Robert Griffin III, Trent Williams, Lorenzo Alexander named to Pro Bowl

December 26, 2012

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, already the owner of several franchise and NFL records for a rookie signal-caller, can add another accolade to his résumé: Pro Bowl quarterback.

Griffin was named Wednesday evening to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster, along with special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander and left tackle Trent Williams, both of whom also were first-time selections. Rookie running back Alfred Morris and 15-year veteran linebacker London Fletcher were selected as alternates.

Griffin becomes the first rookie quarterback in Redskins history to receive the honor and only the second rookie quarterback in NFL history, after Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins in 1983, to make the squad as an original pick. (Four other rookie quarterbacks have made the Pro Bowl as alternates.)

Griffin also becomes the first Washington quarterback since Brad Johnson in 1999 to be named to the Pro Bowl. That season, Johnson led the Redskins to a 10-6 record and the NFC East title.

The Pro Bowl will be Jan. 27 in Hono­lulu. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers was named the NFC starter in front of Griffin and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.

The Washington Post’s LaVar Arrington and Dan Steinberg discuss the Dallas Cowboys’ strengths heading into the winner-take-all game against the Redskins on Sunday night at FedExField. (The Washington Post)

With one regular season game left in his rookie campaign, Griffin has passed for 3,100 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions, earning the league’s second-highest quarterback rating, at 104.1. He also has rushed for 750 yards and six touchdowns, becoming only the second quarterback in league history to pass for at least 3,000 yards and rush for 750. Philadelphia’s Randall Cunningham was the first, in 1990.

With Griffin at the helm, the Redskins have compiled a 9-6 record — their best in five years. The team is on a six-game winning streak that marks a dramatic turnaround from last season’s 5-11 campaign. Making plays passing and running, Griffin has sparked a once-anemic offense that now ranks fifth in the NFL with 384.7 yards and 27.2 points a game.

“I love the way Robert has handled himself,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said of the second overall pick in last April’s draft. “He hasn’t handled himself like a rookie. He’s handled himself like a veteran. The way he works, the intangibles, how hard he works, how important football is, that’s all the things you look for in a quarterback, and he has all those things.”

If Griffin and his teammates can beat the visiting Dallas Cowboys in the regular season finale Sunday night, Washington would earn its first 10-win season since 2005, capture the NFC East crown for the first time since 1999 and return to the playoffs after a five-year hiatus that includes last-place finishes in the division each of the last four years.

Although honored by the Pro Bowl selection, Griffin said those are the only accomplishments he truly cares about.

“You can’t play down those kind of things, but I’ve always said my whole football career that you don’t play for awards. Those just come,” Griffin said. “You don’t say you’re going to win the Heisman. You don’t say you’re going to be MVP. You go out and prove it on the field and if everyone feels that way, then they’ll give you that award.”

Alexander’s selection to the Pro Bowl represents a story of perseverance. Undrafted out of California, he made Washington’s roster in 2007 after stints on practice squads for Carolina, Baltimore and the Redskins. Originally a backup used along the offensive line, defensive line and on special teams, Alexander also has filled in at tight end and fullback. Two years ago, he switched to linebacker, where he has remained since, both on the inside and outside.

In his sixth season, Alexander leads the league with 19 special teams tackles and anchors a kickoff unit that has limited opponents to 23.4 yards per kickoff return, seventh best in the NFC.

Alexander has consistently ranked among the top NFL special teams tacklers, but has been overlooked in part because of the Redskins’ losing record in previous years.

“He’s been doing it since I’ve been here — the last two years at least,” Shanahan said. “I’m surprised he hasn’t made the Pro Bowl. . . . Coaches eventually see guys that make plays and he’s been doing that this year when he’s been double and triple-teamed.”

Alexander credits his success to his increased speed after he lost 30 pounds during the offseason, as well as the bolstering of Washington’s special teams, which has freed him up to make more plays.

“I’ve had a lot better year,” Alexander said. “I’m leading the league in [special teams] tackles. . . . I definitely had a big change in my game this year, and there were a lot of guys contributing to it.”

Williams saw his selection as a symbol of growth both on and off the field. Drafted fourth overall in 2010, the Oklahoma product had his share of ups and downs as a rookie, and suffered an early-season injury in 2011. He had just regained his form when he was suspended for the final four games of the season for failing multiple drug tests.

Determined to redeem himself, Williams said he aimed to play at a Pro Bowl level all season and provide strong leadership. Voted a team captain entering the season, he has unofficially surrendered only three sacks all year despite playing through knee, ankle and thigh injuries and taking on some of the league’s best pass rushers.

“It just shows how much I’ve grown,” Williams said. “And how much I’ve learned. A lot of people make mistakes and keep making them. Just to know I’ve learned from them and become a better person, and ultimately a better player, it’s gratifying.”

Washington last put three players on the Pro Bowl squad in 2010, when linebackers Fletcher and Brian Orakpo and cornerback DeAngelo Hall earned selections.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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