The regular season is not here yet, but NFL Training Camps have begun and have suspense building early. The fans in Washington are particularly antsy for live action to see how their newest quarterback will fare under fire.
Robert Griffin III is all the rage in Washington right now, and Training Camps are just enough activity to get our mouths salivating. Redskins' training camp began last week and fans are desperate to what Griffin can do for the Burgundy and Gold.
We are aware of Griffin's arm strength and speed, but this piece will focus on some of Griffin's underrated qualities. I have isolated three categories that I believe Griffin will shock fans with in this year's training camp.
When mini camps and OTA's were held back in June, RG3 claimed he had already learned, "60 to 70 percent" of the playbook. This was a remarkable idea as Griffin had only been with the team for five weeks. The Shanahan offense is not easy to master (ask Donovan McNabb) and it was natural to expect Griffin to learn only a small piece of the playbook early on.
Fast forward to training camp and Griffin appears to have not only been telling the truth early but also to have continued to improve in his month off. Head coach Mike Shanahan stated:
"He’s done a good job right from the beginning, taking pride in everything he does. Even the first day of practice, he didn’t have one missed assignment or one wrong called formation. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you throw a lot at a rookie quarterback."
Having every assignment and formation down at this point is incredibly impressive and is far ahead of schedule. Training Camp and preseason is a time to work out mistakes and make sure they do not happen during the regular season. RG3 appears to be practicing for practice, and the coaches are noticing.
While the bar is extremely high for RG3 to begin with, the pace of his progress is far beyond expectations. RG3 appears to have learned a substantial portion of the playbook (if not all of it) at this point, and wants to spend as much time learning on the field as possible.
RG3 has loads of talent but one thing a rookie cannot have immediately is a rapport with the receiving corps. The relationship a quarterback has with his receivers is an important part of any successful offense, but it takes time to build. Every receiver runs routes in a slightly different way, at different speeds and likes the ball placed in different locations.
Griffin came into Washington with no preexisting relationship with any of the receivers, and has had to learn the abilities and preferences of established veterans. When asked yesterday about his rapport with the receivers Griffin stated:
"We have a pretty good chemistry right now, and if we had to go play tomorrow, I think we could do it and be effective."
The rapport a quarterback has with his receivers is a necessary component for a winning season. Fans in Washington will be able to notice Griffin's passes reaching receivers with much more comfort than you would expect out of a rookie.
One of the criticisms of RG3 coming out of college was the amount of time he spent playing out a shotgun scheme. Griffin had experience taking snaps from under center but Baylor was far from a pro-style offense.
The Mike Shanahan offense runs primarily from under center, and utilizes plenty of playaction. With less experience under center and a bruised up offensive line, the progression of RG3's pocket presence was expected to be gradual. The Redskins also have two premier pass rushers in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan to simulate intense pass rush for the rookie quarterback.
Redskins.com lead writer Brian Tinsman stated,
"Through the first four days of practice, Griffin III has shown an increased comfort in dropping back in the face of pressure, stepping up in the pocket to let it pass by, and rolling out to look downfield."
Learning to play with pass rush from under center is much different from the shotgun and I'm very impressed with the progress Griffin has made so far. Comfort in the pocket is something that elite quarterbacks spend years developing and Griffin is quickly developing his own. Over the next six weeks I expect fans to see some struggles but overall a quarterback who is mature in the pocket beyond his years.