ASHBURN, Va. -- As I was walking toward the parking lot following the Washington Redskins' afternoon practice, I noticed a handful of young fans huddled up together and talking quietly. As I got closer, I was able to hear what they were discussing:
They were grinning from ear to ear, trying to ensure that they would be able to catch just one more glimpse of their new franchise quarterback before calling it a day.
Before I made that walk to my car, I had the opportunity to watch Griffin and the Redskins practice both in the morning and afternoon. The morning practice transpired at a walk-through pace, but the afternoon featured a full-speed, intense session.
Here are my observations on Griffin:
1. RG3 has rare arm strength. Griffin has what scouts refer to as "easy gas." He is an effortless thrower and the ball jumps out of his hand. Fellow rookie QB Kirk Cousins has an excellent arm, but there was a noticeable difference in the velocity between the two signal callers. Some quarterbacks need a lot of room to stride in order to crank up their velocity, but Griffin can stand flat footed and make all the throws with just a flick of the wrist.
2. The rookie quarterback has already taken on a leadership role in the Redskins offense. Following the morning practice, I had a chance to talk with left tackle Trent Williams. After spending some time discussing his impressive start to camp (Williams is in the best shape of his career and he's very focused on establishing himself as an elite left tackle), I asked him what stood out about his new quarterback. I expected Williams to say something about RG3's freakish physical tools, but he surprised me when he immediately spoke of the rookie quarterback's exceptional leadership qualities. He said RG3 instantly established himself as a vocal leader during the spring and he's very comfortable in that role.
3. Coach Mike Shanahan is going to incorporate plays that suit his new athletic quarterback. During both practices, there was a strong emphasis on designed quarterback runs. Normally at an NFL practice, a designed quarterback run consists of either a QB draw or a QB sneak. That wasn't the case here. There were zone-read plays (where the QB reads the defensive end and elects to hand off the ball or keep it depending on the action of the defender), speed-option plays and quarterback sweeps throughout the day. They even spent some time lining up in the pistol formation. Several of these plays and formations were almost identical to the Baylor offense. Shanahan's offense has always incorporated a moving pocket in the passing game, but this is a new brand of football exclusively tailored to Griffin's strengths.
4. Griffin has a lot of room to grow in his decision making on the field. He forced way too many balls into tight coverage in the afternoon practice. There is a lot of pre- and post-snap movement in the middle of an NFL defense, and RG3 struggled to sort through it at times. He threw one ball directly to backup middle linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. There were a few plays in which he simply held onto the ball too long while trying to pick out a target down the field instead of taking the easy check down. This is a very common problem for young quarterbacks, but he should improve as he continues to collect live NFL repetitions.
5. RG3 has one of the top young tight ends in the NFL to help him develop. The most impressive skill player, aside from Griffin, was clearly fifth-year tight end Fred Davis. He is a true mismatch-type player who is very tough for both linebackers and safeties to handle in one-on-one situations. He should be an excellent security blanket for Griffin on third down and a big factor in the red zone, as well. If he can stay healthy and out of trouble (he was suspended for the final four games of last season for violating the league's substance abuse policy), Davis should make a strong push for Pro Bowl consideration in 2012.