In the NFL, it is hard to prognosticate how strong an offense will be with a rookie quarterback at the helm. But in the case of this year's Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin III will lift his team to prominence, while sharing the load with a talented group of athletes.
RGIII will be the offense's focal point, but he will not be asked to do all of the heavy lifting because that can lead to unnecessary injury.
To succeed, Griffin has to simply be patient, play to his strengths and let his instincts take over.
Check out these numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 706 yards rushing, 21 scoring tosses and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
Can Robert Griffin III come anywhere close to matching them? We believe he can because he has more to work with in Washington.
Newton had Steve Smith to chuck the ball to and a pair of veteran tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.
Meanwhile, RGIII has twice as many weapons, with an arm and legs that are comparable to Cam's.
Opponents may think it's funny to trip up Griffin's name. But soon, they'll be tripping all over themselves trying to catch him. And oh, by the way. You can call him Bob, but he prefers Robert.
To be dominant on offense, a team needs game-changers. When one of your game-changers is your quarterback, your offense can be extra special.
“You hear about his speed, but until you go against it, you don’t actually know what you’re facing," said All Pro linebacker London Fletcher (per Redskins.com). "He has the talent to be able to throw the football. The speed is what will definitely shock you, and then his talent will as well."
So far in training camp Redskins fans have witnessed RGIII in drills that are uncommon at the NFL level.
"We're talking about speed option," said NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, after watching Griffin perform on Wednesday. "We've seen some pistol formation. We've seen some quarterback sweeps. Lots and lots of new stuff for Mike Shanahan to take advantage of this athletic quarterback he has."
Washington's coaches have also been impressed with Griffin's ability to soak in the playbook off the field and take command of the huddle on it.
During his second press conference at camp, a reporter asked Griffin if he has had to back away or start over again because he messed up mentally or verbally.
"Not very often," said Griffin with confidence (via realredskins.com). "As an offense, I try to pride myself in being ready every day with the script, going out and getting the plays to the team. And not just getting it to them, but saying it with confidence."
Head coach Mike Shanahan is also bringing Griffin up to speed on what to expect from defenses, so he can outsmart them when the games begin.
"That's gonna be part of the learning process every day, said Shanahan after Thursday's practice (per Redskins.com). "You see what you can do, but it's very competitive out there. [We] try to put a guy like Robert through as many game-type situations as possible. And I think if we do that, we'll get him ready a little bit quicker.
Whenever I hear the classic rock song "Going Mobile" by the Who, I think of Mike Shanahan's great offensive lines in Denver. You know, the ones that kept John Elway's jersey clean, while opening up monstrous lanes for running backs to rumble through?
When Washington's line was intact last year, they fared well with Shanahan's zone blocking scheme and sprung Roy Helu and Evan Royster to a slew of 100-yard games.
Training-camp injuries have plagued the Redskins so far in 2012, but the team got some good news this week. First, right tackle Jammal Brown's hip injury is not as serious as originally assumed. And according to the Washington Post's Mark Maske, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger should be available for the opener after undergoing surgery for "particles" in his knee.
Meanwhile, the Redskins will forge ahead with a healthy Trent Williams, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Maurice Hurt, who started eight games last year when Lichtensteiger went down. But don't be surprised to see third-round draft choice Josh LeRibeus make a push to get on the field.
According to Bleacher Report's Brian Filler, "LeRibeus was a starting left guard at SMU, but also the immediate backup at center. Mike Shanahan spoke with SMU's head coach and discovered that LeRibeus has a natural feel for the position."
LeRibeus is also quick and agile, which is perfect for the cut-block schemes that Shanahan prefers.
If the line can get healthy and jell with RGIII, some highlight reel runs are sure to take shape.
The NFL can thank retired assistant coach Alex Gibbs for the league's popular zone-blocking scheme. He was the mastermind of it in Denver, when Mike Shanahan's Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls.
Since that time, it has been utilized across the league, with great success. Recently, it made the Broncos' Terrell Davis a Hall of Fame nominee, free agent Arian Foster (Houston) a star and the New York Giants a two-time Super Bowl champion under head coach Tom Coughlin.
