Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

October 22, 2012

RG3 is a Redskin with a magic touch

The New York Giants are lauding what Robert Griffin III can do now — and worried what he will do to them in the future.

They got a close-up look Sunday at what’s in store, and it was downright scary for the Super Bowl champions.

“I’m not even going to lie: That’s the best quarterback we’ve played this year, for sure,” defensive end Osi Umenyiora said after Griffin did everything but beat his team. “It’s just unfortunate that he’s a rookie because he’s going to be around here forever doing stuff like that. That’s just crazy.”

The excitement RG3 brings to every game — make that every offensive play — for the Redskins is unmatched in the NFL. The skill set might be, too.

It’s something the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles will be dealing with for a long time.

“I’m pretty mad at the football gods for putting him in the NFC East,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. “To face that guy twice a year is going to be a headache. It’s hard to game-plan that guy. He takes away from your enthusiasm for the game when you play a play perfectly and he still has 4.3 speed to make plays.

“I don’t think there is anybody in the league just like him. If I was going to run an offense and they asked me Vick, Cam Newton or RG3, I’m taking that guy hands down.”

Hands were up everywhere from guys willing to praise Griffin, the second overall pick in this year’s draft behind another precocious quarterback, Andrew Luck.

This is a transition year for the Redskins. Yet with Griffin working his magic — pinpoint passes such as a 30-yarder to Santana Moss that gave Washington a late lead Sunday; sprints around the ends during which Griffin outruns cornerbacks with 4.4 speed; wild scrambles that leave All-Pro defenders sprawled on the ground empty-handed — they are in every game.

Griffin brings talents similar to Vick with his speed and change of direction. Except he’s apparently faster and shiftier than Vick. And bigger at a sturdy 6-foot-2, 217 pounds to Vick’s alleged 6-0, 215.

His arm is as strong as just about any NFL quarterback, and he shows touch as well as strength. The throw to Moss was as masterful as Peyton or Eli Manning would ever manage. He rarely puts balls up for grabs and has the power to squeeze passes between defenders.

Then there is his knack for escape that’s reminiscent of John Elway and even the original scrambler, Fran Tarkenton. Except the Broncos and Vikings rarely, if ever, designed runs for their QB. For Washington, letting RG3 run wild will be a significant part of the game plan.

Griffin was a 400-meter hurdler in college with Olympic aspirations. You won’t find many of those in the NFL, either. And none at quarterback.

“We know offensively we can do anything with the ball in his hands,” Moss said. “We’ve just got to try when we get the opportunities to make sure the guy who can make plays has the ball in his hands. He’s giving you a chance to get open. Even when it’s hard, he gives you opportunities and there are not many quarterbacks who can do that.”

Griffin is matter-of-fact in answering questions about his transcendent talents. Asked about his remarkable fourth-quarter scramble on fourth-and-10 that eventually ended with a 19-yard completion that set up the go-ahead TD pass to Moss, he simply recounted the play as if it happens all the time.

With RG3, at some point it just might.

“I try not to approach the game like I’m a rookie,” he said. “I don’t try to give myself excuses.  I just don’t approach it that way and the team doesn’t look at me like a rookie, either. I’m their leader. I’m their quarterback, so I can’t go out there and say, well if I make a mistake it’s because I’m a rookie. I have to hold myself accountable for everything. I think that’s why I’m able to go out and be successful.”

One caveat, of course, is the vulnerability that accompanies Griffin’s style of play. He already had a concussion against Atlanta when he didn’t slide at the end of a run, although he returned for the next game.

Putting shackles on a player with Griffin’s skills is unwise and counterproductive. But making him aware of how much a target he presents when on the run is essential and will be done by the Redskins.

But coach Mike Shanahan knows what he has in RG3, and he isn’t about to pull the reins on his thoroughbred.

Too bad, the Giants — and the rest of the NFC East — must be thinking.

“That guy,” Tuck said, “is the real deal.”

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