After struggling throughout the preseason, Redskins cornerback Cedric Griffin turned in a strong effort Sunday with three tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble against the Saints.

Cornerback Cedric Griffin struggled in the preseason, particularly against Chicago, but kicked off the regular season with a strong outing. (Washington Post/Jonathan Newton).

 It was a stark contrast to the Griffin that the Chicago Bears picked on in the second preseason game, and who struggled at times to cover Brandon Banks in practices.

But Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he observed a change in Griffin, who serves as the team’s third cornerback and is on the field frequently alongside starters DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, in the week leading up to the game.

 “He had a great week’s practice, No. 1. I thought he was awesome,” Haslett said. “I thought he was physical, got up in their faces in practice, and it translated to the game, and I thought he was outstanding in the game.”

 Griffin’s biggest play came late in the first half, when Drew Brees completed a 19-yard pass to Marques Colston deep in Redskins territory. But as Colston turned toward the end zone, Griffin hit the receiver from behind and caused him to fumble. The ball rolled out of the back of the end zone and was ruled a touchback.

 Haslett said Griffin was just one of many players that were strong in coverage for the Redskins on Sunday. Wilson also had two pass breakups, and safeties DeJon Gomes, Madieu Williams and Reed Doughty recorded one each. Gomes and Doughty both recorded interceptions.

 Wary of giving Brees plenty of windows of opportunity, Haslett elected to have his defensive backs and linebackers play man-to-man all game instead of zone coverage.

 “We played man-to-man, wanted to play tight on the body so we wouldn’t give the quarterback free access to throw the ball, so we didn’t play one snap of zone all day,” Haslett said.

At times, the coach even had linebackers matched up with receivers.  

 Linebacker Brian Orakpo displayed his improved pass coverage skills and broke up three passes, nearly intercepting one of them.

The Saints had their fair share of production. Lance Moore had six catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, tight end Jimmy Graham had six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown, and Colston had four catches for 71 yards.

 “We knew they were going to get yards,” Haslett said. “They’re just too explosive.”

But the coach entered the game stressing the importance of minimizing whatever impact the Saints had, and he left feeling like his team did just that.

Haslett stressed that the Redskins must continue to improve, though.

“It’s great to play a team like this early and do as well as we did, but hopefully we can translate this to the next 15 games,” Haslett said. “We’ve won the last three openers. We’ve got to keep it going, though. We opened 2-1 one year, and were 4-1. But we have to take it game-by-game and keep it going.”

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