Washington Redskins: matt lafleur

LaFleur: Griffin will play faster

February, 15, 2014
Matt LaFleur knew what he wanted Robert Griffin III to focus on in the offseason. LaFleur, of course, won't get the chance to work with him anymore. But he still knows what the Redskins quarterback must do. It's nothing magical, either.

"His sole focus will be on football so he won't have to worry about a his knee,” said LaFleur, fired as the Redskins quarterbacks coach after the season and now in the same position with Notre Dame. "He'll get to focus on the position. It will pay dividends for him.”

As LaFleur said in a piece earlier in the week, the biggest jump a quarterback often makes is from his first to second year. Griffin's jump was slowed because he spent all of last offseason rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee.

But this offseason Griffin needs to improve his play in the pocket, from footwork to making faster decisions. LaFleur said what will help Griffin is getting a stronger feel for knowing plays inside and out -- and knowing how to attack certain coverages. He faced a greater variety of looks in 2013 as defenses didn't fear his legs as much as in his rookie season. Not having to wear a brace could/should help Griffin, too.

"There's a strength and weakness to every play,” LaFleur said. "Plays are designed to attack certain coverages and schemes. If you know that inside and out, what each play is and why we're running this play and you don't have to think about it when you're at the line and you just react, you're going to be light years ahead of where you were.

"You watch the great quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. They all play so fast but it's under control because they know what the defense is presenting to them before it happens. It allows them to anticipate things a little quicker and that makes all the difference in the world. If you're a little off and you're late, it's the difference between a completion and an incompletion.”

And that's where Griffin must take his game. During his rookie season, then-coach Mike Shanahan would say that in several years Griffin would look back on his first couple of seasons and realize how much he didn't know. Griffin still was learning to throw with anticipation at an NFL level. As LaFleur said about his running, ”He's a world-class athlete. It's just knowing when to escape and when to check the ball down.”

And knowing the game in greater detail -- Griffin already is working on his game-- will speed his decision-making.

"He has a better understanding, having two years in the league,” LaFleur said. "He'll have a much better understanding of what defenses are trying to do to him and he'll be able to recognize and play the position faster.

"That will allow him to be better in the pocket, just recognition so there's no hesitation to progress from your No. 2 to No. 3 [target]. If you watch most quarterbacks in the league if you take more than two hitches there's a good chance you'll be sacked. By recognizing things it allows you to get to your fourth or fifth read on your second hitch and get the ball out of your hand. Like all quarterbacks the more experience you get the better you're going to be.”

Catching up with: Matt LaFleur

February, 13, 2014
Former Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur didn't take too long to find a new job, taking over as Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach more than two weeks ago -- and less than a month since he was fired in Washington. I caught up with LaFleur earlier this week; yes, we talked about Robert Griffin III as you can see in this column. And in this one, LaFleur talks about if Griffin was tough to coach (as well as some thoughts on Kirk Cousins). I'll have more of LaFleur's thoughts on Griffin in a post Saturday afternoon when he'll talk about why he thinks the quarterback can still be successful and what he can do to help himself.

Here's what LaFleur (who now has to recruit for the first time in six years) had to say on:

His new gig: “Obviously I’m extremely excited going to a university that has so much tradition and it’s a program that is not only nationwide, but world wide. Everyone knows about Notre Dame. Just the pageantry around college football. I’m excited to get that experience again.”

If it was hard to leave the NFL: “Of course it was. It wasn’t by choice, obviously. But when you’re in that situation you’re trying to look for the best opportunity for you and I was familiar with coach [Brian] Kelly, having [worked] for him for two years. I know what he can do with a program. I thought it was a great opportunity to work with a great head coach and a guy that has been able to really turn around a lot of programs.”

What it feels like to look for a job in this business: “It definitely is a lonely world. It really puts your whole life on hold and you are going full speed ahead trying to reconnect with people. In the season you’re so busy, you don’t get the opportunity to stay in contact with anybody because you’ve got to do your job. There’s no time for that. So it’s more or less trying to reconnect and find any leads that you can come across and then follow up on those. Just like anything else the profession is a lot about who you know and who knows you. You might be the best coach in the world but if you don’t know anyone or no one knows you, it really doesn’t matter.”

