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Redskins' Good Problem At Quarterback


Rich Gannon. Jeff George. Tim Hasselbeck. John Beck.

What do each of these quarterbacks have in common? Each started three or more games for the Washington Redskins in the last 20 years.

And the four combined for just three total wins.

Before last season, it was no secret that the Redskins struggled at the quarterback position since their last Super Bowl victory, and lacked a true franchise quarterback in the NFL's free agency era.

Since 1991, the Redskins started 22 different quarterbacks, with no quarterback making more than 52 starts (Jason Campbell), winning more than 20 games (Campbell) or lasting more than five seasons on the roster (Gus Frerotte).

In Robert Griffin III, the team has one of the top young talents in the NFL, and the first quarterback with franchise ability since the mid-1980s.

Behind him is Kirk Cousins, an accomplished young quarterback in his own right, creating one of the best one-two punches in the NFL.

When called upon last year, Cousins finished a fourth quarter comeback over Baltimore and won a critical start during the team's seven-game playoff.

With all of the ability in the world, their collective success likely boils down to the ability to stay healthy.

Griffin III suffered a torn ACL and LCL to end his rookie season, but remains poised to return in time for Week 1 against Philadelphia.

If Griffin III remains on track with rehab, he will be the first quarterback to start the first game of consecutive seasons under head coach Mike Shanahan, and the first in Washington since Jason Campbell (2008-09).

With Tuesday's practice in the books, Shanahan gave a glowing review of Griffin III's progress, reporting Robert was leaps and bounds ahead of where he started in training camp.

"He feels more relaxed, being put in more team situations," Shanahan said. "You can tell when someone has had enough reps that it starts to be automatic.

"He had a good practice yesterday, he had a good practice today. I can see a big improvement from when we came out here the first day.

"You can see he's in football shape, there hasn't been a setback, so everything is very positive."

Yesterday, the team got good news relating to Kirk Cousins, who suffered a mid-foot injury in the Monday Night preseason game against the Steelers.

With a rash of Lisfranc injuries, the concern was that it could be serious, but Cousins reported that he was ready to practice and was a virtual lock to be game-ready by the regular season.

"No, no doubt at all," he said of his availability for Week 1. "At most, this is a two week injury and I injured it three weeks before opening day."

Neither quarterback suited up for the third preseason game, opening the door for seldom used backups Rex Grossman and Pat White to make statements.

Early in training camp, head coach Mike Shanahan specifically mentioned that he hoped Grossman and White would perform well when opportunities presented themselves, unaware that the two would split reps in Game 3.

"We're dealing with the situation now of evaluating a lot of players," Shanahan said. "Not only at the quarterback position, you know with Rex [Grossman] and Pat [White], you're just hoping that once they get the opportunity to play in a live situation, that they'll impress you."

Grossman is a familiar entity, brought to the team in 2010 after playing under Kyle Shanahan in Houston in 2009.

He understands the system and provides the Redskins with a valuable asset as a coach on the sideline that can mentor Cousins and Griffin III while still seeing the game through their eyes.

He also showed that he can still sling the football, passing for 171 yards and a touchdown in one half of Saturday's game.

He showed cohesion with the rest of the offense despite limited reps, distributing the football to nine different receivers and 144 yards with the starters in the first half.

"Rex is a true pro. He handles himself just like you would hope that any experienced quarterback would handle it," Shanahan said of Grossman. "He understands his role.

"He's very, very good with our young quarterbacks and he's a big plus for our football team.

Pat White is much more of an X-factor, bringing speed, athleticism and a left-handed passer to the Redskins offense.

He has been sharp in preseason action, especially considering he didn't take an NFL snap between 2009 and 2013.

"Pat [White] took a few years off going to play baseball and I think he just started working at quarterback again at the end of January or early February," noted offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. "Pat hasn't been totally consistent in all his drops in the rhythm of the passing game and everything, but he's gotten better each week. I think he can still get a lot better.

"Everyone can see Pat's a hell of a football player. He was in college. He shows you guys that during the games and just the more football he's around, the more he works at it, the better he'll get.

"He will get better because he's as hard on himself as anyone I've been around. Everything's his fault--that's the way he looks at it. No matter what happens, it's his fault, he wants to do something better on every play and I think it's just a matter of time that he can be as good as he wants."

White handled the other half of the action on Saturday, passing for 96 yards, adding 26 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

White and Grossman combined to orchestrate six scoring drives against the Bills, piling on a preseason-high 30 points.

And as for impressing their head coach when given the opportunity?

"I thought they both played very well," Shanahan said after the game. "Anytime you rotate guys in there like we did, for them to play at the level they did, I was impressed with that."

And as it so frequently does in the NFL, opportunities seized breed future opportunities.

Going into the fourth preseason game, the coaching staff is keen to evaluate White. Unless the game dictates otherwise, he will play the entire 60 minutes.

"Pat White will play the entire game unless he goes down," Shanahan said. "If he goes down, then Rex [Grossman] will go in.

He added, jokingly: "If [Grossman] goes down, I'm going in. I'm the only guy left."

After the Tampa Bay game, the coaching staff will have until Saturday at 6 p.m. ET to make the final decisions on the 53-man roster.

While the team may not have a spot for all four quarterbacks, the coaching staff can take comfort in the fact that there are four quarterbacks capable of executing the Redskins offense.

Difficult decisions will need to be made. Difficult and very, very welcome decisions.

"It's nice when you have some tough decisions to make, and that's the situation you want to be in," head coach Mike Shanahan said. "When it's easy to find your top 53, usually that's not a good sign."

How many and who to keep may boil down to whether No. 10 is 'All In For Week 1.' Even given his positive timetable, the coaching staff is likely to protect themselves against the threat of a setback.

"You're hoping [Griffin III]'s 100 percent. The reason I'm a little iffy on that is because I want to judge him everyday," Shanahan said this afternoon. "But I have not seen a setback; he looks good.

"Like I said, 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."

Interesting decisions lie ahead.




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