The Redskins can talk all they want about having one of the NFL’s top receiving corps, but this upcoming season all comes down to quarterback Robert Griffin III. In 2012, Griffin was rookie of the year and the Redskins won the NFC East. In 2013, he had a still-mending knee and Washington fell to 3-13. As preseason looms, let’s look at five things Griffin has to do to spark a turnaround season.
1. Trust DeSean Jackson’s speed
There’s a lot of talk about chemistry, but Griffin needs to truly trust how fast Jackson accelerates downfield. Jackson hits another gear when he separates from defenders. In practice, Griffin sometimes underthrows Jackson on deep balls. Timing will come during August practices, but will the work lead to touchdowns in September? Jackson is a smaller target at 5-foot-10 so trusting him in the middle of the field will be tricky.
2. The brace is gone, but …
Griffin is running freely again, proving he’s finally overcome the knee injury from January 2013. The brace is discarded and he has shown intoxicating speed in practice when zipping past defenders. He’s the fastest Redskins player since Darrell Green retired in 2003. Griffin can’t answer the sirens’ calls every time, though. Three injuries in 2013 proved that. But his speed can be an asset occasionally.
3. RGIII can’t be RG Pick 6
Griffin was forced to stay in the pocket last year and his interception totals rose from five in 15 games in 2012 to 12 in 13 games in 2013. He was no longer taking advantage of linebackers who were suckered into playing the run by making the easier short pass. A revamped offensive line should give Griffin an extra second to find his target and help cut down on his interceptions. Otherwise, he needs to throw it away more.
4. Don’t fixate on Garcon
It’s easy to say Pierre Garcon won’t come near matching last year’s NFL-leading 113 receptions, with Andre Roberts and Jackson added and tight end Jordan Reed healthy. Last year, Griffin too often fixated on Garcon. Sure, the Redskins lacked options, but Griffin needs second and third reads to become primary targets. Garcon shouldn’t exceed 80 catches in this lineup, but he should have more than his 2013 total of five touchdowns.
5. Trust the scheme
Griffin appears to believe coach Jay Gruden trusts him more than predecessor Mike Shanahan did. Well, trust goes both ways. Gruden may give the third-year passer some latitude calling options at first, but if they fail then the coach will take over. And if that happens, Griffin needs to accept he’s not always in control. How the passer handles that situation will show whether it was the coach or the player that failed last year.
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