Shanahan is experienced at employing the zone-blocking scheme with mobile quarterbacks. John Elway, Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler were all mobile, but none of them ran like RGIII can.
Still, the running backs are the key to the scheme, which typically consists of two plays. One is known as an outside zone or "stretch" run, which is a favorite of Shanahan's. The other is a "belly" run to the "inside zone.
For an in-depth description of the zone blocking scheme, check out this column by Bleacher Report's Erik Frenz.
According to the William Russ of ScarDraft.com, teams that run a zone blocking scheme look to acquire linemen who "give up strength for quickness, in order to come off their primary blocks onto secondary targets. [Therefore], movement is more important rather than dominating your defender."
There is very little learning curve when it comes to this type of system and traditionally, you will see a quicker back in this scheme, as the priority is getting to the line quickly."
In the meantime, running backs run to daylight and simply need to be aggressive, with good vision.
One play that worked well for Roy Helu last year was a run to the left side. Helu would press the B-gap (between the guard and tackle) before making a "one-cut" move at the line of scrimmage.
Then, he would head up field at full speed. Cuts at the line of scrimmage allow linemen to get to the second level, where they seal off linebackers who over-commit to gaps.
Helu, Evan Royster and Tim Hightower are urged not to dance in the hole, and if the B-Gap is closed, they're taught to make their cut to the backside. Either way, it's a one-cut only running attack, so patience is a virtue.
Okay. Stop me if I miss one. Terrell Davis (1995-1998), Orlandis Gary (1999), Mike Anderson (2000), Clinton Portis (2002-2003), Reuben Droughns (2004), Mike Anderson again (2005) and Tatum Bell (2006).
All seven of these Denver running backs rushed for 1,000 yards in single seasons under head coach Mike Shanahan. That's 15,437 yards between them, and that doesn't include additional years of production that were short of the millenium mark.
So, how did Shanny do it? Was it the system? Did he have an eye for talent in various rounds of the draft? Or was it just by circumstance that he coached the Broncos for 14 years and had 11 1,000-yard rushers?
Whatever the answer is, he did little wrong and a lot right. Now, he's just searching for his next thousand-yard spark.
Washington's running game will feature a quarterback that won't be afraid to tuck the ball and run. But Shanahan will expect backs like Roy Helu and Evan Royster to attack the gaps in Washington's zone-blocking scheme.
If he can recover some more from last year's torn ACL, Tim Hightower should contribute, but look for Helu or Royster to break out from the pack and vie for the century mark.
Shanahan's third year could be the charm in Washington because he has some young, hungry horses in his stable.
If you're a Redskins fan, you can already imagine it.
If Leonard Hankerson can return at full strength by the season's start, he'd be flanked on one end, with Pierre Garcon on the other. Santana Moss would be in the slot, and if a fourth receiver is on the field, it would be former San Francisco 49er Josh Morgan or the speedy Anthony Armstrong.
That is some weaponry all right.
Back in March, the Redskins snatched Morgan and Garcon from free agency, a month before they anointed RGIII as the team's quarterback savior.
Both players are slight of foot and should help stretch the field, but Garcon should be Griffin's go-to guy.
Pierre is a beast in the open field, once the ball is in his hands. He also received some excellent tutelage in Indianapolis, where he caught balls from Peyton Manning before the future Hall of Famer hurt his neck.
Tight end Fred Davis might as well be a receiver, because he totals numbers like one. But Washington's tight ends stick together. So, move on to the next slide to read more about them.
Three men have a chance to stand out among Washington's tight ends this season. One must stay out of trouble, another must stay be healthy, and the third must play up to his potential.
We're talking about Fred Davis, Chris Cooley and Niles Paul. And if all three accomplish their goals, the position could end up being the strongest one on the Redskins offense.
In a column he wrote for Redskins.com, Gary Fitzgerald referred to the latest offensive trend, which features "bigger, faster and more agile tight ends." New England's Rob Gronkowski (6'6", 265 lbs) and New Orleans Saints star Jimmy Graham (6'7", 265 lbs) are members of the new breed.
