During his days as a track and field standout, Robert Griffin III competed in the high jump in addition to the 400 hurdles. Prior to meets, Griffin always received a bit of advice from his father.
“My dad would always tell me that you jump the same way at 6-[foot]-8 as you jump at 6 foot,” he said. “Just because it’s 6 foot doesn’t mean you put less energy into it.”
Transferring his father’s advice to the football field, Griffin says he approaches every game the same way — and this Sunday’s clash with the New York Giants in his first NFC East contest will be no diifferent.
“For me, you always keep your preparation the same way, whether it’s the Giants or anyone else, so I’ll make sure I do that,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he is well-versed in the history between the Redskins and Giants, thanks largely to his teammates. “You hear all the time, that both of these teams have played each other a bunch, they know each other really well, know the personnel really well, the coaches know each other really well,” Griffin said of the NFL’s longest-running rivalry (the teams have met 168 times, dating back to 1932).
At 4-2, the Giants lead the NFC East. But both of those losses have come to divisional foes. A victory for Washington on Sunday would give it at least a share of first place in the division.
The Giants have been watching Griffin over the past six weeks. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, prior to the start of the season, said he would only call Griffin “Bob Griffin,” rather than RGIII, until the rookie quarterback did something in the NFL.
The week after Griffin opened the season by torching the New Orleans Saints for 40 points and a victory at the Superdome, Umenyiora told reporters, “I will call him RGIII.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning said Wednesday that teammates had been talking about Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run against Minnesota this past Sunday.
And Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said that he has watched Griffin grow in each of the first weeks of the season. “He’s got a better feel of what’s going on,” Coughlin said. “He’s more acclimated to the game, to the circumstances, the situations. He’s playing with outstanding poise. He’s not forcing anything. I’ve seen improvement as you would imagine for an athlete of that caliber over the course of the six games.”
The Giants say Griffin’s athleticism and the quarterback option plays that Washington’s offense is featuring will force them to prepare differently for the Redskins.
New York this season already has faced Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers and Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, who both use some option plays in their attacks. Coughlin expects that familiarity to help to a degree, but he suspects Griffin could negate some of that with his skills.
“Part of it will help. I don’t know that it’s exactly the same, but that certainly will give us reference points as we start to teach this week,” he said. “This will be the second — third, actually — option-oriented attack we would have to try to defend. So we’ve had some experience with it. Have we worked against a guy that’s as fast and elusive as Robert is? No.”
Shanahan said the Giants’ staff ranks among “the best at what they do,” and expects that through film study, New York will have an understanding of Washington’s offense. But there’s no telling which attack the Redskins will feature — the option-heavy attack of the first three weeks of the season, the more traditional attack seen in Weeks 4 and 5, or the blend that featured traditional formations, option schemes and wishbone formations the Redskins used against the Vikings.
“We’re going to grow with this thing every week,” Shanahan said, a smile playing on his lips. “It’s kind of fun to work with a guy like Robert because he can do so many different things, and picks up things so quickly, and he’s able to execute it on the football field. It’s a work in progress for us.”
Said Griffin: “Our game plans are pretty dense, and we have many things we can do with it. If they’re going to shut down one thing, we can go at them with another thing.”
Griffin hasn’t faced a pass rush that rivals that of the Giants, whose linemen Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul all present nightmare matchups.
But Griffin doesn’t appear overwhelmed by the task.
“You won’t know what you’re in for until you get on the field with them, but these guys are hard to block,” he said. “But, [left tackle] Trent [Williams] is up for the challenge, [right tackle] Tyler [Polumbus] is up for the challenge, and whoever else we use to help them block, we’ll be up for the challenge. By no means will I say those guys won’t touch me, but it’ll definitely be fun to get out there and play with the type of talent that they have.”
Griffin added, “It’ll be fun to do something different out there, play a division foe. The New York Giants are Super Bowl champions, and I look forward to it.”