By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
The NFL has changed dramatically over the last 15 years.
Go back as recently as the 1997 season and the place of the rookie quarterback was well known. Sit back, grab a clipboard and watch your teammates play. You might get a few snaps in practice and you might actually get to play in the final two weeks of the season.
However, if the No. 1 quarterback did not get injured, you did not play.
Ten years ago, it started to change. Teams got the idea that a rookie quarterback might be able to play and actually make a contribution. Not win a starting spot by opening day, but by midseason if the veteran quarterback was not performing at a high level or the team was not winning.
Prior to that, many coaches and general managers thought a rookie quarterback could learn simply by watching NFL action unfold. However, the amount a quarterback could learn by watching was limited. He had to get into the game to play if he wanted to improve.
But he had to show he was ready. He had to show he could read defenses, throw a 25-yard out pattern and play without losing his cool. Most coaches still wanted a veteran quarterback under center.
College football continued to evolve over the last decade and it seemed like young quarterbacks were more ready to play as they joined the NFL.
Fast forward to last spring’s draft and there was little doubt that quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were going to step in and start for the teams that drafted them. The Colts and Redskins have both gotten more than they could have possibly expected.
The Giants will get their second look at RGIII this week, and he is one of the hottest players in the league. He has had back-to-back four touchdown games as a passer and he has the Redskins playing competitive football every time out.
The Giants lost both games to the Redskins last year and they were pushed hard by Washington before registering a 27-23 victory in Week Seven.
If the Giants are still feeling good about their one-sided win over the Packers, they will get embarrassed by the RGIII and the Skins this week. The Giants’ closing schedule is fraught with difficult assignments, but dealing with RGIII may be the most troubling.
You know that he can rip off long runs if his receivers are covered. However, his passing has been stellar. In the Week 11 31-6 victory over the Eagles, he completed an unheard of 14-of-15 passes and his 158.3 passer rating.
He followed that up by completing 20-of-28 on Thanksgiving Day at Dallas for 311 yards. His passer rating against the Cowboys was a robust 132.6.
He has exceeded the 130.0 mark three times this season. He has been over the 100.0 mark five times.
He has been spectacular. Luck’s best passer rating this season s 107.5 and he has been over 100.0 twice. Fans might be surprised to learn that Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has also been over the 100.0 mark five times and that he has been over the 130.0 mark twice.
RGIII will push the Giants defense to be at its best. The defensive line must pressure him, but they must also contain him so he can’t get outside the pocket and run.
That will put significant pressure on the Giants secondary. That unit was superb against Green Bay, but it may be even tougher this week.
The rookie quarterback has been shockingly accurate and if you give him a small window, he will exploit it.
Strangely, this game can turn out to be a real confidence builder for the defending Super Bowl champions.
If they can contain RGIII, they should feel good about their ability to contain any passing game in the league. If they cannot, it will mean they are vulnerable and make it very difficult to repeat last year’s success.
Do the Giants have what it takes to stop RGIII on Monday?