Both head coach and coordinator believe that the zone-read plays will help keep Griffin safe and point out that his early-season concussion and his knee injuries all occurred on broken-play scrambles, not designed runs.
“The three injuries were pass plays. They weren’t the zone read,” Kyle Shanahan said. “The zone-read is something, I learned throughout going through the year, that I think really helped us. It’s the least pass rush I’ve ever seen as a coordinator. Guys just sitting there just scared to death, just watching everyone else not moving. And I really enjoyed sometimes being able to drop back and not have four guys just teeing off on the quarterback all trying to hit him in the pocket.”
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The coach has, however, preached to Griffin the importance of protecting himself by having a willingness to slide in front of a defender rather than trying to juke, out-run, or leap over him. Another tip has been to hold the ball higher rather than tucking it as he rolls out and darts around the edge so the defender still faces the uncertainty of whether Griffin is about to throw or run.
Griffin’s coaches have confidence that he has started to — and will continue to — develop a feel for all of those things. The quarterback himself says the same.
Everyone has stopped short of making predictions for Griffin’s crucial second season, however. The common refrain is something along the lines of, ‘If this kid is what we think he is, he’ll prove it this year.’
Says Santana Moss — who last season caught a team-high eight touchdown passes from Griffin — all anyone can do now is sit back, watch and wait.
“You never know, man. Anything can happen,” Moss said. “You watch sports, you watch the greats: Peyton Manning comes back better, Peyton Manning comes back sharper. Tom Brady comes back better. When you watch, Russell and RG and Kaepernick, those guys did things last year that was unheard of with the offense they ran, but defenses are going to be trying to stop that. But, I’m sure that as a quarterback, they want to get better at showing they can beat you in other ways. So, who knows. The sky is the limit for all those guys, and I’m definitely looking forward to him being better, as we all would on this team.
“I’m not going to be sitting here and be the expert and tell you what he can do,” Moss added. “I just feel like right now, it’s ‘To be continued.’ ”