When It Comes To Robert Griffin III Running, Saints Have No Clue
METAIRIE, La. – Robert Griffin III played only a limited number of snaps during the preseason by design. Rather than allow a rookie to show the full range of his skills, the Washington Redskins’ coaches watered down the playbook, keeping it as simple as possible, and restricted Griffin to playing approximately three quarters of a game.
That strategy seems to have worked. The New Orleans Saints, who host the Redskins at the Superdome in the season opener on Sunday, won’t get their first extended look at the quarterback’s talents until that afternoon.
“It’s a little bit of a guessing game,” Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Friday. “But, we have gone back and looked at him and what he did at Baylor. You can see he’s athletic. We had to be a little bit creative with some of the plays we ran this week, but we certainly anticipate that he’s going to run the football a little bit.”
Griffin’s ability to run the football is one dimension the Saints haven’t been able to prepare for. The quarterback who ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February and was the Big 12 champion in the 400-meter hurdles as a freshman at Baylor ran only five times during the preseason for a total of 22 yards.
The Redskins are sure to incorporate that speed into their offense by adding designed runs, but nothing of the sort was called by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan during the preseason. The Saints were so unfamiliar with anything Griffin might do, and so afraid of extrapolating from Griffin’s college days, that Chase Daniel never ran, either, in his role as the scout team quarterback.
If Griffin runs, the Saints will make adjustments during the game.
“We’re preparing for the Heisman Trophy winner, and you don’t win that by accident,” said interim Saints head coach Aaron Kromer. “He’s an excellent athlete as far as he can throw the football, he’s smart and he can run the football. When you have that combination of those three things, it’s tough to defend him. … If everybody does their job, I hope we can contain him.”
Spagnuolo, the head coach in St. Louis for the last three years, played the Redskins each season. That, and his familiarity with quarterback Donovan McNabb – both were in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2006 – has led Spagnuolo to think the Redskins’ offense will look like it did with McNabb in 2010.
But with Griffin’s speed, players are expecting to see him play less like McNabb and more like Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
“Everybody of course knew about [Newton’s] mobility, but his accuracy and the way he threw the ball – I think he shocked a lot of people, and I think we see a lot of that in RG3,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We know they’re going to have some designed runs for him. They don’t have a quarterback like that and not use him.”
Given Griffin’s arm strength, and any concern about protecting the quarterback from injury, Kromer thinks there’s a chance his designed runs may be limited.
“Let’s be honest – they run the stretch play in the running game and they boot their quarterback off in the naked away from the run,” Kromer said. “[Griffin] throws the ball deep well, which is what they do in that offense as well, so he really fits Shanahan’s offense. I wouldn’t be surprised to go into this game and realize that when it was over, all he ran was what you know of Shanahan’s offense. We’ll see on the field.”