Back in March, just a week after the Redskins agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Rams to acquire the No. 2 overall pick, head coach Mike Shanahan and the front office made a blockbuster move in free agency to add wide receiver Pierre Garcon.
Although some were critical of Garcon's new $42.5 million contract, Shanahan and Co. knew the importance of adding not only overall team speed, but a speedster wideout who could create for the team's new quarterback, which was presumably Robert Griffin III.
Throughout his college career, the Heisman Trophy winning Griffin benefited greatly from fast receivers with explosive quickness off the line. At Baylor, it was Kendall Wright who filled the role. Both Griffin and Wright helped one another during their junior and senior seasons, respectively, and eventually landed themselves in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft (Wright was selected by Tennessee at No. 20).
Prior to the start of training camp, Garcon was one of the few Redskins receivers who joined Griffin in his self-implemented passing camp.
"We knew we needed to get together," Griffin said. "Shockingly, I convinced them to come to Waco, Texas, because not everybody wants to do that."
The relationship had begun.
During the preseason, albeit in limited action, Griffin appeared most comfortable with his new pal. Whether it was Garcon's ability to create separation, his reliability, or the rookie's trust of speed above all else, Griffin enjoyed his new weapon. Their emerging hookup was also becoming apparent in practice.
In the Redskins' opening week win over the Saints on Sunday, the Griffin-to-Garcon connection remained true. Despite Garcon leaving the game early with soreness in his foot, Griffin made sure to find him while he had him, and together they made it count.
With just under four minutes in the first quarter and pinned on their own 12-yard line, the Redskins lined up with Griffin under center. Although early in the game, seeing Griffin under center was a surprise. In the team's first drive, almost every snap was taken in either the pistol or shotgun formation and the play-calling was nothing but runs and screens. Considering the field position, Griffin's adjustment, and receivers Garcon and Josh Morgan in tight, the play appeared to have "run" written all over it.
The Saints crowd the line, corners play loose and a deep safety roams the deep middle. Tight end Fred Davis comes in motion to the right and play-action to Alfred Morris goes to that side. A defensive back blitzes Griffin's left side and Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson drops to give Morgan a deep cushion.
With a slight Saints bite on the play-fake, Garcon and Morgan run a cross route in front of the deep safety, resulting in a slight hiccup in the Saints' coverage lanes.
Griffin recognizes the breakdown in coverage, hangs in the pocket and delivers a wide, yet catchable, ball to a deep crossing Garcon. At first glance, the pass seems a bit too wide. But Griffin was preparing to take a hit from the rush off the edge, and he delivered a ball where only Garcon could catch it.
Following the catch, Garcon makes it a foot race and follows through with exactly what the front office envisioned. He takes off for an additional 59 yards, completes the 88-yard play, and gives Griffin his first NFL touchdown. Who better to help the rookie than his offseason buddy, Pierre Garcon?
After the game, Garcon didn't seem nearly as impressed with his own play as I was.
"We just got lucky," Garcon said. "They got out of position, Robert threw a great ball, I caught it."
Garcon finished the game with four catches for 109 yards and a score. Following the game, Redskins beat reporter Grant Paulsen helped to clear the air regarding Garcon and his short day.
Shanahan: Pierre Garcon injured the top of his foot. X-rays were negative. He was sore and was held out of the game. #Redskins
— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) September 9, 2012
Although Garcon's one catch accounted for most of his 109 yards, this is a quarterback-receiver connection that is destined for big things in 2012. Griffin has the touch and vision to find his receiver, and Garcon has the attractive speed that the rookie desires.
They're simply operating on the same wave length.