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Redskins Upload: Griffin III Still Developing

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Last Saturday in Chicago, Robert Griffin III showed exactly what head coach Mike Shanahan has been preaching for weeks: the celebrated Heisman Trophy winner needs time to learn and develop.

In Griffin III's own words, he didn't have a particularly bad game, but he didn't have an especially good one either.  He completed five-of-eight passes for 49 yards and ran for 17 yards on three attempts which, statistically, isn't bad.

However, Griffin III was sacked three times for minus-19 yards, and coughed up the ball on an Israel Idonije sack deep in the Redskins' territory.  This year's second overall pick asserts that he learned a great deal from the game and vows to correct his mishaps with experience.

"With the blitz coming off the edge, I had to make one guy miss," he said of the sack-fumble.  "I should have tried to secure the ball in that situation, but once I was trying to throw the ball, it's kind of hard to have ball security.

"It's something you learn from and make sure it doesn't happen again."

With the Griffin III under center, the Redskins' first-string offense produced just three points in six first-half drives against the Bears' aggressive veteran defense.  More importantly, the unnecessary pounding that he took while attempting to extend plays was quite unnerving to coaches and Redskins faithful.

Although Griffin III may have struggled in his decision-making against the Bears, Shanahan believes these issues will get rectified with repetitions and was pleased with his young quarterback's overall performance.

"I think he's going to get better and better," Shanahan said after the game.  "I really liked the way he handled himself; he was very poised.  He never seems to lose his composure, and that's the sign of a good quarterback."

The two-time Super Bowl-winning coach did express concern with protection from his inexperienced makeshift offensive line though, stating "We have to protect [Griffin III] better against an excellent defense."

Washington's offensive line was stretched thin with injuries against the Bears.  The Redskins started three reserve offensive linemen, and the first unit as a whole had a tough time keeping Bears defenders out of the backfield and Griffin III upright.

Though Shanahan acknowledges that the offensive line still has work to do, he chooses to accentuate the positives in the group.

"We have more depth," the Redskins' head coach said of the offensive line.  "When you have a little more depth, it helps.

"We have a chance to evaluate some guys, and get them some valuable experience while a few of these starters are out.  That's really important when they learn your system in the offseason."

Veteran guards Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger returned to the practice field this week, which should soon give the young offensive line a much-needed boost on game day.

Dissimilar to Griffin III's struggles against the Bears' defense, he had an almost flawless preseason debut against a Buffalo defense that finished near the bottom of the league a season ago, and seems to be going further south.

The rookie passer was a stellar 4-of-6 for 70 yards and completed a 20-yard touchdown pass on a screen play to one of his new favorite targets, Pierre Garcon.  Griffin III posted a near-perfect 145.8 quarterback rating in the 7-6 road win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Actually, one pass that was ruled incomplete by the league's replacement officials, replay showed that Garcon dragged both feet inbounds on the sideline and it should've been deemed a completion.  His other incompletion hit tight end Niles Paul right between the 8 and the 4, and the converted wide receiver dropped the catchable ball.

So this was a great, confidence-boosting outing for the Redskins' new franchise quarterback, but not a great measuring stick.

The Vikings' Christian Ponder scorched the same Bills first-string defense last Friday night.  The second-year quarterback went 10-of-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown in the 36-14 win at the Metrodome.

Ponder knows all too well about the challenges of an NFL rookie quarterback.  The Florida State product saw his first action last season in the fourth quarter of a 39-10 Week 6 thrashing by, ironically, the Chicago Bears.

Ponder was named the starter for the remainder of the season and threw 13 touchdowns, but also tossed as many interceptions.  Enduring the season's highs and lows, the Vikings' 2011 first-round draft pick finished 2-8 as a starter last year.

History has shown that rookie starting quarterbacks in the NFL won't have great games each and every week, and fans should expect ups and downs throughout the development process.

This year's crop of highly-touted passers is no exception.  The 2012 first overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, has also experienced the ebb and flow of a rookie starter this preseason.

Like Griffin III, Luck had an impressive preseason opener.  He threw for 188 yards on 10-of-16 passing, and had two touchdown tosses in the 38-3 beating of the St. Louis Rams in Indianapolis.

But Sunday night in Pittsburgh, the Heisman Trophy runner-up ran for a one-yard score, but threw two interceptions, including one to cornerback Ike Taylor who returned the pick 50 yards untouched for six points.  He also took a hard sack deep in his own territory.

Luck finished 16 of 25 for 175 yards and registered a modest 51.3 quarterback rating in the 26-24 loss to the Steelers, which fielded the top rated defense in the NFL a year ago.

Appropriately, Griffin III and the Redskins will square off against Luck and the Colts on Saturday afternoon at FedExField.  The Redskins' offensive starters will play the entire first half and the first series after halftime.

Both gifted young quarterbacks will try to bounce back from their last preseason outings and lead their team to victory.

But if Griffin III stays healthy and poised and continues to grow into his role as the starting quarterback and team leader, that's a win for Washington, no matter what the scoreboard shows.

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