As the face of the Washington Redskins franchise there is plenty of concern regarding quarterback Robert Griffin III's return from a torn ACL, but RG3 will prove on Monday night that Redskins fans, coaches and players have nothing to worry about.
When the Redskins drafted Griffin in the first round last year it was obvious that he was a special talent. He truly shocked most observers by catching on so quickly, though, as he was easily one of the best quarterbacks in the entire league last season.
Not only did Griffin rack up more than 4,000 yards and score 27 touchdowns, but he led the Redskins to the playoffs just one year after they were among the NFL's worst teams.
The Redskins played it cautious by having Griffin sit out the entire preseason, but all signs now point to him being ready for action as head coach Mike Shanahan named him the starting quarterback against the Philadelphia Eagles in Washington's opener on Monday night, according to NFL Network.
Shanahan: 'Robert Griffin III will be our starter Monday night' http://t.co/JrlB6CNKRA— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 2, 2013
Even so, the prevailing thought seems to be that Griffin may be returning too soon. That feeling was exacerbated by reports that Dr. James Andrews, who performed Griffin's knee surgery, had reservations about RG3 playing.
According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, however, Andrews believes that Griffin is ready to return to the field.
Dr. Andrews denies Shanahan’s claims of lingering concern over Griffin’s knee http://t.co/1t0YDUz5OX— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) August 30, 2013
With so many mixed signals it's certainly easy to get confused about Griffin's status. When push comes to shove, though, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder wouldn't allow his biggest asset to be put in a dangerous situation. If Andrews and the Redskins' staff feel as though Griffin is ready to play, then there's no reason to hold him out at this point.
Is starting Griffin in Week 1 vs. the Eagles the right decision?
Griffin's situation is obviously a bit different from that of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, but AP proved last season that it is possible to return to form quickly after an ACL tear. Peterson suffered his knee injury late in 2011 regular season, but he managed to return in time for the start of the 2012 campaign, and he came within a few yards of breaking the single-season rushing record.
At 6'2" and 217 pounds, Griffin's frame is definitely slighter than Peterson's, so hits may take a bigger toll on his body. At the same time, Peterson was probably hit more than anybody in the league last year, and he came away from it just fine.
Perhaps Shanahan will scale back on Griffin's designed runs early in the season in an effort to keep him fresh, but that is a huge part of the reason why Griffin is so effective. With that in mind, Shanahan will have to take off the training wheels to a certain extent.
The Eagles happen to represent an ideal Week 1 opponent for RG3 as he attempts to get back into the swing of things because he picked them apart last season. In one of Griffin's starts against Philly last year, Griffin completed 14-of-15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for an additional 84 yards on top of that.
Philadelphia's defense was a joke last season, and while it's bound to improve to a certain extent, it won't pose a major threat. The Eagles had just 30 sacks last season, which was sixth-worst in the league, so Griffin probably isn't going to be hit much in the pocket. He'll simply have to make smart decisions when he does decide to tuck it and run.
The potential for a huge performance is certainly present since the Eagles will be running an up-tempo offense under new head coach Chip Kelly. That means Philly is likely to put more points on the board, and the Redskins will want to keep up. This has shootout written all over it, and Griffin will be one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Griffin will probably be an injury risk for his entire career due to his style of play, but he shouldn't change what makes him so special. Fans are worried about RG3's durability now, but all of that will be forgotten when he lights up the scoreboard on Monday night.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter