The Cam Newton-Robert Griffin III comparisons are too frequent and often off base. But there are similarities to draw from each.
Both quarterbacks emerged from spread-option college attacks and stepped in as unquestioned Week One starters for the Panthers and Redskins, respectively. Each has a strong arm, can throw on the run and also pull up and scramble when needed.
Last season, Newton hit a bit of a wall at a similar point in his season as Griffin is at now. The challenge for the Redskins is to keep the offense fresh, adjust to what defenses are doing to him now and get the skill-position players to raise their level of play.
The bye week came at a perfect time to that end.
It hasn’t been the best start, with Newton’s Panthers beating the Redskins in Week Nine and Mike Shanahan’s comments about evaluating players for next season setting off alarms. Shanahan retracted his comments, saying they were misconstrued, and that should be a good thing as far as keeping the competitiveness high for the rookie quarterback.
There were examples of plays to be made in the Panthers game that the Redskins didn’t execute. Some were negated by penalty, others disrupted by poor fundamentals. But in some cases, Griffin was a bit cautious and chose to go for safer options — instead of throwing to deeper receivers or using his legs — over big-play possibilities. Because Griffin has such good run-pass options on every play, it’s understandable he wouldn’t want to risk an interception or fumble.
But the Redskins must continue to keep Griffin playing with an edge while being smart, and getting WR Pierre Garcon back on the field at some point down the road should help Griffin gain a yards-after-catch threat. It’s the delicate balance that makes starting as a rookie quarterback so difficult, but there has been little evidence to date that he’s not up to the challenge, even with a recent leveling off of his statistics.