ASHBURN, Virginia — One would think that play-actions, rollouts and bootlegs would be the perfect play-calls for Robert Griffin III in the Washington Redskins' new offense, especially given the strength of the running game.
In the season-opener, those very plays flopped mightily.
Coach Jay Gruden estimated that his offense gained all of 8 yards on seven such plays — not counting one that ended in a sack — in the 17-6 loss to the Houston Texans.
"You'd think the way we ran the ball that the play-actions would have been more successful," Gruden said Wednesday. "But Houston did a nice job."
The Texans, in fact, might have given future opponents a blueprint for beating the Redskins, at least until Griffin learns more of the nuances of pocket-passing: Take away the deep ball through pressure and coverage, forcing him into indecision or dump-offs that gain minimal yardage.
"We have got to find ways to open those guys up more down the field," Griffin said. "I don't think that's any secret. You want to be able to be efficient and hit the underneath stuff, but you also have to get those home run shots in every now and then. We'll work on getting that."
Griffin's numbers weren't bad — 29-for-37 for 267 yards — but that works out to a very average 7.22 yards-per-attempt. He was sacked three times, reflecting an ongoing knack for holding the ball too long that was noticeable throughout training camp and preseason.
Previously, especially during his record-setting rookie year of 2012, Griffin would overcome a so-so passing day with his world-class speed, but Gruden wants that the quarterback thinking pass over run. There were no designed zone-read runs for the Griffin in the game, and the Texans didn't give him a room to scramble. He rushed three times for 2 yards.
All of which comes back to something Gruden has said many times before and said again Wednesday: Griffin has lots to learn.
"Some of the protection things and the concepts and the reads and the defenses and the speed of the defenses, the safety rotations and the fire zones and blitzes, that's all new to him," Gruden said. "That's something he has to get used to."
Despite his running ability, Griffin has shown no interest in going back to the old ways. He wants to be a pocket-passer, and he told reporters Wednesday: "We're not going to sit here and talk about trying to find different ways for me to run."
"It's always a threat, it's always there," he said. "I'm not trying to stay in the pocket just to play quarterback. I'm trying to play the game at an efficient level, a high level and be what my team needs me to be to win."
Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley was the architect of the Seattle Seahawks defense that thwarted Griffin in the playoffs at the end of the 2012 season, a game Griffin left with a major knee injury. Jaguars defensive end Red Bryant played in that game with the Seahawks, and he now sees a different Griffin on tape.
"It does seem like he is trying to be more of a pocket passer, like he is trying to stay in the pocket more and he is actually letting the play develop a little bit more," Bryant said. "So we've just got to do a great job of having the back end and front end working together and try to make it as difficult as possible."
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