The competitiveness of finding a coaching job: “It’s crazy. I went to the national coaches convention and having coached for more than 10 years now I went down there thinking I’d know a lot of guys and it was amazing how it’s two different worlds – the college world and the NFL world. I went down there and felt like I didn’t know anybody. It gives you an appreciation for how many coaches are out there. There are so many people. It’s extremely competitive and it’s tough to get a job, especially a high-quality job – like any job in the NFL or in the major programs in college football. It makes me feel extremely fortunate for the situations I’ve been in, the four years in Washington and then this. It makes you grateful for what you have.”

How being in Washington changed him as a coach: “It was the first time being a position coach in the NFL and dealing with the situation we had two years ago where we dealt with two rookie quarterbacks. They were definitely experiences I felt were invaluable in terms of how you go about preparing those guys and getting those two rookies ready to play.”

What he learned: “I learned never to assume anything no matter how many times you tell a guy, don’t assume it and what we did with those two is we quizzed them a lot. I’d give written tests and you start to find out what they know. As a coach it doesn’t matter what you know, it’s only about what your players know. A great coach is someone who can get their players to operate and perform at their highest level and it’s all about what they know and what they can do.”

Whether Griffin can be coached: “I never had a problem with him. Ever. There was that one bogus report out there. He would always do exactly what I asked him to do or at least try to do it how we asked him to. Some of those reports that were out there were just bogus.”

Why Griffin received so much negative attention: “It comes with the position, especially in that media market when you don’t have success everybody is a target. That’s what happened last year and it made stuff bigger than what it was. The bottom line is we went 3-13. And that’s what happens when you don’t a successful season. … When it’s good, it’s good and no one says anything and when it’s bad everyone’s a critic and everyone has all the answers.”

Kirk Cousins: “I thought his play, if you look at the numbers, it didn’t look impressive but his play was pretty good. The Giants game was not a great game by any means, but it wasn’t conducive to having a great game. We never make excuses for the quarterback but the game conditions were about as horrific as they could be for a quarterback. But he stepped up and did a nice job. The year before he had better numbers but his play against Atlanta and Dallas was as good as it was against Cleveland … . Coming out of college, he was one of the most natural throwers and he still throws the same way. When you look at some of the throws he made and some plays he made, they were pretty damn impressive.”

RG III offseason key to Redskins rise

February, 10, 2014
He took off down the field against the Minnesota Vikings and the team's broadcaster used one word to describe the moment: electrifying. That's what Robert Griffin III provided for the Washington Redskins' offense as a rookie, those 76-yard sprints for touchdowns. He extended plays, fooled defenders with fakes and turned the Redskins into a dynamic offense.

Last season, he did not. Last season the focus wasn't on his electrifying play. Rather, it was on his surgically-repaired right knee. It was on his relationship with Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan. It was on catchy slogans. It was on whether he should be playing.

And it all started around this time a year ago, when Griffin was recovering from knee surgery.

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Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsWith a fully healed knee, Robert Griffin III can now focus on improving his game this offseason.
But do you hear the sound around Griffin these days? It's all quiet -- and that's a good thing. Griffin is back to worrying about football and football only.

It's not as if those worries prevented him from becoming better last offseason. But they contributed to the mess the team became in 2013. Griffin was a weekly topic in the media throughout the season, not just for his play, either.

But his knee led to his sluggish start because he was unable to adequately prepare for the season.

"I thought we would have seen a great jump from Year 1 to Year 2 if he wasn't rehabbing the whole time," said former Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur. "You can't work on your craft when you're rehabbing."

Griffin already has started to attack the offseason, throwing passes to some of his receivers away from Redskins Park. He and some of his receivers, tight ends and running backs will meet in Arizona in March to work out together, some bonding time that never really developed last offseason.

