My photo of RG3 at training camp last week in Ashburn, Va.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It only took two warmup drives, and barely half an hour of real time.
Then RG3 looked like an NFL quarterback in his pro debut.
Robert Griffin III, the celebrated rookie, led the Washington Redskins on a solid eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive against the Buffalo Bills’ starting defence, as both teams opened their preseason campaigns on Thursday night.
Washington won the mistake-laced snorefest, 7-6.
On that third drive, Griffin looked comfortable and confident in the pocket. He completed three of four passes for 58 yards.
His renowned arm strength and accuracy both were on display as he zipped two medium-range passes to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, which got the Redskins into the red zone.
The first was on a deep in-route from the left, after Griffin didn’t like his other options. His other three options.
“I felt good about (that one),” Griffin told reporters afterward. “I was able to get to my last read on that play … I exhausted three progressions and made it to my fourth one. So that felt good. Coach was happy. He told me, ‘Good job,’ after that play.
“Especially in the NFL, from what I’ve heard, you don’t get very many opportunities to get to your last read.”
On third and three from the Buffalo 20, Griffin hesitated in the shotgun before the snap — and called a timeout. After huddling with coaches, they called a screen to the left, and Griffin perfectly dropped a short pass into Garcon’s arms. Garcon raced into the end zone for Griffin’s first pro TD pass.
RG3′s night ended there, after 14 plays. He was 4-for-6 for 70 yards.
“He did everything we asked him to do,” Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said afterward. “He stepped up and made some plays — some excellent throws. Very calm, cool and collected. Excellent for his first game.”
On that point, Griffin said: “The first one’s always the toughest. But to get it out of the way, and have a successful outing and get a touchdown on that drive to cap off our day, really set the tone for the year.”
In March, the Redskins gave up a helluva lot to the St. Louis Rams — two future first-round picks and a second-rounder this past April — to move up to No. 2 overall from No. 6, just so they could draft Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor University.
By my count, Griffin ran 10 plays from under centre, three from the shotgun and one from the pistol. Most formations and plays were vanilla.
No zone-reads. No designed quarterback runs. No bootlegs or rollouts, even. Just handoffs and drop-backs. Traditional NFL fare.
“I wanted to run the keeper,” Griffin said. “It would have been fun. But the one thing I know I had to do is play smart.”
He did, but he wasn’t perfect. Griffin was blamed for the fumble on a botched handoff to running back Evan Royster, which ended Washington’s second drive.
The announced crowd of 51,521 at Ralph Wilson Stadium had been hoping to see the Bills’ retooled defensive line — led by new $100-million free-agent signee Mario Williams — get into Griffin’s grill, early and often.
That didn’t happen. Griffin said “nobody got near me” on any of his six dropbacks, when the Bills starters were in.
“I think it was pretty obvious they protected him,” Buffalo defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “They did not want him to get hit.”
In responses to those comments, Shanahan said: “It all depended on the coverage. When they were in three-deep coverage, we’d hit some of those quick passes. When they were in two deep, we went over the middle.”
The Bills’ new D-line did eat up the first three Redskins rushing plays — for gains of one, one and minus-three yards.
But on Griffin’s scoring drive, the Redskins ran to the right side — Mario Williams’ defensive-end side — four times for 22 yards. That success opened up Griffin’s pass plays.
“We have a long way to go,” Kyle Williams said.
“But tonight was more about seeing if we could come out, play base defence, have some stops and make some plays.”
Griffin made more, in his first game as a pro.