Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at email@example.com.
Robert Griffin III Hoping To Show Preseason Debut Worth The Wait
ASHBURN – Long days of practice have turned into long nights of studying. The attention has been constant, the expectations refined.
It won’t be for another month until the beginning of the regular season, when games actually count and performances can be measured.
But tonight, in Buffalo, the first step toward the next era of football in the nation’s capital will begin. After two weeks of training camp, four months of anticipation and countless years of burden, tonight, for the first time, Robert Griffin III will quarterback the Washington Redskins.
“I think it will be an eye-opening experience,” Griffin said. “I look forward to it.”
The big public reveal, the finished product, won’t come until Sept. 9, when the Redskins head to New Orleans to open the regular season. Tonight’s game must be put in the proper context; Griffin’s night will be short, limited to approximately 20 plays, all of which are likely to come before the end of the first quarter.
Still, hopes are high, just like they are at the start of every football season. Griffin, in turn, does not want to disappoint; he joked earlier in the week he’ll be expected to complete every pass he throws, including a few 70-yard touchdown strikes.
“I just hope he goes out there and has fun, you know?” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “We’re going to go out there and hopefully try not to put too much pressure on him. We’ll give him a chance to get everybody the ball. He’s not going to play a ton, but we hope he can go out there and just have some fun and go against a defense that he hasn’t seen yet.”
The No. 2 overall selection in the NFL Draft in April, Griffin, the Heisman Trophy-winning, record-setting quarterback from Baylor, will at last be provided with a tangible way to evaluate his progress.
The game will provide a break to the monotony of training camp, where Griffin has worked his way through all aspects of the Redskins’ offense. The coaching staff will balance testing the ability of the quarterback with the simplicity of the preseason, a time when teams rarely plan for their opponents and instead try to control their own game.
“We just want to see how he reacts to those situations and just executing the offense the way it’s meant to be executed,” quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur said. “That’s ultimately what we’re looking for.”
Griffin, then, is unlikely to show off two of the attributes that landed him with the Redskins in the first place – his strong arm and his quick feet. His plays will be scripted, skewed toward the conservative, and will also be designed for the coaching staff to see where Griffin’s teammates stand.
The Redskins overhauled their receiving corps in the offseason and will already enter the game with a patchwork offensive line – a situation that’s less than idea for Griffin but one made necessary with two, and potentially three, top linemen out because of injury.
“These players have been working extremely hard trying to learn the offense, trying to learn the defense, and now you see them in game situations and see how they react,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “You’re trying to see people that can shine on the field.”
Griffin would like to be amongst them. He did everything he could to maximize his offseason, including hosting some of his receivers in Texas, and has done everything asked of him thus far in training camp.
A strong start to the preseason could then bode well for the regular season – and, potentially, the future.
“I think I’ll be more anxious than nervous,” Griffin said. “When you’re anxious, you can’t wait to succeed, so I look forward to going out and being successful as an NFL quarterback for this franchise. In that sense, yeah, I’m excited to go out and get it started.”