Robert Griffin III recharges DC's batteries
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Santana Moss stopped at a gas station not too far from the Redskins' practice facility this past week and met a man who gushed about Moss' team.
About one play by Moss' team from last Sunday, to be precise.
"How about those Redskins?" Moss said the man asked him. "He didn't even know I played. He was like, 'Oh, man, I was there.' I was like, 'Yeah?' He said, 'It was a good one. That run, man, I haven't seen nothing like that in a long time.' "
Try to forget the part of the story in which a Redskins fan doesn't recognize Moss, the longest-tenured player on the team. No one around these parts will forget "that run" -- Robert Griffin III's 76-yard touchdown that lifted the Redskins to a 38-26 win over the Vikings and a 3-3 record heading into Sunday's game against the Giants.
Griffin has electrified one of the most loyal and most consistently disappointed fan bases in the NFL, one that certainly was skeptical when the Redskins sent three first-rounders and a second-round pick to the Rams for the chance to take Griffin second overall.
Through six games, Griffin hasn't just cornered the commercial market -- his ads for Subway and Gatorade are ubiquitous -- he's transformed an offense that has been looking for consistency and productivity since their last first-round quarterback pick, Jason Campbell, was supposed to transform things in 2005.
With Griffin, coach Mike Shanahan and son / offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have devised an array of looks, from straight dropbacks to an option formation, mostly run out of a "pistol" set, not as deep a snap as a shotgun.
"It's a whole different game plan for teams to face," said Redskins fullback Darrel Young, an Amityville product. "[Our] practices are different. We might do something completely different this week, I don't know. Teams are game-planning for one thing, we do another."
Griffin's big run -- he's rushed for 379 yards, one more than Jets running back Shonn Greene, to go with six rushing touchdowns, second in the NFL -- highlighted another aspect of his incredible ability that might be even scarier for his own team than opponents: his 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
Just the week before, he almost got killed when he came face-to-face with bigger, faster defenders than he saw in four years at Baylor. He was trying for an extra yard inside the Falcons' 5-yard line Oct. 7 when Sean Weatherspoon leveled him, sending the rookie quarterback out of the game with a concussion.
He was back at practice three days later and racing down the sideline for a big score a week later, so the concern was short-lived. But the debate rages -- can Griffin be aggressive and cautious at the same time?
"The more they're around him up there, the more they'll learn how competitive he is and how hard it is to balance those things," said Philip Montgomery, Griffin's offensive coordinator at Baylor. "He's going to try and push the envelope a bit. But we've talked about it for a long time, and when I talked to him after the hit, we talked about it again. One yard, two yards, sometimes it's just not worth it."
"The fans and my teammates don't want me to love the contact," Griffin said. "I am a competitive guy, and I do not mind getting hit. But whenever I can shy away from contact, I am the quarterback of this team and they need me out there every play.
"It's not a pride thing, it's not [that] I'm a lesser man because I'm going to slide or run out of bounds. It's just a matter of being smart."
He has no trouble with that. His speed and athletic ability make people underestimate his smarts. This is someone who finished his undergraduate work at Baylor in three years. His 100.5 passer rating, third-best in the league, testifies to Griffin's level head. But knowing when to tuck the ball and run versus when to take a sack or run out of bounds takes time and work, especially for a rookie.
"You've got to recognize and then you've got to maintain your gap integrity because if you fall prey or victim to thinking there's a better way or an easier way, he'll see it and then bring the ball outside on you," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You can talk about the option all you want, but the 76-yard run was just pulling the ball down on a pass."
With all that Griffin has done and may yet do, the Redskins, who haven't had a winning season since 2007, are 3-3. There is excitement, but for some, it's tempered.
"We're happy. We're happy we're successful, that we're doing some good things,'' Moss said. "We're still 3-3. To be .500, that's fine for now. [Griffin] is a big part of that.
"It's great to see him be able to take on a new offense, a new league, this league that's the best league, and still be able to be himself."