For most rookie quarterbacks, the first half of the first season is filled with ups and downs. For Robert Griffin III—despite the Washington Redskins' 3-6 record—the first half has been filled with a lot of promising ups.
As the Redskins head into the bye week, they aren't in terrific position for a playoff chase. They're certainly not out of it—they're only two games behind New York's tenuous lead with five division games remaining—but things haven't gone well over the last few weeks.
Still, for his part, Griffin has been doing better than expected with what he currently has in Washington, and because of that, there's reason to be optimistic heading into the final seven weeks of his rookie season. Pierre Garcon, who was expected to be the team's leading wide receiver, has missed virtually all of the 2012 season thus far, getting into only parts of three games and registering eight total receptions.
Expectations had to be adjusted accordingly, and they were. And still—despite that ugly record and the injuries—the Redskins are kind of hanging in there. All hope is not lost, and Griffin is playing very, very well—not just for a rookie quarterback, but for any quarterback.
As it stands, he has a 65.6 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and three interceptions through nine games. His 93.9 passer rating is good for ninth in the league, and he has led the Redskins to big-ish wins over the Saints and the Vikings. Along the way, he's taken a few nasty hits to the head and to the ribs, but he's gone right back out there to compete week after week.
What we've learned about him thus far is that he's capable of leading this offense, he's durable and he very well could turn this team into a contender once a few more of the necessary pieces fall into place. It might even happen over the latter seven games of this season; you never know.
The division games are obviously must-wins for RGIII and the Redskins if they are still holding onto any playoff aspirations. They have two against Philadelphia, which—at 3-6 and now without Michael Vick, at least for a little while—suddenly looks a lot more beatable.
They have one against the Giants, who they almost beat back on Oct. 21 but allowed a game-winning 77-yard touchdown bomb from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz with just over a minute remaining that led to a 27-23 loss. They have two against Dallas, which looks just about as inconsistent week to week as Washington.
But no team in the NFC East is unbeatable, and the best one—as we saw back in October—is one RGIII & Co. can very much compete with.
Winning this division could come down to the wire. It's going to be essential for RGIII to stay healthy over the last seven weeks of the season. It's going to be essential for him to keep this offense rolling while cutting down on the fumbles. It's going to be essential for him to build up the passing game while maintaining the dominance of the running game.
It's going to take more work, but already, the work RGIII has done in the first half has paid off. Now, when the Redskins come back from the bye, it's going to take more, but nobody's saying Griffin can't do it.