Redskins Coach Jay Gruden is so focused on determining the final pieces of his own team that he doesn’t seem to have taken time to appreciate the irony that his defense might play a role in determining the future of his first quarterback in Washington: Robert Griffin III.
Griffin is fighting for his NFL life, trying hard to make the Baltimore Ravens as their third quarterback. Thursday night’s preseason game against the Redskins will likely belong to him, giving him every chance to dazzle Ravens Coach John Harbaugh and team executives and make it hard to cut him in favor of retaining just two quarterbacks.
Gruden, who has said he won’t watch much Ravens game film in preparation for the game, didn’t talk much about Griffin on Monday, other than to say he believes there is a place for a player like RGIII in the NFL. In a sense, Griffin is just another player to him, not the quarterback whose injuries and inconsistency doomed the Redskins to a 4-12 record and a last-place finish in the NFC East in Gruden’s first season in 2014.
“Anyone who can run and throw is very important nowadays,” Gruden said. “Mobility and the zone reads and all that stuff, but it just depends on the roster and who he’s competing with.”
Griffin isn’t competing against anyone as much as he is competing against a roster spot or, more specifically, the perception that with Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson, the Ravens don’t need a third quarterback and can keep an extra player at another position. Griffin needs to be spectacular Thursday against the mostly second-, third- and fourth-team players Washington will use.
In Baltimore’s first four preseason games, Griffin has completed 27 of 41 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Good numbers, but still not enough to guarantee making the Ravens’ roster.
Looking for a better start
Griffin’s indecisiveness in the first game of that 2014 season sent the Redskins to a 17-6 loss at Houston. It was the first of four straight first-game losses for Gruden, a fact that gnaws at the coach as his fifth season opener looms. Gruden was asked Monday whether he plans to do something different before the first game Sept. 9 at Arizona.
“We’re 0-4, so we should do something different,” he said. “I went through them all the other day.”
He did not seem thrilled to relive four years of season-starting misery.
“Shoot, I can’t remember them all,” he said.
And yet, soon enough, the memories started spilling out.
“We had a couple of special teams FUBARs the first two years,” he said, recalling disaster. “A punt return for a touchdown, a blocked punt for a touchdown — we threw an interception against Philadelphia last year in the red zone, which cost us. We got to clean up the mistakes the first game of the year and be on our assignments and be fundamentally sound.”
Backup quarterback Colt McCoy was not on the field for the start of practice Monday. Gruden said McCoy has a sprained finger, but the coach did not believe the injury will keep McCoy out long. When asked whether McCoy will be ready for the start of the season, Gruden replied: “That’s the plan, for sure.”
Gruden said he is optimistic about the health of tight end Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson, who have not appeared in preseason games but have been practicing in recent weeks. Thompson has come back well from his broken leg, Gruden said, and has been “great on his pass blocking and obviously his routes and has hit the hole straight up.”
Gruden said Reed, recovering from toe surgeries, “had a great day” Monday and is working on “getting a feel for [quarterback] Alex [Smith] and the different formations.
“He’s on pace to be great,” Gruden added.
Wide receivers Cam Sims and Brian Quick — who are competing for spots on the 53-man roster — returned to practice Monday after missing the past week with upper leg injuries.
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