Miles Traveled to date: 15,499
The journey from Flowery Branch to Ashburn is a long one; over 600 miles and because Atlanta practiced until 6:00PM we weren’t on the road until 7. The drive took all night and we eventually found our hotel, close to the Redskins facility, at 5:40AM. Once again walkthroughs were early (and took place in the dome) with padded practice not starting until 3:30PM. By then it was hot, although not stifling by any means, and many fans had arrived to see their team and in particular their new quarterback, a certain Robert Griffin III.
1) A New Hope?
During the morning walkthroughs I was lucky enough to be introduced to Joe Theismann, who happened to be in attendance. He’s seen a lot of Griffin and was effusive about the young player. He said that from what he had seen, he had all the tools necessary and was confident enough to succeed, but not so self-assured that it was an impediment to his learning. He also noted the only thing that was currently a weakness was his lack of experience in reading NFL defenses.
Suitably impressed we went down to the practice fields looking forward to being wowed by the young QB. Unfortunately he didn’t meet those expectations. In truth, Griffin looked out of his depth, threw many inaccurate and often dangerous passes, and very few good ones; this was not a good day for him. In the play selection there appeared to be an awful lot of roll-outs, where he faked the hand-off, came back against the grain and looked for an open man. The problem was he was often pressured by the defense and subsequently made bad decisions or under-threw his targets.
However, it’s also fair to say, his two most compelling throws came when running to his left and right. On both occasions, on a dead sprint, he lasered in a bullet, dead on target, with just a whip of his arm. Clearly the ability is there but if a single practice is any indication, he is a long way from the finished article. Where he’ll be in two years who knows, but we’ll get another chance to assess him when he gets 15-20 plays in Buffalo on Thursday.
An aside which may or may not have any bearing: Peter King asked to meet him and was refused. This is the only time on the tour any QB has not spoken to him and is especially strange given the fact that King’s tour is sponsored by EvoShield, who also sponsor Griffin.
2) Running in fours
Last year four running backs had more than 50 attempts for Washington with none having more than Roy Helu’s 151. Only the Saints could beat or match those numbers in both categories, but at 0.7 yards per carry more they were a team with considerably more talent at the position.
This year it looks as if four might be the number “de jour” again as that is how many half-backs have a legitimate shot at gaining significant carries; Helu, Evan Royster, Tim Hightower and rookie Alfred Morris. Last year we were moderately impressed with all of the first three’s play, especially Royster who came in late and did well.
Morris is the wildcard here and Mike Shanahan seems impressed, although from what I saw in the pass protection drills he was by far the worst of the three (I didn’t see Hightower pass protect) in that regard. The defense was so dominant against the offense that it was difficult to see anything at all although Helu did show good burst on one play.
Look for the Redskins to once more utilize multiple backs, for Helu to be the probable starter and for RGIII to be well in the competition for most carries.
3) Repackaged Safeties
Is there a likely starting partnership that is as well travelled as Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams? Is there a safety duo who has failed to live up to expectations as badly, yet still be given opportunities as these players? What the Redskins may be counting on is that the rest of the defense is so good that previous issues are hidden and that the pair can maximize their obvious talents.
Williams is one of those players who seems to have declined year on year. In Minnesota he twice missed 11 tackles and together with some impressively poor coverage was released by a side that had little in the way of safety depth. Why the 49ers chose to pick him up is open to debate but once more he was struggling with his form when he lost playing time to the resigned Dashon Goldson.
For reasons verging on the bizarre Meriweather went to the Pro Bowl the season before being released by New England, despite even the most die-hard Patriots fan believing he had a terrible year. Chicago, with its safety dearth, tried and failed to get anything useful out of him before the Redskins decided they would give him another shot.
As I alluded to earlier neither player had much to do in practice as I didn’t see a ball go over 10 yards and most never got beyond three yards.
The whole thing is a risk of massive proportions but it seems like that’s just a vignette of the whole Redskins season.
- In the nickel package Cedric Griffin played LCB with DeAngelo Hall (playing with a jersey number of 2 for reasons I didn’t understand) moving to slot.
- With Jammal Brown on PUP, Tyler Polumbus manned the right tackle spot and Maurice Hurt played LG.
- Chris Cooley seems to have lost a huge amount of weight. He looked far more like a wide receiver than a tight end.
- Santana Moss was around in the morning but in the afternoon I didn’t see him and Leonard Hankerson started with Pierre Garcon in base.