RICHMOND—A year ago, Robert Griffin III barely broke a sweat in the Redskins’ preseason opener against the Patriots at FedEx Field. He was in for one drive, took 10 snaps and threw four passes, completing two for nine yards. Alfred Morris carried five times for 27 yards to key an 11-play, 35-yard drive to a field goal.
Perhaps Jay Gruden doesn’t think that was enough work or that he needs more work in the first practice game at this stage of his development. That game comes on Thursday night in Cleveland.
“We'll see,” said Gruden when asked how much Griffin and the starters will play against the Browns. “I would think at least a quarter right now, just off the top of my head, but we'll see. Could be longer. Just depends on how many plays you get. We'll probably have a pitch count on him and go from there."
So even though Gruden hasn’t made a firm decision on how long Griffin and the starters will go, it sure sounds like it will be much longer than one possession and four pass attempts.
It seems apparent that the Redskins didn’t like a number of the things they did last year to prepare Griffin for the season, his first playing in Gruden’s offense. The biggest admission that they needed to do things differently was the addition of a quarterbacks coach in Matt Cavanaugh. He replaces, well, nobody. Gruden decided to leave the job vacant and work with the quarterbacks directly along with offensive coordinator Sean McVay. Towards the end of the year, the Redskins had used all three quarterbacks on the roster and none of them played well consistently. Towards the end of the year Gruden saw that the arrangement was not going to work and he hinted that a QB coach would be hired. Cavanaugh came on board in January.
And now we have a shift in the thinking on snap counts during the preseason. Yes, it may be just a difference of dozen or so snaps on Thursday. But it’s a pretty good bet that when the preseason is over, Griffin will have thrown more than the 20 passes he attempted last year.
Perhaps Griffin will play more in the preseason at the behest of Cavanaugh. Last year he was the QB coach of the Bears and Jay Cutler, an established quarterback, threw 42 passes in the preseason. The previous year Cutler threw 34 preseason passes. Cavanaugh was the quarterbacks coach of the Jets from 2009-2012. Mark Sanchez threw an average of 41 passes during the preseason. It appears that Cavanaugh is a believer in getting his quarterbacks at least a game’s worth of pass attempts in during the preseason.
Playing Griffin more snaps does increase the chances that he may get injured during a meaningless game. Simple math tells you that and Griffin’s propensity to get injured is greater than that of the average QB. But perhaps the feeling is that if Griffin doesn’t get enough reps to start the season he doesn’t have a chance of being effective. The injury risk is one that they believe they have to take.