As expected, all eyes were on rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III as the Washington Redskins opened training camp on July 26 in Ashburn, Va.
After winning just 11 games in the last two seasons, the Redskins hope Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft, will lead them to future success.
Crowds of fans showed up to watch Washington’s first practice, cheering loudly for almost every positive play Griffin made. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 220-pound quarterback showed off his track-star speed on several broken plays that forced him to run out of the pocket. He also flashed glimpses of his stellar arm strength, completing a couple of tough passes deep over the middle of the field.
But watchers were also reminded that their would-be savior is still only a rookie with a lot to learn, as Griffin also threw a couple of passes too high off the target or too low, bouncing several balls into the turf.
“It’s the first day, so you can’t really get crazy about it,” said receiver Pierre Garcon, who was signed this off season to be one of Griffin’s speedy weapons in the Redskins’ passing attack. “We’ve just got to get our basics down and get things going. . . . He’s doing a lot of great things. We’ve just got to all come together around him.”
Like Griffin, Garcon will feel the pressure to improve Washington’s offense. Last season, the Redskins recorded only 19 touchdown passes, and ranked 26th in points scored. Garcon and others, such as fifth-year tight end Fred Davis and 12-year veteran receiver Santana Moss will have to help Griffin out if Washington is to improve on those numbers.
“Every year, every team comes in saying, ‘This is our year,’ ” Moss said. “I feel like we’ve been searching for that guy. is our guy.”
Griffin told reporters after practice that his goals coming into the season are simple: win games.
But games aren’t just won with offense. Redskins’ defensive captain London Fletcher knows that, and is prepared to bring his all in what will be his 16th season in the NFL. Fletcher returns with several other effective starters from the Redskins’ 2011 defensive unit, including Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo and second-year linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Washington’s defense ranked 12th in yards allowed last season, but feel they can be a top-10 unit if they play at their full potential.
Stephen Bowen, one of 10 returning defense starters for the Redskins, told reporters that a dominant defense is the best help any rookie quarterback like Griffin could ask for.
“The best way for us, the defense, to is to be a real dominant defense. We have to go out there and make it easier for him,” Bowen said. “We have to help him get comfortable. There are a lot of things we can do for him. And after what we’ve seen from him, we know we win if we help him.”