Concern for the number of hits Robert Griffin III has absorbed over the first three weeks of the season reached a fever pitch Monday morning on sports talk radio, blogs and sports pages.But you know who insists hes not concerned about the seemingly inordinate number of times the Redskins quarterback has been forced to peel himself off the turf?Griffin.Rookie bravado? Perhaps. But his comments after Sundays 38-31 loss to the Bengals provided an interesting glimpse into his psyche.Ive never played scared in my life and it doesnt matter how many times I get hit, he said. Im going to continue to get back up. Even if they have to cart me off the field, Im going to get off the cart and walk away.On Sunday, the hits Griffin absorbed were a combination of game planning and poor protection. Griffin was sacked six times, and according to NFL stats, the Bengals laid 13 hits on him during pass attempts. Griffin also received a number of hits on the 12 times he carried the football, particularly on option plays.Through three games, Griffin has rushed 32 times, which puts him tied for 26thin the league. Hes the only quarterback on that list. Next, in fact, is Carolinas Cam Newton at No. 39 with 24.Coach Mike Shanahan pointed out after the game that just because a quarterback carries the ball it doesnt mean the run ends with a tackle or even a hit. But what cant be argued is that exposing Griffin so often drives up the probability that the franchises most important player will eventually absorb a blow resulting in injury.A lot of people outside of Redskins Park are worried.Griffin, however, is not.One is too many, to be honest, he said, asked how many hits constitutes too many. Im not trying to be funny. As a quarterback, youre a stationary target most of the time. When youre a mobile QB, the teams are still going to come after you even more because they feel like if they get a sack on a mobile quarterback, it counts as more. Thats just their mindset when they go into the game. Like I said, one is too many, but the one thing I wont do personally is quit of play scared.
Last fall, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown in a Redskins win over the Eagles. Immediately following, he used the football in place of a basketball and made a jump shot over the cross bar. It was a cool, spontaneous celebration for his second TD of the season.
Seconds later, a penalty flag hit the ground. Davis was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for using the ball as a prop. In a league with a tremendous amount of awful penalties, it ranked as one of the worst of the season.
The good news? In 2017, Davis' celebration will no longer draw a flag.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell penned a letter explaining the changes:
We are relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays. We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown. And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.
In a league committed to Thursday Night Football - which both players and fans dislike - as well as archaic policies on social media and substance abuse, this is a rare, positive development.
It's okay to let players have a little fun, show some personality. Goodell made clear that lewd celebrations would still be flagged, and that's reasonable. Using the ball as a prop, however, shouldn't be. Now, it won't.
Did Davis break the NFL? Probably not, though his penalty is often the first thing people point to when discussing the absurdity of the ball as a prop rule.
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Jay Gruden is going into his fourth season as the Redskins’ head coach. If there is one thing he has learned, it is the nature of his team’s fan base.
He was asked if he would need to be patient, getting the team’s defense, which will have as many as six new starters and several other key contributors who are new to the organization, to play well as a unit.
“I don’t think patience is in the dictionary here in D.C.,” Gruden said. “We have to be good now. We were 9-7 two years ago, 8-7-1 last year. I think the expectations are high and they’re always going to be high in this area and we have to perform.”
I’m not sure that most fans expect a Super Bowl win this year. But they do expect progress towards one and a slow start that results in the team being irrelevant after Thanksgiving will not be acceptable.
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Gruden does have a tall task to get the defense to be effective quickly.
“We have a new defensive coordinator, new defensive line coach, new secondary coach,” he said. “We have some new players on defense, some free agent acquisitions, some draft picks. They’re going to have to learn on the fly and learn to play together, which is going to be the biggest challenge for us.”
Greg Manusky replaced Joe Barry as the defensive coordinator. They brought in Jim Tomsula to coach the defensive line and put Torrian Gray in charge of the secondary. Among the players expected to start or contribute heavily are free agents DL Stacy McGee, DL Terrell McClain, ILB Zach Brown and S D.J. Swearinger and draft picks DL Jonathan Allen and OLB Ryan Anderson.
The Redskins have added multiple free agents to their defense in the past with mixed, mostly negative results. But things don’t have to take long to gel. The Giants had one of the league’s worst defenses in 2015 but with a few free agency additions and with the help of 2015 draft pick Landon Collins suddenly blossoming into one of the best safeties in the game they were one of the best last year.
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The main thing that the Redskins defense has to avoid this year is taking a step back. The team has gone 17-14-1 over the last two years with a defensive unit that ranked from mediocre to bad in most key categories. If they can start off performing like a team in the lower middle of the pack defensively and improve as the year goes on the team should be able to be in the mix in December. Despite also dealing with some changes, the offense should be able to carry the team until the defense can get its act together.