WASHINGTON (AP) — Robert Griffin III is about to get a first chance to make a second impression.
As the Washington Redskins quarterback wows the NFL through his rookie season, part of the intrigue has been when — or if — defenses will find a reliable scheme to corral his all-around ability to run, fake, scramble and find receivers with top-shelf pinpoint accuracy.
The New York Giants present a good test case. On Monday, they become the first team to face Griffin a second time.
“I was hoping to learn that he’d slowed down a little bit, but that’s not the case,” New York defensive end Justin Tuck said. “He is one of the best dual threats in our game.”
Griffin completed 20 of 28 passes for 258 yards and ran nine times for 89 yards in the teams’ first meeting at the Meadowlands on Oct. 21, an impressive volume of work that was negated when the Redskins’ woeful secondary allowed a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 to play.
Over the next two weeks, it appears that perhaps the NFL was starting to figure out RG3 — or that he had hit the rookie wall. But he followed so-so performances against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers with perhaps the best five-day span for a rookie in league history: 34 for 43 with eight touchdowns and a combined 146.1 rating in wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, the latter coming on the road on Thanksgiving Day.
“I don’t plan on being here that long,” said the 29-year-old Tuck, asked to imagine how the 22-year-old Griffin will affect the NFC East over the next decade. “But, until I exit stage right, it seems like he’s going to be a fixture in my dreams and nightmares.”
While the Giants are trying to downplay the advantages of having played Griffin before, there are a few. Many defenses facing him for the first time are caught off guard by his speed — even with the knowledge that he was a college hurdles champion. Also, no amount of video study is a good substitute for the live-and-in-person experience of facing the zone read option, an offensive scheme many NFL players haven’t seen since college.
Asked if it helps that his players have seen Griffin before, Giants coach Tom Coughlin answered: “It better be.”
“The experience factor is there,” Coughlin said. “We have played them one time and they played very, very well, so I don’t know that that’s any solace for us. We definitely have to do a much better job. I would discount the idea that there’s anything easy about preparing.”
The Giants (7-4) could essentially put the NFC East away with a win, which would give them a three-game lead and the tiebreaker over the Redskins (5-6) with four games remaining. The Cowboys (5-6) would stay in the mix if they beat the Eagles on Saturday night.
Griffin, who has supplemented his physical talents with beyond-his-years leadership to keep the Redskins’ playoff hopes alive, is naturally curious to see what the Giants throw at him this time.
“I just know they’ll come with something different,” Griffin said. “I mean, every team does. No team will necessarily play you the same way they played you the first time. A team’s base defense is their base defense — usually that won’t change. But they’ll have a wrinkle in there somewhere. Once we see it, then it’s about just adjusting on the fly.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)