RICHMOND—The last three Redskins training camps have been focused on quarterback Robert Griffin III. In 2012 the spotlight was on the charismatic Heisman trophy winner as he prepared for his first NFL season. The following year camp was all about both Griffin’s sensational rookie year and his rehab from a knee injury that ended that season on a sour note, along with Griffin’s verbal sparring and war of wills with head coach Mike Shanahan. Last year camp focused on Griffin’s adjustment to new head coach Jay Gruden’s offense.
But this year? Griffin had a news conference before the first practice and he said nothing controversial or even all that interesting. Gruden answered questions from the media daily for the first four days of practice and did not get one question about Griffin.
Perhaps the media could be accused of focusing too much on negative news about Griffin. When it was apparent to all that he was struggling to pick up Gruden’s offense last year there were frequent questions about what was going wrong. Griffin often spoke the media after practice and Gruden press conferences were peppered with questions about the quarterback.
This year, most daily observers at training camp agree that Griffin has looked pretty good so far. There is less hesitation and more confidence when he drops back to pass. Competence is not as big a story as struggling.
Gruden was finally asked about Griffin on Monday. He acknowledged improvement in the quarterback’s game.
"He’s been doing fine,” said Gruden. “It’s just going back to the basics really. We’re continuing to build off what we did last year and then obviously in OTAs. It’s just all about repetition now and gaining more knowledge of the system, anticipation and a feel for the throws and the protections and the run game . . . We evaluate the heck out of him. Matt [Cavanaugh] coaches the heck out of him, Sean [McVay] does. Overall I think he’s handled everything extremely well. He’s benefiting from Coach Cavanaugh’s presence and he’s benefiting from the repetitions. I feel like he’s on a steady climb and we’ve just got to keep him that way.”
A “steady climb” seems to be just the ticket for a player who had a meteoric rise as a rookie followed by a hard crash back to earth.
It’s not like Griffin has been anonymous, another face in the crowd of 90 players. When national writers come to Richmond, they post an article centered on Griffin. Fans still chant “RG3, RG3”, trying to get an autograph or even a smile and wave as the quarterback leaves the field after practice. Gruden noted that there will always be focus on the quarterback but they’re trying to take some of the pressure off of him.
“We’re trying to make this more about the team than Robert, obviously,” he said. “We don’t want to put too much pressure on our quarterback. I mentioned before we can do a lot to take away that pressure with strong running game and good sound defense and special teams. But overall, Robert is Robert. He’s going to get a lot of attention and deservedly so – he’s a great player. We’ve just got to keep building him and building his confidence and get him ready for Miami."
The Miami game is really what it’s all about. It is then that we will get some truly useful knowledge about how far along Griffin is on the road back to being at least a solid NFL quarterback and how well Gruden and Scot McCloughan have done in building a team that doesn’t need a stellar performance from the quarterback to remain competitive.
MORE REDSKINS: Redskins get good news on David Amerson's injury