March. Garcon was a complementary receiver in his four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, but the Redskins are hoping he can be more than that.

Shanahan said that Garcon is probably “a little bit stronger than I anticipated.” The Redskins knew that Garcon had plenty of speed and enough size to be a top receiver. Now they can cross their fingers and hope that, over time, he and Griffin become a superb quarterback-receiver combination.

“They both have the ability,” Shanahan said. “Now, it’s easy to say that with this being their first year working with each other. But I really do believe that Pierre is very, very special and Robert is very special as well.”

Garcon also said there still is plenty of work to be done.

“We still have a lot to talk about,” Garcon said. “We still have a lot of communication to do. We still have a long way to go. We did the basics right. But we still have a lot more to do.”

Griffin said early in the week: “We came in together. We are looking to grow together as a quarterback and receiver. Of course I am going to have chemistry with him. Hopefully I can have that same type of chemistry with Santana [Moss], Hankerson and the rest of those guys as well. It just so happens that he got targeted more times than everyone else. It’s not like we were calling plays designated for Pierre. We were just calling our base plays, going through the reads. And it just so happens that his number popped up.”

With more playing time Saturday, Griffin will have more chances to distribute the ball to Hankerson, Moss, wideout Josh Morgan and tight ends Fred Davis and Chris Cooley.

“The more guys he feels comfortable with,” Cooley said, “the better off he’ll be.”

Morgan, the other free agent receiver signed by the Redskins on the day the market opened, said he wasn’t surprised by Griffin’s solid outing in the preseason opener and expects the prized rookie to continue to improve.

“Guys with that type of talent, when the lights come on, it’s time to perform,” he said. “It’s hard in practice. It’s way harder in practice than it is in the game. The coaches do a great job of making it almost miserable in practice. The coaches give you the worst of every defense, every blitz. . . . I knew he was going to get in the game and do his thing.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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