Redskins receivers hold key to success of Robert Griffin III
By Mark Maske,
It was only one play during a June minicamp, with little at stake and the on-field moments that matter still months away. But when wide receiver Pierre Garcon dove and made a one-handed, highlight-reel catch of a throw by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III for a touchdown Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Redskins could hope that their best-laid plans might be unfolding into something worth watching in the fall.
“It wasn’t designed to look like that,” Garcon said after the opening practice of the team’s minicamp at Redskins Park. “But the end result was what we want.”
Griffin’s every move has been followed breathlessly since the Redskins made the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor the second overall pick in April’s NFL draft. But Griffin’s success as a rookie could depend in large part on whether the free agent wideouts signed in March, Garcon and Josh Morgan, are as productive as the Redskins envisioned when they added the duo to upgrade a group that lacked a 1,000-yard receiver last season.
“We’ve got a lot of young, good receivers. Everything is going good,” Morgan said Tuesday. “We’re learning. We’re getting more comfortable. We’re getting better as an offense and Robert is improving every day. I’m excited about everything.”
The Redskins moved quickly to acquire Garcon and Morgan, signing them on the opening day of free agency. But some observers have questioned whether the team did enough to provide Griffin with a reliable group of wide receivers. Neither Garcon nor Morgan has had a 1,000-yard receiving season in the NFL.
Garcon spent four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and demonstrated big-play capabilities. He had career bests last season with 70 catches for 947 yards. Morgan, a D.C. native who attended H.D. Woodson, spent his first four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. He had 15 catches for 220 yards in an injury-shortened 2011 season after amassing a career-high 698 receiving yards in 2010.
The Redskins hope that with Garcon and Morgan added to a group of wideouts that includes veteran holdover Santana Moss and second-year pro Leonard Hankerson, they’ve done enough to help Griffin thrive.
“I’m extremely impressed,” veteran quarterback Rex Grossman said after a recent practice. “They’re definitely big-time free agents for a reason. They’ve got skills that show up on tape. Since we’ve been out here, it’s been the exact same thing.”
Griffin is not the only newcomer with a learning curve. Garcon and Morgan also are trying to grasp a new offense.
“I’m pretty comfortable,” Garcon said. “The offense is not as complicated as it was in Indy. As a veteran now, you kind of learn how to study the offensive playbook, how to adjust to things with the verbiage of the new team. . . . I’m learning a lot faster than my rookie year.”
Morgan said he also is adjusting to playing for his hometown team.
“I don’t want to say I’m nervous about it, but it’s surreal right now,” he said. “It’s like it’s not true yet. It hasn’t really hit me yet. I guess it’s going to hit me whenever that first game is.”
Griffin and his receivers are beginning to gain familiarity with each other, they said. They plan to continue the getting-to-know-you process, they said, by gathering somewhere during the break between this week’s minicamp and the late-July beginning of training camp.
“We’re definitely going to get some work,” Morgan said. “We’re going to figure out each other’s schedules and get as much work as we can.” Griffin said “it’s nothing official yet” but expressed similar sentiments. “We’re all going to get together and throw,” he said. “It’s important for us to be successful.”
Garcon said that “it’s not just 16 weeks of practice. All year, we’ve got to continue to grow. And it’s not just a one-year thing. You’re trying to build for the future, so it’s like an unspoken language where we’re just out there making eye contact and playing. . . .We’ve got to continue to build to it, to shock the world later on.”