Iowa product Scherff among top Washington training camp storylines
It will be fascinating to see how Year 2 of life together for Robert Griffin III and Jay Gruden plays out with the Washington Redskins, starting at training camp.
The player known as RG3 has gone from Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall draft pick to apparent change-the-game sensation and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year to oft-injured and benched. Last season, his first with Gruden as Washington's head coach, was a real struggle for both.
Washington went 4-12, its sixth last-place NFC East finish in seven years, and Gruden did not hold back when describing everything he found lacking in Griffin's skill set as more of a traditional pocket passer, rather than a read-option, runner-slash-passer.
"The transition for him into a new system last season was a little bit rocky for all of us," Gruden said. "But when you have the same system going in for Year 2, I think he's going to get better."
Surprisingly, Gruden went ahead and named Griffin his starting QB — ahead of Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy — months before the start of training camp. Then the Redskins picked up their contract option on Griffin for next season, which is worth about $16 million, putting off a decision on whether to give him a long-term deal or to move on.
Well, now it's camp time, and everyone will see whether Griffin and Gruden are going to make this work or not.
"Every day, he is doing something a little bit better, and that's all we can ask, man. We're just taking baby steps right now. We're all getting better together," Gruden said during last month's minicamp. "You can see that (he's) starting to have confidence in the pocket and going through his progressions. That's got to be a consistent theme with him."
For Griffin's part, he won't commit to being ready to leave his running ways in the past.
"You have got to be true to who you are, and right now I'm a 25-year-old young man who can do a lot of different things," he said, "so I'm not going to limit myself to just being a drop-back passer."
Here are other things to know about Redskins training camp in Richmond, Virginia, where players report July 29:
NEW SCHERFF IN TOWN: One thing that has certainly not helped Griffin is a shaky offensive line, aside from Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams. Long neglected, McCloughan sought an upgrade by using the No. 5 overall pick in the draft on Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who is expected to start at right tackle or guard.
MCCLOUGHAN IN CHARGE: If new general manager Scot McCloughan really gets his way and can mold the team the way he sees fit, that could be the first step in the right direction. If, on the other hand, a mid-camp trade is made for an older player with a recognizable name but fading talent, choruses of "same old, same old" will ring out.
NEW STAFF: Matt Cavanaugh was brought in as the quarterbacks coach — a position Gruden held last year — while Bill Callahan arrived from Dallas to run the offensive line. And after a tumultuous tenure in Washington, Jim Haslett is out as defensive coordinator, replaced by Joe Barry.
DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT? A lot of attention will be paid to Barry and a group of new players — Chris Culliver, Dashon Goldson, Stephen Paea, Terrance Knighton — brought in to help a defense that was awful last season. Linebacker Brian Orakpo left as a free agent; it will be important to find someone else to rush the passer and take some pressure of Ryan Kerrigan.
NAME GAME: How loud will the debate over the team's use of "Redskins" be during camp or during the season?