Drew Brees wasnt the only quarterback at the Superdome on Sunday who was effusive in his praise of Robert Griffin IIIs debut performance.So was former Redskins great Sonny Jurgensen.He threw the ball when he got rushed, the Hall of Famer said outside of Washingtons locker room after the Redskins 40-32 victory. He threw it accurately when he got rushed. He had no throws that a quarterbackhasto make that he wasnt comfortable with.Griffin completed 19 of his 26 attempts for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed the ball 10 times for 42 yards.In retrospect, Jurgensen said, the Shanahans decision not to tip their hand in the preseason turned out to be the correct one.I wanted to him to play more in the preseason, Jurgensen said of Griffin, who only attempted 31 passes and five rushes in parts of three exhibition contests. I wanted to see more of him because they werent showing us anything. On Sunday, we saw a new offense, the option, all of the different wrinkles they have off of that. We hadnt seen that.The big numbers Griffin put up against the Saints were impressive for a 22-year-old making his first NFL start. But what impressed Jurgensen the most was the discretion Griffin showed when the pocket broke down around him.Griffins ability to negotiate the fine line between knowing when to tuck the ball and run and when to extend the play and look downfield was never more apparent than on the Redskins first play of the second quarter. New Orleans Malcolm Jenkins flushed Griffin out of the pocket to the left on a safety blitz. Griffin, however, simply sidestepped Jenkins, cutback across the field and delivered a 26-yard strike to tight end Fred Davis along the right sideline.Hes got the big arm, and hes so quick and he buys time back there back there, Jurgensen said. But it was good to see him get out on the outside of the pocket a couple of times and he didnt elect to run. He still made the play with his arm.Jurgensen also praised Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for their play-calling, particularly on the Redskins opening drive. Griffin completed seven consecutive passes, culminating on an 88-yard touchdown connection to wide receiver Pierre Garon.They wanted to get him comfortable in the game at the beginning, Jurgensen said. Because the first six passes and completions were behind the line of scrimmage. That was playing on the mind of the defenders, because then they finally bit, and he was able to get downfield on the touchdown pass to Garon.Hes got a bright, bright future, Jurgensen added. Its going to be fun for us.
The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
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Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?
Finlay: Nick Novak. Graham Gano. Shaun Suisham. That's just a recent list of kickers the Redskins gave up on too early.
Dustin Hopkins missed a couple of important kicks in 2016, especially after a very strong start to the year, but with a powerful leg and a sharp mindset he should absolutely be the 'Skins kicker in 2017. In two seasons with Washington, Hopkins has made 84 percent of his field goals and 95 percent of his extra points. Don't forget he routinely puts kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks too.
Yes, Hopkins missed a game winner against the Bengals and other important kicks later in the year. That happened. Missed kicks are a part of life in the NFL. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the Super Bowl.
At 6-foot-2 and just 26 years old, Hopkins is young and athletic. Of 70 career field goal attempts, Hopkins has missed 11 times. Of the misses, six of them came from 50+ yards. In 31 games, Jay Gruden has proven he trusts Hopkins to attempt long kicks. The 'Skins would be well served to stick with the young kicker.
Finding a quarterback may be the most difficult, least scientific task that NFL organizations must undertake. Deciding when to let go of a struggling kicker is second.
There are plenty of strong legs out there spending hours every day kicking on high school fields in hopes of getting an NFL tryout. But being successful as a kicker is as much about what is above the shoulders as it is what’s below the waist. It appears Hopkins had a mental slump last year but he came back to finish strong.
Hopkins started the year making 14 of his first 15 field goal attempts, with the miss coming in the wind in Baltimore. But then in the dome in Detroit he just missed a 45-yard try and that set off a slump where he missed five of 15 field goal tries. He pulled it back together and missed just two of his final nine kicks, one of them a “why not” 57-yard try at the end of the first half against the Giants.
So, it was more of a slump than a bad year for Hopkins. He continued to pound the ball into the end zone, finishing tied for fourth in touchback percentage. I would understand if they brought in some competition for him during training camp but it will be a major upset if he is not the Week 1 kicker.
More offseason questions:
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!
Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 19, 18 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.
—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 10
—NFL Combine (3/2) 11
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 57
—NFL Draft (4/27) 67
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 203
Sunday morning quick hitters
How many spots up for grabs? A quick mid-February look down the final 2016 53-man roster shows about 20 players who may not be on the roster for Week 1 this year. This includes players who may depart as free agents and others who just won’t make the team. They probably won’t turn over that many spots but it does show that a lot of jobs are up for grabs.
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How many draft picks? The Redskins have nine draft picks, their own in rounds 1-6 and extra picks in rounds 4, 5, and 6. It’s easy to say that Scot McCloughan may turn that into as many as a dozen picks, especially with all the roster spots that may be open. But remember that last year the Redskins wound up with just seven picks with no pick in the fourth and two in the seventh. McCloughan may intend to stockpile more picks but it depends on how the draft unfolds.
1st-round RB a bad idea: Yesterday JP and I posted on the topic of Rob Kelley as the Redskins’ prime running back this season and it drew quite a bit of discussion on Twitter and on Facebook. I think that they should try to get an upgrade over Kelley but I don’t think they should use their first-round pick to do it. There are just too many other, higher priority needs.
More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0
A turnaround for Matt Jones? Last year Trent Murphy broke out after two mediocre seasons to register nine sacks. Can Jones do the something similar in this, his third season? The rough equivalent of Murphy’s performance would be Jones rushing for 800 yards. It’s as much a matter of him holding on to the ball as anything. Jones was on pace to rush for over 1,100 yards before losing his grip on the starting job, literally and figuratively.
Tandler on Twitter
In case you missed it
- Would a Cousins contract be a cap killer for the Redskins?
- Will Kelley remain the Redskins' lead running back?
- The Redskins week that was—How many DL, players to step up
- 2017 NFL Mock Draft 3.0