"You’re always looking for that dynamic tight end," said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, in Fitzgerald's article. "The last couple of years, you’re seeing some basketball-type players playing the tight end position."
But height is not always necessary.
Shanahan coached 6'2", 230 pound Shannon Sharpe in Denver, before the 8-time Pro Bowler closed out his career in Baltimore. Sharpe is now in the Hall of Fame.
In Washington, Fred Davis (6'4", 247 lbs) should continue to cause mismatches down the middle of the field, but the Shanahans need to find a way to incorporate fan favorite Chris Cooley (6'3', 243 lbs).
There has been talk that Cooley could be expendable because of his gigantic salary cap hit ($6.23 million). But unless Niles Paul (6'1", 233 lbs) turns into the "next Sharpe", as Shanahan suggested he could, Cooley may be a safety net for the 'Skins to fall back on.
Remember, if "Captain Chaos" is healthy, he is legit as a blocker and a receiver. He has even played H-Back before. And on Shanny's team, versatility goes a long way. It certainly goes further than a wide receiver turned tight end (Paul) and a true tight end, who's one strike away from a year-long suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy (Davis).
Washington's offense may strike early in the season because some defenses may take them lightly at first. There will certainly be a feeling out process and as a rookie, Robert Griffin III will make mistakes. He is human after all.
"Quarterbacks do throw interceptions in the National Football League. Even the great ones do," said Mike Shanahan (per Redskins.com), after a reporter pointed out that Griffin tossed a pair of picks in a training camp session. "That's part of practice... But when you look at film and you go back, you're hoping that when you put the quarterback through it, he won't make the same mistake again."
The coaching staff has certainly put RGIII through the ringer, and that's a good thing. With the season just over a month away, Shanahan wants Griffin to be familiar with various defensive schemes, so he'll be prepared to handle the heat, when things get sticky.
"You can try to prepare for everything and still go out there and get a curveball thrown at you," Griffin III said (per Redskins.com). "But I think Coach is doing a great job of not only getting the defense better, by getting them to show many looks, but also helping us offensively [to] see different things."
So look for a fast start by the Redskins' offense, with some hiccups along the way. Teams will scour film on RGIII, and the 'Skins will counter with some new wrinkles. But once he gets comfortable, the sky should be the limit for Griffin, as it was for Cam Newton, when he settled in for a torrid stretch run.
"Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce." Remember when Redskins fans used to shout that name out loud for pass-rushing great Bruce Smith, when he finished his career in Washington?
Now, it's meant for another Bruce, who has slowly (but surely) built a team to be reckoned with.
Redskins general manager Bruce Allen has had some trying times lately ($36 million penalty for salary dumping), but he's overcome them with some keen moves in free agency and another nice draft.
Currently, there are some free agents still available who could make Washington's offense even more lethal. And with offensive linemen Jammal Brown and Kory Lichtensteiger expected to return by the opener, don't be surprised if Allen makes a preseason splash, to satisfy owner Dan Snyder's appetite for firepower.
If you have the time to view the video in Slide No. 2, you'll see a comment about RGIII by Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Meek claimed that if you could "find a 'create-a-player option' in your favorite video game and max out every attribute. That's Griffin."
That's quite a compliment for a player that has made many a fan gasp in the past. Now, it's the Redskins turn to take it all in.
Veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb didn't buy into Mike and Kyle Shanahan's system, and Rex Grossman and John Beck failed to carry it out efficiently. But all three of those signal callers (combined) don't have the athleticism of Griffin.
Brian Baldinger broke it all down with a quote that was broadcast live Wednesday on the set of NFL Network:
I see this guy get to the perimeter. I don't know how anyone's going to contain him. Nobody thought Cam Newton could come in and execute an offense from Day 1. Cam had so much success last year, I think it opens it up for RGIII to come in and have instant success this year, with a team that's better around him than what Newton had a year ago.
Also on set Wednesday was Baldinger's colleague Michael Lombardi, who went a step further:
RGIII can throw from the pocket, but he has the ability to move around. he can handle the bootlegs, the nakeds, all a part of what the Shanahans want to run offensively. I think it's certainly a perfect marriage for what [Mike] wants to do and it blends to the style.