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Robert Griffin III Considers Redskins Preseason Debut A Success
(Originally posted 8/9/12, 12:40 a.m.; Updated 8/10/12, 9:22 p.m.)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – As far as debuts go, Robert Griffin III’s first game with the Washington Redskins has to be considered a success.
Now, if only it would happen when games matter. The Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 7-6 in the preseason opener for both teams at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thursday, marking the unofficial debut for the player the team chose No. 2 overall in April’s NFL Draft.
Griffin played only 14 snaps over three series and finished 4-for-6 for 70 yards, including a touchdown on a 20-yard screen pass to Pierre Garçon with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
He targeted Garçon four times, including on his first passing attempt – a well-placed throw to the receiver’s chest that was disallowed as officials ruled he had a foot out of bounds.
Leonard Hankerson was the receiver on Griffin’s first completion, taking a toss in the flats 12 yards after shaking his defender.
But the quarterback’s best throw of the evening may have been on another 20-yard gain – one where Garçon, running a deep curl, recognized the soft coverage and broke the route off, with Griffin spotting him as the secondary option underneath.
Six weeks of offseason workouts and two weeks of training camp allowed the coaching staff to make its own in-person evaluation of Griffin. The game, though, offered a better glimpse into understanding the quarterback’s development – his decision-making against live defenses and his mechanics, including his footwork and his release.
He was under center for all but three snaps, including the touchdown pass, and got rid of the ball on time. Only once did the defense force him to rush a throw: his third attempt, and the first of his final series, when outside linebacker Nick Barnett broke into the backfield and Griffin dumped the ball off to tight end Niles Paul.
Facing third-and-3 on his final series, Griffin broke the huddle and lined up in the shotgun, but quickly called the Redskins’ first timeout. He then threw a bubble screen to Garçon, sprung by a key block from left tackle Trent Williams, and Garçon broke down the sideline, somersaulting into the end zone to celebrate the score.
“Pierre’s definitely dynamic with the ball in his hands after the catch,” Griffin said. “We just wanted to take advantage of that. They were playing off with the corners, trying to play a type of in-and-out look, which, with that screen pass, is the perfect look.
“The most important thing for me was to make sure I got the ball over the defensive end so he didn’t knock it down, and the rest was history. The offensive line got in front of him. He had a bunch of good blocks, and he took it to the end zone.”
Griffin’s only stumble came on his sixth play when he was credited for a fumble on a handoff to running back Evan Royster, though it appeared Royster never secured the ball before Bills safety George Wilson grabbed it. Royster said after the game the handoff was low, and it was as he tried to pick it up that he lost control of it.
Head coach Mike Shanahan stuck to his usual plan of playing the starters between 12 and 20 snaps. The second-team offense, led by Rex Grossman, entered with just over three minutes in the first quarter and left at approximately the same point in the second; rookie Kirk Cousins quarterbacked the team through the end of the game.
The same held true for the defense, with the starters off the field following the series after the Redskins’ touchdown. The second unit played the entire second quarter, save a few substitutions, while the third team took over in the second half.
Royster, who started at running back, had 21 yards on seven carries. Roy Helu carried the ball four times for 17 yards, while rookie Alfred Morris had a game-high 54 yards on 15 attempts, all in the second half.
The Redskins’ defense held the Bills’ starters to 61 yards, all in the first quarter, though the second team made the most impressive stop. Buffalo had six opportunities from within 10 yards late in the first half, including a first-and-goal from the Redskins’ 1-yard-line that ended in a shanked 22-yard field goal attempt by Rian Lindell.
Lindell made a 43-yard field goal with 9:37 left in the first quarter and a 45-yard field goal with 13:20 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Buffalo starter Ryan Fitzpatrick went 6-for-14 for 61 yards, while backup Vince Young went 5-for-12 for 50 yards and added 37 yards on five carries.
Grossman was 2-for-10 for 22 yards – a 25-yard completion to Joshua Morgan and a three-yard loss by Helu on a checkdown. Cousins was 9-for-22 for 74 yards, but he threw an interception to Ron Brooks at the end of the second quarter.