I suppose you can argue with Peter King’s placement of the Redskins at No. 25 on his latest NFL power rankings but it’s hard to argue with his reasoning.
I’d love to muster up enthusiasm for Jay Gruden, a good man and a good coach. But I can’t get his RGIII negativity out of my head from last season. Only Robert Griffin III can do that—for both of us.
The Redskins should have a better defense this year than they had during last year’s 4-12 campaign. The running game will operate behind an upgraded offensive line. That line should give Griffin more time to throw (assuming that the backs and tight ends to a better job in pass protection).
But it will be hard for them to improve enough to climb out of the dregs of the NFL without solid play at the quarterback position.
After the Redskins’ OTA session on Wednesday Gruden was still unable to generate much enthusiasm for Griffin’s play.
“I think he’s taking the right steps. It’s still OTAs,” said Gruden when asked about Griffin’s progress during the offseason. “Nobody’s sitting on all that good stuff. We are getting some great looks from our defense. We’re in shorts. We’re getting some good full-speed looks. There’s no contact obviously, but the timing, the rhythm of your offense still has to be intact. The defense hustling and getting to their zone drops has to be sound in what you’re doing. Decisions have to be made. He’s going through the process, re-learning everything, studying, going through the right progressions, making a mistake here and there, but we’re learning.”
Gruden went on to talk about the learning process during OTAs, learning the defense of new coordinator Joe Barry, learning the offense, and “all three quarterbacks” doing some good and some bad but gaining confidence with each rep.
Later on in his news conference he was asked about wide receiver DeSean Jackson developing timing with the quarterbacks.
“I feel good about all three quarterbacks honestly and their progression,” he said. “But we do need to settle on one – it would be nice to settle on one.”
Talk of “settling on one” quarterback raised a few eyebrows. After all, just a couple of days earlier team president Bruce Allen declared, “We think Robert is our starting quarterback.”
When asked to clarify the “settle” comment at the end of his news conference, Gruden backtracked a bit. “Oh, yeah. I mean, we still have got to play games and all that stuff,” he said. “We have announced Robert as the starter obviously and we’re going to go from there.”
It’s just hard to find too much excitement for Griffin in what Gruden says. Certainly he doesn’t want to go overboard with compliments for Griffin’s play, which has been good but not great in the two OTA sessions that have been open to reporters. But there is some middle ground between giving too much encouragement and damning with faint praise. While we don’t know what is going on in the meeting rooms or in on-field exchanges between coach and quarterback, his public comments on Griffin are more on the faint praise side of things.
As King noted, it’s up to Griffin to turn Gruden around. If Griffin can get his toughest critic to be his biggest advocate, things could be looking up for the Redskins.