Russell Wilson was the starter at quarterback from the first day of camp for the Seattle Seahawks this year, and that makes a ton of difference.
He played a lot in college, but he's still a young player. The work before a NFL player's second season is pretty important. Rookies don't join their teams until after the draft, and then it's a challenge to learn just enough to be competent. That's what makes what Wilson, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III – and before them, Cam Newton – did as rookies so amazing.
“It makes a huge difference being the starting quarterback so early because you get all those extra reps,” Wilson said, according to Seahawks.com.
“Having those extra reps, being in those situations when the game is on the line, visualizing that success, you really have to be in those situations more times than not. Knowing the actual plays. Understanding the time that it takes to get the ball out. Going 1’s versus 1’s every day – our defense is obviously one of the top defenses in the National Football League. So to be able to go against those guys every day, it’s so competitive.
“And to be able to get three times more reps this year, it makes a huge, huge difference.”
And all of what Wilson said there is why Griffin's lost offseason is probably a bigger deal than is being talked about.
The focus has been on whether Griffin will be ready to start the season at quarterback for the Washington Redskins, and amazingly enough, all signs point to him being in the lineup opening day. He tore his ACL on Jan. 6 in a playoff game against Seattle, so his recovery has been remarkable. It would be great for everyone to have one of the league's brightest stars not miss any action.
Maybe Griffin will make the typical leap from a first-year to second-year player. He has the smarts and physical ability to will himself to greatness, as he did during an unbelievable rookie season. But the fact is, while 2012 rookie starters Luck, Wilson and even Ryan Tannehill were spending an all-important offseason immersed in football, Griffin was rehabilitating his knee. He spent most of the offseason practices to the side throwing to other injured players. He wasn't getting much-needed on-field experience.
Griffin was cleared to do some work during training camp in 7-on-7 drills, but the team is smartly taking it slow with him, and he hasn't returned to team drills yet. He has pretty much been ruled out of the entire preseason too.
"It’s just about (coach Mike Shanahan) putting me into the team reps trusting me in there that I’ll be smart, trusting me that I can make the moves to avoid guys," Griffin said at his press conference Monday.
Remember all the things Wilson said he's improving on during this offseason and camp, and realize that Griffin is getting just a fraction of that. Thought he downplayed that during his press conference.
"I don’t feel like I missed the whole offseason," Griffin said, according to the team's transcript. "Apparently and obviously I did, but timing-wise, rhythm-wise, I don’t feel that way. The first 7-on-7 session, I was able to go seven-of-eight right off the bat. There was a lot of adrenaline pumping in that just to show everyone that I am OK."
Griffin is not a finished product, and he ran a fairly simple offense that catered to a rookie quarterback last year. Griffin will improve. He just didn't have a chance to do much of that this offseason.
While it's going to be great to see Griffin back on the field, it's fair to wonder how this offseason might negatively affect his development. If Griffin has a sophomore slump, it'll be pretty easy to figure out why.