Griffin also will work out again with Terry Shea, the former NFL quarterbacks coach who trained him (and others) before the NFL draft. There's a desire to improve his footwork and to speed up his release, to work on areas that will help him in an NFL pocket.

By the way, what he's doing isn't because of 2013, it's what he also did before his rookie season: he worked with Shea; he got together with his receivers before training camp. It's just that he couldn't do any of this last offseason.

He also has a new staff to work with in Washington, with whom thus far there is nothing but good vibes.

It's a fresh start that someone only two years into his career probably needed.

Another bonus for him: Most likely, he'll also be without the knee brace that protected his knee, but didn't help his mobility.

"Everybody will see a big jump in his game and he'll look more like he did in Year 1 than in Year 2," LaFleur said.

There's no guarantee, of course, that Griffin will have that sort of jump. He has a lot to prove. And every player must own up to his mistakes. But it's a better bet it will happen after an offseason of work than one spent strengthening a knee. Griffin needs to study defenses and how they played him, then go onto the field and translate what he's learned. He couldn't do that in 2013.

Now he can focus on seeing how defenses play him and anticipate coverages. At times this past season it took too long for that to happen and plays ended with him sacked or in trouble.

"He'll be able to recognize and play the position faster," said LaFleur, now the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame.

Griffin needed an offseason like this. Two years ago it was a heady whirlwind before the draft, going from Heisman Trophy winner to working out to savior in Washington in but a few months. Last season it was about rehabbing and documentaries and hidden meanings in quotes. There wasn't much time to take a breath. Now he's the player who some wonder what he'll eventually become, providing extra motivation to a guy who is always motivated.

When Griffin was The Guy as a rookie, he provided hope for Redskins fans as well as teammates. Defensive players used that word, knowing they were still in games even if they messed up. A broken offensive play -- or covered receivers -- could still result in heroics.

"When you've got a quarterback capable of taking it the distance at any point in time, it definitely strikes fear in the defense because you can't defend that," LaFleur said. "They might have you perfectly defended across the board but if a guy can take off and outrun the defense, there's nothing you can do."

With an inconsistent Griffin in 2013, other parts of the team needed to help him, but failed.

Griffin needs to get more of his 2012 game, but while improving in other areas so he can be a longtime starter. He's a smart player who has never had his work ethic questioned. Combined with talent, those attributes give him a chance to get back there. He'll also have to buy into what Jay Gruden is selling offensively.

The Redskins, done with their salary-cap penalties, will spend in the offseason. They'll add more young guys in the draft. All of that is important. But more than anything they need to see Griffin's game elevated. That will provide hope for not only this season, but for many to come.

Matt LaFleur hired by Notre Dame

January, 23, 2014
Former Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur landed a job with the same role -- but at a different level. He has been hired as the University of Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach, a source close to him confirmed Thursday.

LaFleur served as the Redskins' quarterbacks coach from 2010-13 and was among the 10 assistants fired after the season. He's the first of those coaches to be hired. Fired offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan remains in the running for the same position with the Baltimore Ravens. The Baltimore Sun reported that he will be interviewed a second time for the job. A decision on that job could be made by the end of this week.

LaFleur will be reunited with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, with whom he coached at Central Michigan from 2004-05. LaFleur made the jump to the NFL in 2008 as a quality control coach with Houston before joining the Redskins two years later.

Seven Redskins assistants remain

December, 30, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins retained seven assistant coaches, though their status could change in the next few weeks depending on whoever is hired as the new coach. It's common for teams to keep assistants around before a new coach is hired, partly to compile player evaluations.

Those who are still around: defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, secondary coach Raheem Morris, defensive line coach Jacob Burney, offensive line coach Chris Foerster, assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan, running backs coach Bobby Turner and tight ends coach Sean McVay. It's possible that a couple of these coaches stick around with a new regime.

The assistants who were fired Monday, along with coach Mike Shanahan: offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, special teams coach Keith Burns, advance scout Larry Coyer, quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, coaching assistant Richmond Flowers and receivers coach Mike McDaniel, linebackers coach Bob Slowik and defensive assistant Bobby Slowik.

