The situation was football dire. Backed up at their own four-yard line, the Redskins’ first-team offense faced a 3rd-and–7. Quarterback Robert Griffin III received the snap, looked up the field, took a few steps toward his left and snapped a throw toward the sideline. More specifically, the pass went to Pierre Garcon, who made the catch for the first down.
“Way to stand tall,” head coach Jay Gruden barked loudly in the direction of the quarterback.
Griffin aggressively clapped after the first down completion and showed similar enthusiasm on other successful short-to-intermediate throws, often coming from outside the pocket. Progress with his reads and throws was easy to spot.
“Everyday he’s doing something a little bit better,” Gruden said of the fourth-year quarterback on Tuesday. “That’s all we can ask. We’re just taking baby steps right now. We’re all getting better together. You can see him start to have confidence in the pocket going through his progressions.”
Of course, all of this took place in shorts, without pads, and against defenders with orders not to hit or tackle the quarterback wearing the yellow jersey. The Redskins opened a three-day mandatory veteran mini-camp Tuesday at Redskins Park, their final practices ahead of next month’s training camp in Richmond.
The setting provides Griffin and the offense a chance to work on plays and fundamentals. It does not allow for true fear in the form of a 270-pound pass-rushing linebacker with bad intentions racing in from the outside. Therefore, even on completed rollout passes, gauging timing success is tricky in the moment.
“It’s something that’s hard to tell when you’re not getting tackled when you have the yellow jersey on,” Gruden said. “The big thing is we’re trying to get the ball out of his hand. Get the ball to our playmakers.”
Last season Griffin labored doing just that. Plays frequently ended with sacks after holding the ball far too long.
Despite limited success throwing down the field, Gruden largely expressed optimism in Griffin’s performance during his post-practice press conference.
“He’s doing a great job of exhausting all his progressions, playing the quarterback position with good fundamentals,” the coach said.
More animated on the field than his norm, Griffin’s confidence showed throughout the practice.
“The more he plays it, the more success he has, the more confidence he’s going to build as a player the more confidence this offense will have with him under center,” Gruden said. “That comes with reps. That comes with time.”
In his first season under Gruden’s offense, Griffin only threw four touchdown passes in nine games last while averaging less than 190 passing yards per outing in 2014.
“I don’t think anybody lacks confidence with him at quarterback. The transition for him in the new system last year was a little bit rocky for all of us, but when you have same system for a year or two, I think he’s going to get better. You can see the progress every day and it’s exciting to watch.”