by Grant PaulsenBy Grant Paulsen

NEW ORLEANS (CBSDC) — The Washington Redskins opened their 2012 campaign with a high-scoring upset win over the New Orleans Saints.

Here are my three opening thoughts:

1. This Robert Griffin guy can play.

Robert Griffin III completed his first eight passes en route to a 19-for-26 showing that saw him throw for 320 yards and rush for another 42 on the ground. Beyond the stats, and they’re easy to get enamored with, Griffin showed the poise and comfort in the pocket normally exuded by a veteran with several years of experience. He consistently stood strong and flat-footed in the pocket, often times taking a shot as he delivered an on-target pass. He could not have had a better inaugural NFL outing.

2. Washington’s offense is suddenly fast.

It’s been a long time since the Redskins were the team that created match-up problems with team speed. But as I sat in the press box watching Sunday’s game, with Pierre Garçon sprinting 88 yards for a touchdown and his replacement Aldrick Robinson getting behind defenders, it became pretty obvious that Washington’s pass-catchers have some wheels. Griffin is probably the fastest quarterback in the league and Fred Davis and Niles Paul are both plus-runners at the tight end position. The Redskins actually have stellar team speed.

3. Alfred Morris is a handful.

Morris was far from dominant but he got better as the game went along. The debuting rookie ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns, racking up 75 yards in the second half while consistently running through tackles. He constantly falls forward and is difficult to get a clean hit on because of his open-field shiftiness. I also like the durability he showed by taking a 28-carry load.

Game balls:

Robert Griffin III

Threw for 320 yards and rushed 42 more in a turnover-free performance. His 139.9 quarterback rating and seven total incompletions were both impressive but those numbers aren’t as telling as how in control he was. There wasn’t a single moment where he made a play where you said, “that’s a rookie trying to do too much.”

Pierre Garçon

Garçon was very involved early, catching three passes on the Redskins’ first four plays from scrimmage. His fourth reception, an 88-yard touchdown catch, was the longest score by a Redskins wide receiver (who wasn’t a replacement player) since 1975. The Redskins did not have a wide out on their roster in 2011 that would have scored on that catch. Garçon missed the remainder of the game with a bruised foot but said that he expects to play next week in St. Louis.

Billy Cundiff

Connected on all four of his field goal attempts in his first game with the Redskins. Cundiff hit from 37, 41, 37 and 45 yards out. He also booted seven touchbacks, helping Washington to win the battle for field position.

Worth recognizing:

– Long snapper Nick Sundberg broke his left arm on a punt attempt late in the first half and finished the game as Washington’s long snapper. Shanahan said he has never seen a snapper do that and called Sundberg a warrior for playing through the pain.

– Tight end Logan Paulsen caught just one pass but it may have sealed the game for Washington. Paulsen ran a good route to beat coverage on 2nd down on Washington’s final drive. His catch-and-run converted a first down and allowed the Redskins to run out the clock.

– Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson didn’t plan on playing a major offensive role on Sunday but he was forced into increased duty when Garçon went down. Robinson was targeted six times, making four catches while racking up 52 receiving yards. The second-year speedster caught a touchdown and drew a pass interference in the end zone that gave the Redskins a first-and-goal from the one yard-line.

Needs improvement:

– Brandon Banks muffed a punt and fumbled on another return. He didn’t lose either of the fumbles but putting two footballs on the ground is two too many.

– The Redskins had two major breakdowns on punt protection and execution, one resulted in a block that was returned for a score.


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