Matt LeFleur analyzes RG III's game

December, 6, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s not the December anyone wanted; it is one that could still make a difference when it comes to the Washington Redskins' future. That’s because the final four games will be, in large part, about the development of quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Yes, the Redskins want to win regardless of who’s at quarterback. But it’s Griffin who can calm fears about 2014 – and beyond – by having a strong finish. Thus far, he’s looked every bit the second-year quarterback that he is. Of course, there will be as many questions about his relationship with coaches, assuming they're back, as his on-field performance. But, for now, we'll stick to the field.

Therefore, I checked in with quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur to see what progress he thinks Griffin has made – and areas he can improve. There were no questions about their relationship, I promise.

We talked about a few areas:
    [+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
    Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesRedskins QB Robert Griffin III has been working on his balance during passes.
  1. Griffin did a better job last week of getting rid of the ball quicker, especially in the first half. We saw it in the number of checkdowns and even on the final drive, when he went through his progressions quicker and found other options. LaFleur saw it on the first play of the game when Griffin pumped to the right and threw back to the middle for Alfred Morris. It wasn’t a designed play; it was Griffin seeing his first option wasn’t there and immediately finding his second. "We ran a quick game concept and it didn’t look great and without any hesitation he got it to the halfback and that got us going,” LaFleur said. “Plays like that can make a huge difference in wins and losses and just being successful on drives.”This is a week-to-week issue. If teams play man, the checkdowns aren’t as available. Heavy zone teams are more vulnerable to checkdowns. It also helped that in the first half especially the offensive line was solid.“He was afforded the time to get through his reads,” LaFleur said. “All quarterbacks, each play is its own entity and you can pick apart each play. Sometimes they do a good job getting to the checkdown and sometimes they progress faster. Our job is to help them see the defense and based on coverages and when to eliminate the No. 1 and through the progression so they can get to No. 2. They have to have an understanding of what coverages they’re attacking and how our concepts attack that coverage. Each week is a different challenge. Last week he did a better job.”
  2. Despite what Antrel Rolle said about Griffin taking too many hits, that wasn’t really the case Sunday night. Griffin was hit 16 times, but a number of them were shoves or came after he slid, avoiding worse collisions. Two stood out: the play on the sneak and the failed block on the end around.“Last week he did as good a job as he’s ever done in terms of getting down and avoiding hits, except for when he ran out of bounds and fell on the track,” LaFleur said. “He could have gotten lower [on the sneak].” The start of something or a one-game aberration? “Time will tell,” LaFleur said.
  3. Griffin’s timing on some routes has improved, though that’s still game to game. Against Minnesota he anticipated more routes, for example. “That’s something we work on every day,” LaFleur said. “That timing with the receiver is done on the practice field.”
  4. Griffin remains inconsistent at getting his feet around in the pocket, so they’re in sync with the rest of his body when he throws. Otherwise it leads to errant passes, as we have seen.“You better know where your eyes are taking you,” LaFleur said. “Your eyes will take you to the correct read but the feet tell you when to get off a certain read. That’s your timing mechanism. Your eyes have to get there before your feet. Body position is absolutely critical. If you don’t have good body position, your balance is off and your accuracy will be off. It’s absolutely critical you get your body in correct position to make the correct throw. He’s done a better job. It’s a constant work in progress.”
  5. His decision making on the final drive was solid. There were two occasions where if Griffin had waited a half-second longer, a deeper route would have opened. But in those situations you can’t take a chance. “You never bypass an open receiver,” LaFleur said. “You try to go through your progression and the timing of the progression. We’re not in a vacuum. There are other variables going on whether you have to move in the pocket or whatever happens if a receiver is late on a route.”
  6. There’s a lot of work to be done in the offseason and there’s only so much you can do during the season. “We’ll work on them now, it’s just hard to ingrain that when you have so much going on,” LaFleur said, “and so focused on the game plan. It’s hard to hammer down your fundamentals and make it subconscious.”

