ASHBURN, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — Santana Moss reached way back into the pop culture playbook to explain why Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins are having trouble completing the long ball.
“It’s like the Hawaiian Punch guy,” the veteran receiver said Wednesday. “‘You want a Hawaiian Punch?’ ‘Sure.’ He got punched in the face. That little commercial was funny. My coaches always said in high school, ‘We’re not going to be the Hawaiian Punch guy.'”
That 20-second cartoon aired decades ago, but Moss said the moral of the story remains relevant: If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re going to repeat them and end up looking silly. Because NFL defenses don’t want to look silly, they’re not letting Griffin do many of the things he did so well last year, such as hitting open receivers deep downfield after a fake handoff in the read-option.
The numbers back that up. In passes that travel 21-plus yards through the air, Griffin is 5 for 24 with two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 43.1 rating. Last year he was one of the best when he let it fly: 15 for 39 with seven touchdowns and one interception for a 115.1 rating.
“Robert was new to the league,” Moss said, “and lot of things that he did wowed people because they didn’t know what the hell was going on. They didn’t know if he was going to tuck it, if he was going to run it, they didn’t know. Defenses would sit back and say, ‘Hey, we got to find a way to prevent him from doing that.’ When he’s on doing that, then everything’s wide open because you don’t know what to stop. But when he’s not, then we have to be a little more creative and say ‘Hey, let’s find a way to beat them without running Robert and doing the things that we did last year.'”
Still, it’s somewhat perplexing that the Redskins’ passing game has struggled so much, given that they have the same pieces from last year — and then some. Receivers Pierre Garcon and Joshua Morgan and running back Roy Helu are healthier, and rookie Jordan Reed looks like a star in the making.
Instead, the record is 2-5 headed into this week’s game against the San Diego Chargers, and players are doing their best to keep the frustration from boiling over. Garcon proclaimed in training camp that the Redskins offense could be the best of all time; now he says the passing game stinks.
“Defenses have adjusted to us,” he said.
Morgan’s offensive role has decreased. He had only 19 snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos and says he no longer splits first-team offensive snaps with Leonard Hankerson in practice.
“Nobody’s happy when you get a reduced role,” Morgan said. “You just go out there and whatever the coaches ask you to do, you just do it.”
Morgan’s spot duty is part of coach Mike Shanahan’s elusive pursuit of a reliable starting wideout to complement Garcon.
“I think we do have a second guy. Who that guy is right now, I’m not sure,” Shanahan said. “We’ve got to have a guy step up. We’ve got guys with the ability to be No. 2, but you want to take control.”
Also frustrated is tight end Fred Davis, who was curious as to whether the Redskins would ship him away before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Eclipsed by Reed, Davis has been inactive for the last two games.
“I like it here. I was drafted here,” Davis said. “But at the end of the day, I just want to play. If I can’t play here, then I did want to play somewhere else.”
Moss and Shanahan said the offense as a whole is still recovering from the offseason surgery on Griffin’s right knee, which kept him out of spring practices and all of the preseason games. Defenses have adjusted accordingly.
“They know Robert is not exactly the same as he was a year ago,” Shanahan said. “And so we are going to get different defenses. That’s very obvious. But, as you can see, the last few games that speed has come back, and he’s feeling more comfortable.”
Notes: Griffin took part in the full practice Wednesday. Shanahan said the injury to Griffin’s left knee that caused the quarterback to leave Sunday’s game early is now a “non-issue.” … S Reed Doughty practiced fully after missing Sunday’s game with a concussion. … Shanahan said the league has rescinded LB Brian Orakpo’s $15,750 fine for roughing the passer in the Oct. 20 game vs. Chicago.
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