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After First Eight Games, Robert Griffin III Has Surpassed Redskins’ Expectations

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – When the Washington Redskins began their season in September, head coach Mike Shanahan had a general idea of what he’d consider to be a successful first half for Robert Griffin III.

Griffin

None of those expectations have compared at all to Griffin’s actual performance.

“If you told me at the midpoint of the season that Robert would be the most successful quarterback in the NFL in yards per play – first, second and third down – I’d literally say you were crazy,” Shanahan said.

It’s not just one category in which Griffin is amongst the leaders. The rookie quarterback had a league-high 70.4 completion percentage entering the Redskins’ loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday, but his struggles in that game knocked him to fifth.

He’s currently thrown for 1,778 yards and was on pace for more than 4,000 as recently as last week; his three interceptions are tied for the fewest amongst starting quarterbacks, while he ranks seventh with a 97.3 quarterback rating.

Griffin, though, can run, and his performance on the ground has also been electric. He leads all quarterbacks with 476 rushing yards, which ranks him 17th overall, while his 6.8 yards per carry average is second only to Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller.

He’s also run for six touchdowns, which ranks behind only Houston running back Arian Foster.

“I personally think it’s gone about as well as it could have gone,” said tight end Logan Paulsen. “I have to constantly remind myself he’s in his first year. He’s picked up everything so effortlessly, and I think that’s made the transition easier on all the skill position guys.”

That transition hasn’t necessarily been easy for Griffin. In the passing game, the Redskins have lost Pierre Garçon, brought in during the offseason to be the Redskins’ top receiving threat, and tight end Fred Davis, who had filled that role, to injury. Garçon has played only nine quarters because of a toe injury, while Davis tore his left Achilles’ tendon on Oct. 21 and will miss the rest of the season.

And despite the eye-raising numbers, the rigors of the running game have also presented a challenge for Griffin. His 76-yard touchdown run against Minnesota on Oct. 14 remains the highlight of his season – and something he casually said later could one day linger as one of the bright spots of his career – and demonstrated the full range of his ability.

But the concussion he sustained a week earlier against Atlanta, which happened while he was scrambling and fighting for extra yards – likewise demonstrated the pitfalls of carelessness he developed from four prior weeks of taking chunks of yardage from defenses at will.

Only Sunday against the Steelers, when he went 16-for-34 for 177 yards and a touchdown and ran six times for eight yards, did he actually look like a player who was not the runaway candidate to be the Rookie of the Year.

“He’s going to get better and better each week, more comfortable with different systems,” Shanahan said. “We get more comfortable with what he can do, but there are not very many people who can run at that speed and throw the ball like he does as well.”

Griffin stated multiple times before the season main goal when he began the season was merely to have fun and appreciate the opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Through eight games, he’s reached that.

“It’s a lot more fun winning than it is losing, but whenever you can play at the top level of any profession, you feel truly honored to be able to do that and to be able to play with some of the best,” Griffin said. “It’s been enjoyable for me. Like I said, we just want to get more wins so that we feel like we’ve played well. We’ve just got to go out and make sure it counts on the scoreboard.”

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