Yes, Kirk Cousins looked pretty solid against the Patriots in their two days of practices last week. I don't think the Redskins' coaches would disagree that he might have looked better than Griffin as well. But even the Redskins' coaches would point out: Cousins was not throwing against Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner and wasn't facing the Patriots' top pass-rushers. So they took what they saw within context. But Cousins has not had a better camp.
Cousins has looked sharp at times this camp; other times he has made some bad throws. He, too, is a growing, young quarterback. He was decisive in the game against New England; he also nearly threw an interception on his first pass to a double-covered Aldrick Robinson. If one quarterback was lighting it up all the time and the other was not, it would be noted. That hasn't been the case. Both Cousins and Griffin have had good and bad moments while they learn. Griffin needs to mature as a passer, but he also needs to have the time to do so. He's not exactly a rookie again, but in some ways he's starting over -- albeit with two years of starting experience. If Griffin were further along in his career, I'd say there'd be more concern about his game. But this is the first camp where he's worked mostly from the pocket. For now, he's receiving an education. Some days there's progress and others there's hair-pulling.
The Redskins have made it clear from the beginning Griffin is their quarterback. Jay Gruden was hired to maximize his talents; he and the organization have preached patience with Griffin from the get-go. They're still doing so. Yes, there are times when growing pains can be frustrating -- for fans, players and coaches in this case. Some days what frustrates in practice might be tempered by what is viewed on film. It's difficult to be patient. Very. But the organization realizes this must be the case. Griffin offers a unique combination at quarterback; they must do what they can to maximize that talent.
The key for Griffin is to continue working on his progressions and comfort level in the pocket. It's not about reading defenses, it's about moving through progressions at the right pace. That's why they were pleased with his checkdown to Roy Helu against the Patriots. Griffin went from his first read to his second and then to his checkdown in less than 2.5 seconds -- and Helu turned it into a seven-yard gain. It's a basic play, one that more experienced pocket passers would take for granted. It's what the coaches need to see from Griffin. "It's just knowing primary, secondary and checkdown," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said, "and being decisive. That was a good example of doing that."
Watching Tom Brady in practice last week provided the ultimate blueprint for playing the position. He did not pay attention to the rush. His concern was going through his progressions only. The Redskins would like Griffin to do the same. He's at a much different point than Brady, obviously.
Griffin was not an accomplished passer as a rookie, even in practice. There were times he was definitely off-target with his passes, even with no defenders. But as a rookie you saw how the coaches intended to use him during the season, taking advantage of his legs on option plays in camp. That's not the case now. They're coaching him hard to be a pocket passer; if Griffin wants to survive in the NFL -- and he clearly does -- then he must master this skill. With that, though, comes ups and downs. Can he be the pocket passer they all want? We'll find out. I'm just as curious as anyone to see how this plays out and to see how things change during games when he uses his legs more, if only to extend plays.
The Redskins also won't coddle him in practice. The Redskins want to see how he handles various plays against the multitude of coverages. Other teams handle these situations differently. Some would set it up for the quarterback to work against a specific defense so they know what's coming. Gruden's philosophy is to do the opposite. The Redskins want Griffin to learn how to run a particular play, or how to handle a situation, against whatever defense he's facing. That leads to bumps. If it works right, it also should lead to a better quarterback.