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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Receivers Making Life Easier For Robert Griffin III As Playoff Push Continues
ASHBURN – Before Robert Griffin III went away during the Washington Redskins’ bye week, he promised himself he’d evaluate all aspects of his game and return focused and energized for the final portion of the season.
Much of his assessment was reflected on himself – not only what he could do better, but how he could make it work. When it came to throwing the ball, however, Griffin realized one aspect was crucially deficient for the operation of a successful offense.
“I just told myself I have to trust these guys out there,” Griffin said, referring to his receivers. “They’re the best in the world. That’s why they’re here.”
And so he has. In the two games since the Redskins returned from their bye week, Griffin has been nothing shy of electric. He has completed 79 percent of his passes, thrown for 511 yards and connected for eight touchdowns. In fact, his two-game passer rating of 146.1 is the best amongst rookie quarterbacks in league history – a mark that his receivers also take pride in.
Each of the seven on the roster have carved out a specific role, and as the season has progressed, Griffin has learned exactly who is capable of doing what, when they’ll be asked to do it and how to get them the ball.
It’s a relationship that, so far, has worked.
“We have a lot of talent in this receiving corps, and everyone has a different role,” Aldrick Robinson said. “Last week, everyone played their role, and everyone’s seeing what kind of receiving corps we can really be.”
Kept on the roster because of his speed, Robinson caught a 49-yard touchdown pass against Philadelphia on Nov. 18 and then reeled in a 68-yard pass for a touchdown on a similar play at Dallas on Thursday.
Pierre Garçon, signed in March because of his ability to gain yards after the catch, churned out a 59-yard touchdown reception against the Cowboys. Santana Moss, the dependable veteran, battled for the ball on a 61-yard heave against the Eagles and then, more easily, had a 6-yard touchdown catch against Dallas.
The gritty Joshua Morgan leads the team with 37 catches, while Leonard Hankerson has overcome instability to stand second on the team with 384 receiving yards. Add in lanky Dezmon Briscoe and shifty return specialist Brandon Banks on occasion, and the Redskins appear to have developed a formula for success.
“It’s a good feeling,” Garçon said. “We all root for each other as receivers. We’re all going hard for each other, and when one person scores, it’s like all of us score or all of us make a big play. To see all the work we’ve put in since [offseason workouts] – to see it start to come together, start to come around, is a good feeling.”
Griffin invited several of his new teammates to Baylor during the summer to begin building a relationship and understand each player’s tendencies. That acclimation process took a slight hit earlier in the season when Garçon tore a plantar plate in a toe on his right foot – an injury that cost him six games and left him hobbled in two others.
When Garçon returned to the lineup against Philadelphia, it was game on. That momentum didn’t slow at Dallas as Griffin threw four touchdown passes, including one to receiver-turned-tight end Niles Paul.
“We’re asking those guys to step up, and I thought they did exactly what a receiving corps would do in a game like that,” head coach Mike Shanahan said.
As the calendar turned to the second half of the season, Shanahan didn’t know how the passing game would unfold. Hankerson and Robinson, in their second seasons, had virtually no roles as rookies. Garçon, Morgan and Briscoe weren’t with the team last year, and Moss has been limited as he transitions away from playing nearly every down.
He’s been pleased with what he’s seen. So, too, have Griffin – and the receivers.
“I still feel like we really haven’t had our best game yet,” said Hankerson, who described such a scenario unfolding as “everybody scoring a touchdown, everybody making plays, no drops [and] just putting up a whole lot of points.”
“Everybody’s going out there and making plays, and everybody’s having fun, and there’s nothing better than everybody going out there and having fun together,” he said.