Five Thoughts: RG III's development

October, 7, 2013
  1. Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur was encouraged by Robert Griffin III’s outing against Oakland because he saw something he hadn’t seen a whole lot of in the first three games. It’s a good sign for Griffin moving forward. “He finally was able to make some big-time off-schedule plays in key situations,” LaFleur said. “He’s getting more comfortable and confident.” As you’ll recall, it wasn’t just Griffin’s eluding the corner blitz and running to his right to hit running back Roy Helu en route to a 28-yard gain, it was him stepping up in the pocket and finding Helu for 15 yards on an earlier third down (Griffin's third-down numbers need improving; 52.3 completion percentage; 73.3 passer rating though it was 105.9 versus the Raiders -- 7-of-13 for 104 yards and a touchdown). Griffin also got outside the pocket and found Niles Paul for 16 yards when he could have run.
  2. Griffin
    LaFleur said those plays show maturation in Griffin’s game. A year ago, those receivers were open, but Griffin often decided way too early to tuck the ball and run. Therefore he never saw them -- and often took unnecessary hits. “He knows where our guys are going to be now whereas in Year 1 it’s survival mode. You see what you see," LaFleur said. "He didn’t see Niles [against Oakland] but he knew he was going to be there and that’s why he threw to him. ... It shows that he’s growing as a quarterback to make those plays as well. A lot of guys get in situations where it’s dicey and the [route] concept hasn’t shown itself yet and no one’s quite open and they’ll take off and run.” Griffin tried to do that against Detroit late in the first half; because of it he missed a receiver breaking open downfield late. He slid out of the pocket to the left, had the ball poked away and recovered his fumble. But against Oakland it was different.
  3. More on this particular topic because it’s a big one for Griffin, and it’s why his legs remain vital to his game. Griffin can improve as a passer from the pocket, but his legs always will be a factor. That doesn’t mean having to run the zone-read but it does mean getting outside the pocket and making plays, with his arm or legs. The more he extends plays and then hurts teams with his arm, the more he can limit hits and sustain his career. Remember, the questions about his durability do not just apply to running the zone-read; there were scouts and draft experts who wondered pre-2012 draft about him surviving in the pocket, too, because of his leaner frame. Anyway, LaFleur was encouraged. “Again, you like to see that body movement, not only for us but for himself to prove that he can make that play.”
  4. LaFleur also noticed a steady improvement in Griffin’s mechanics over the first four games. “In this last game his footwork compared to the first game was much more smooth. Better weight transition in his throws as well.” The Washington Post’s hard-working reporter Mike Jones took a look at this same subject during the bye week. Here’s my report on Griffin’s game against Oakland, providing a detailed look at some progress (and areas that still must improve).
  5. Can the Redskins and Griffin still be effective with the zone-read option? The Washington Post’s Mark Maske interviewed a number of people to look at this, more so from how it's being defended it league-wide. Two weeks ago I talked to some Redskins players about this topic because it’s clear the zone-read runs have not been as effective. But a lot of this is because of Griffin’s lack of explosiveness in the first couple of games. Defenses have given him the outside on some runs because they knew he wasn’t going to run -- or would not be as effective if he did. And it’s not as much that defenses have figured out new strategies to deal with the zone-read. What’s happened is that they’re sticking to their assignments better, showing less hesitation at times on the run. Detroit took away some of the zone-read simply because its tackles won one-on-ones against the Redskins' interior. Still, in a nutshell, defenses are more prepared. But the zone-read play-action fakes still work as the amount of time it holds the linebackers is often about the same as last year (around 1.9 seconds). Last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Griffin ran off the zone-read 43 times for 344 yards (8.0 per carry) and gained 1.02 yards after contact. This season? He’s rushed four times for 19 yards out of this look with .25 yards after contact. The trickle down is that running back Alfred Morris, who averaged 5.25 yards out of this look in 2012 now averages 3.18 yards per carry. Last year he gained 2.30 yards after contact -- partly because of hesitation as defenses weren’t sure who would have the ball, leading to arm tackles. Now, with Griffin’s legs not as big (yet?), Morris gains only 1.27 yards after contact. If Griffin regains more of his old explosiveness, it'll be interesting to see what happens to these numbers.

