WASHINGTON - When Robert Griffin III takes the field Saturday afternoon against the Eagles, it will be the third time this season he has been installed as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
He opened the season as the starter and reclaimed his job after a six-week injury-induced layoff. Now, with Colt McCoy done for the year because of a neck injury, Griffin assumes that role again with two games left in the season and plenty of questions remaining about his game and future.
But Griffin - in keeping with his approach since he got benched - will try to avoid complicating matters.
"I haven't played very many games this year," he said, "so my goal is to always go out there and be the guy, and that's my only focus. So, I'm not really worried about anything else."
Griffin added, "You've got to go out there and have fun and play the game the way you know how to play it. So, that's the only real focus and, you know, try to get a win."
A lack of anticipation, decisiveness and poise in the pocket served as the main stumbling blocks for Griffin during his first two stints as the starter. That body of work includes four full games as starter and includes two touchdown passes, two interceptions and 19 sacks.
If Griffin is to get his first win in 10 full games (dating from Nov. 3, 2013), he will have to improve in those areas. Coach Jay Gruden said it's important to come up with a game plan that will best suit Griffin's strengths. Strong execution and jumping out to a lead is the best way to help the quarterback avoid the weaknesses that have plagued him this season, Gruden said.
Griffin, who replaced McCoy on Sunday after one series, did well during the first half while the Redskins used the run game to set up the offense. As a result, Griffin had success on play-action passes and bootlegs. But when the Redskins fell behind in the second half, Griffin struggled when he was asked to operate primarily from the pocket.
Gruden said that he's not expecting perfection from Griffin but that he needs him to make progress in this department. A fast start, Gruden said, will help ease pressure on the quarterback.
"It takes time. So, it's important for us to try to have some success on first and second down so we don't have to drop back and throw it 30 times a game and have a lead so we don't have to worry about it," Gruden said. "But, eventually, like I said, when you get behind, you get in third down, you get behind the chains, those have to be accomplished - the drop-back reads and progressions have to be accomplished, and that's something we're fighting through right now."
Griffin drew encouragement from his positive plays on Sunday, and said he had reviewed the video of his problem areas. He admitted he saw plays where he could have gotten the ball out more quickly, and other instances where he could have avoided sacks. Despite a continuation of certain struggles, he maintains that his confidence still is high.
"Oh, I'm in a great place," Griffin said, when asked about his mental state.
Although he may have lingering questions about Griffin's abilities, Gruden at least is hearing and seeing the right things from the quarterback as he goes about his preparation during the week.
"As a quarterback, you've got to have the confidence and you've got to feel like you have total control of the situation, which in turn makes you play free and have some fun playing," Gruden said. "I think he might've been pressing a little too much early in the season, putting a little bit too much pressure on himself and therefore, some of the troubles incurred.
"But, he's taken this game, taken this game plan, and these plays, and has a better understanding and a little bit more confidence. I don't expect perfection from him, but we want to see improvement from a weekly basis."
Three quarterbacks - Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy - have had significant playing time this season for the Redskins. Here is how their numbers compare:
Yards Per Game
Griffin: 27 for 146
Cousins: 7 for 20
McCoy: 16 for 66