Analyzing Robert Griffin III’s Debut Performance With the Skins

A look at how the rookie QB did during last night’s preseason game.

By: JP Finlay

Robert Griffin III at Redskins training camp in July. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Watching preseason football is a bit like walking on a tightrope. You need to stay focused and centered, but also understand that what you’re seeing is exciting and hazardous.

Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III walked the tightrope last night for the Washington Redskins, and looked damn good while he did it.

Griffin played for three series, completing four of six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in a 7-6 victory over Buffalo. Equally important, he seemed comfortable in the pocket and had a strong delivery when looking downfield.

Redskin fans saw everything they wanted from last RG3 last night, and perhaps more. That is why we all need to take a deep breath, remind ourselves this was less than a quarter of one preseason game, and give the kid a break.

Yes, all his passes looked good and catchable. Yes, Griffin showed off some different delivery angles and quick feet. But remember, it’s a long season and he is still a rookie quarterback.

Pressure can be debilitating, and while it certainly seems RG3 can respond to the pressure, we don’t need to heap unnecessary expectations on the kid after six passes.

Praise for Griffin came in from far and wide; local DC fans went crazy on Twitter proclaiming Super Bowl fantasies, but esteemed Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King also talked about Griffin’s debut.

“So Griffin aces his first test,” King wrote. “With opening day four weeks away, Washington has to feel good about how Griffin is digesting what coach Mike Shanahan is asking him to do.”

Griffin didn’t do it alone against Buffalo. Free agent signee Pierre Garçon looked like a great import at wide receiver, hauling in three catches for 58 yards and catching the lone touchdown of the game.

Garçon’s stats looked good, but his front flip into the endzone on the touchdown catch was another matter. I understand he must have been excited to score his first time in a Washington uniform, but the act was dumb. He could have been hurt, and in a game with competent referees, the Skins could have been flagged for excessive celebration. That said, I don’t think this is a trend with him, so I’m fine forgetting the whole thing.

The replacement refs, however, present a real and dangerous problem. The NFL, in its infinite greed and arrogance, locked out the normal, experienced referees because they requested a pay raise. The buffoons working the game last night were awful, making numerous bad calls and appearing so tentative that coaches, players and fans screamed for blown whistles and penalty calls.

When you have large men hitting one another, decisive refereeing is one way to control the violence on the field. Without that control, the risk of injury rises exponentially.

Beyond Garçon’s antics and the dreadful replacement refs, things went about as well as they could for Washington in its preseason opener. There was one significant injury scare, to left tackle Trent Williams, though X-rays revealed his hurt foot to be nothing more than a bruise. The big man should be just fine.

The running game could use a little work, and the Skins secondary still worries some. But the story from this game was absolutely about Griffin. On a night with preposterous expectations, he still delivered, and it leaves a city and a fanbase wanting more.

Soak it up, Skins fans. It has been a long time since there was anything to feel good about at the quarterback position.

The names of Washington QBs over the past decade range from decent to awful; just a brief glimpse at the 2011 season with Rex Grossman and John Beck serves as a reminder of how bad things have been.

Things are better now. We may have a star on our hands. It’s only preseason, but for one night, Griffin looked as good as we could hope.

JP Finlay is a lifelong fan of Washington sports. Some of his fondest memories are of RFK Stadium and Redskins Super Bowl parades. Likes: hot dogs, Arrested Development, the beach. Dislikes: Duke, onions, The Big Bang Theory. Find him on Twitter @jpfinlay.