- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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The focus remains on his knee, just not always in regards to whether it’s fixed or not. At this point, it’s close to fully healed. Rather, it’s on how Robert Griffin III's passing remains impacted by the knee -- if at all -- when it comes to his mechanics.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said on "Mike & Mike in the Morning," that he noticed a difference in watching Griffin warm up before the Monday night game versus Pittsburgh. Jaworski said he didn’t see the weight transfer that he would have liked, though pointing out he was not watching him in person.
The Redskins saw the same thing in the past -- just not anymore.
“I think I noticed it a little bit early, just when he first started back,” Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur said. “I think just talking to other guys that have had that -- Rex [Grossman] had an ACL, and he said it does take a while, especially when it’s on your back leg, to come back to full strength. I think now I don’t notice it.”
When it comes to Griffin’s mechanics, there’s a belief that the time off combined with the maturation in the offense has helped. If Griffin not only wants to play in the first game, but have success, then trusting sound mechanics is a must.
But the Redskins aren't as worried for a good reason: LaFleur said Griffin is much better in this area than a year ago.
“When you’re comfortable with the scheme and you know where you’re going with the ball, there’s a lot less thinking going on,” LaFleur said.
Some of that stems from the knee injury and what he was unable to do for a while.
“It’s got to slow him down,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He just can’t come out there and just go as hard as he can. He is slowing everything down and really focused on his technique and focused on his mechanics. I think he worked at that his whole rehab session, and he is trying to carry it over to the field now. I see it getting better, and I think it will get better each week. Hopefully we will get him ready for that first week.”
The lower body mechanics are clearly a big deal. He can put more zip on the ball with better weight transfer, being able to fully plant and drive. As LaFleur said, there were days early in camp where it was clear Griffin could not plant and drive with authority because of his surgically-repaired right knee. But that hasn’t been the case the past couple weeks.
What LaFleur likes is how quickly Griffin learns when it comes to his throwing mechanics. Last week, for example, Griffin missed receiver Pierre Garcon wide on an out route. LaFleur knew why: Griffin had over-rotated his shoulders. They talked and Griffin went to the next play: a perfectly-thrown out route to the other side.
Another example from last week. The Redskins were working on their five-step hitch throws, and Griffin threw behind a couple times. The message to him: Speed up his steps, throw the ball earlier, but with less velocity.
“In two days he looks flawless,” LaFleur said. “He is a quick learner. You only have to tell him something once.”
It’s not like Griffin is perfect. One of his worst throwing days in camp occurred more because of sloppy footwork than anything. He tried to throw to his right while his feet remained pointed either straight ahead or slightly to the left. Bad misses followed. Veteran quarterbacks struggle with this issue at times (Tom Brady missed on a couple throws against the Redskins two years ago for this reason). But it’s one the Redskins will continue to harp on with Griffin.
“You’re always working on footwork, and my biggest thing with him is try to get his body in position to make a good, accurate throw,” LaFleur said. “If you have good balance, you have a much better chance of being accurate over the long haul. He is an extremely talented athlete and a quarterback as you know. He’s capable of making any throw even if he doesn’t have good balance. It’s just the consistency factor.”
The Redskins have analyzed his throwing motion since his return and compared it to how he was pre-injury. Coach Mike Shanahan estimates he’s made about 600 throws in the spring and summer. They didn’t want to put him in too soon and have Griffin alter his mechanics to compensate because he wasn’t quite ready.
“We’ve been watching him practice and he’s getting better and better. We see progress,” Shanahan said. “One of the reasons we didn’t throw him right in the fire is because we didn’t think he was ready right away.”
Griffin didn’t want to share much about his mechanics or what he perhaps learned through watching himself on film or what he’s worked on post-injury. But he did say he sees a change because his knee feels better. He didn’t need to see the film to tell him that.
“It’s a feel,” Griffin said. “I could feel the difference late in the year between having a healthy knee and not having a healthy knee. I can feel the difference now, having a healthy knee. … I feel like I’m miles ahead when it comes to just playing football than I was then. When it comes to just being healthy and planting off the back foot, I feel good there, too.”