No surprise: RG III set to start opener

August, 28, 2013

Once Robert Griffin III made it through Tuesday’s practice, the final one of the week, with no setbacks, the next move was a mere formality: He would start the Sept. 9 season opener versus Philadelphia. And, Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that, indeed, this would be the case.

It’s not a surprise. It is, for Redskins fans, a welcome relief mixed with a little angst: Is he indeed ready? Griffin told ESPN 980 radio on Tuesday that he was fully recovered. And that he could run a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash if he were at the combine.

“I would say I'm 100 percent, but you can't put a number on it," he told the station. "No one ever knows when they are 100 percent or what percentage they're playing at. The biggest thing is, I'm not below 100 percent."

Later in the day, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, always a little more forthcoming than his father, said Griffin looked 100 percent to him. Then his dad, head coach Mike Shanahan, followed in his presser a half hour later by talking about how well Griffin has looked in practice the past two days and the noticeable improvement he’s made since training camp started.

“You can see he is in football shape and there hasn’t been a setback, so everything has been very positive,” Mike Shanahan said.

"Football shape" is one of Shanahan’s favorite phrases. Once Griffin was in football shape, any decision on Griffin starting was just a formality. It was going to happen. Griffin will still undergo an examination by Dr. James Andrews when the Redskins visit Tampa Bay on Thursday. One team source said that has not changed. And if Andrews finds anything wrong with Griffin's knee, he won't start. But Andrews has examined him recently and found no setbacks. Nothing has changed, certainly not for the worse.

“I’ve seen much improvement from the first day to where he’s at now from when he first came out -- just in his ability to move, his ability to scramble, just the ease in which he practices,” Shanahan said.

The minute he awoke from surgery, Griffin set a goal to return by Week 1. As shown in his documentary on ESPN on Tuesday, “The Will to Win,” Griffin was consumed with this goal. After a night out in Las Vegas for his bachelor party, when he and his friends rolled in around 5 a.m., Griffin bypassed sleep to work out at UNLV. When Griffin saw the numbers for the Redskins' iron man competition in the offseason, he announced he would set a record. He did.

But there was still the question of whether he could pull it off. Before training camp, I believed he would. Once camp started and we saw how cautious Mike Shanahan was with him, I started wondering what would happen. But the pace has accelerated of late, and the fact that Griffin never took a day off -- which is highly uncommon for players coming off knee surgeries -- sealed the decision.

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AP Photo/David DrapkinQuarterback Robert Griffin III will start the Washington Redskins' opener on "Monday Night Football" on Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
There are questions: How will he do without the benefit of the preseason? The Redskins say their practices are better than the games. Indeed, the Redskins showed little of their offense in games last summer. However, Griffin did learn lessons in how to anticipate throws or escape trouble in the pocket. They’re not a total waste, but would he have really benefited from playing one or two series this summer?

In 2004, Redskins backup quarterback Rex Grossman ruptured ligaments in his knee, ending his season. Then, early in the 2005 preseason, he broke his left ankle. He missed the first 13 games before returning -- without the benefit of anything other than practice. Like Griffin.

“I know from my experience coming back, it might take a little bit to knock the rust off, but it’s not going to be a whole game,” said Grossman, who completed 9 of 16 passes for 93 yards in his first game back. “It might be the first half of the first quarter or once you take a hit. Once you get into the rhythm of the game you rely on everything you’ve done to that point to get ready, all the practices and experiences from last year. It all kind of comes back. There might be an initial uneasiness that you wouldn’t normally have, but every first game of the season, every season opener, I don’t care how much you’ve played in the preseason, it’s different and it takes a little while to get going. I don’t think it will be that big a deal.”

(Read full post)

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.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Steve HelberThe Redskins are watching Robert Griffin III's throwing mechanics closely as he recovers from a serious knee injury.
“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.”