ASHBURN, Va. -- Last season, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III set the NFL rookie record with a 102.4 passer rating. The only quarterbacks ahead of him were Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Denver's Peyton Manning, each a Super Bowl MVP and a career record-holder.
But as the Redskins reach mid-season 2013 on Sunday against visiting San Diego, Griffin is just 20th in the passer ratings with a 79.2, trailing not only Manning and Rodgers but also the unheralded EJ Manuel, Alex Smith, Jake Locker and Ryan Tannehill.
"It sucks," Griffin said. "We've struggled at times. We've been really great at times. Against Chicago (in Week 7), we threw the ball extremely well and ran the ball efficiently. This past week (against Denver) we didn't do that. We just need to be more consistent. We're going to run the football. We just got make sure we stay true to that and the passing will come. There's no secret sauce, no secret weapons. You just gotta go out there and execute."
Last Sunday in Denver, after Washington took a 21-7 advantage on a touchdown run by Alfred Morris and an interception return to the house by cornerback DeAngelo Hall on consecutive plays early in the thirds quarter, Griffin's passer rating was 38.5 the rest of the way compared to Manning's 97.3.
"We're a work in progress," coach Mike Shanahan said. "Robert's not exactly the same as he was a year ago (in the wake of his major knee surgery in January) so we are going to get different defenses. At times, you can see that speed has come back and he's feeling more comfortable. Every once in a while you'll see something positive like you did the week before against Chicago (when Griffin posted a season-best 105.2 rating) and then you see yourselves in that fourth quarter against Denver when we had the ball seven times and we had five turnovers. I had never seen something like that before."
Washington's receivers, who've had their share of drops, including two downfield on the Redskins' first series after Hall's touchdown, declined to blame Griffin for their lack of production.
"We gotta fix everything," said Pierre Garcon, who declared back in training camp that the Redskins, fifth overall in 2012, could have the best offense ever. "We're getting closer, but it's not where it needs to be. A lot of opportunities we missed, a lot of things we can improve on and will improve on. We've got a lot of threats. We can still make it the best offense we can ever put out there."
Garcon, whose 47 catches (for 512 yards) are a franchise record through seven games of a season, is the only Washington wideout with more than 19 catches and 254 yards. Santana Moss, the longest-tenured Redskin with nine seasons in Washington, said much of the passing game's struggles can be traced to Griffin's absence from OTAs and minicamp and then from preseason games as he rehabbed the knee.
"We're improving with our circumstances of being with (three) other quarterbacks the whole preseason, not having our guy for the whole offseason," Moss said. "I told you all Week 1 when Robert was coming back (that) I didn't expect us to go out there and kill people in the air because I knew we hadn't had that time together ... to get that comfortable feeling. Every week, we are getting (more) comfortable and gotten a little better. That's all we can do and build off that."
The Redskins abandoned the run with the Denver game tied 21-21, but tight end Logan Paulsen, a blocking specialist, declined to criticize offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's play-calling.
"We had some opportunities to make plays on the first drive of the fourth quarter," Paulsen said. "We had some drops. If we make those plays, we're not having this conversation. Then maybe we can get back to running the football and get them off balance a little bit. But things started landsliding and we had to do something. So much of what we did last year was predicated on balance, allowing us to stick with what we do best. Certain games dictate that we have to throw more. I have a lot of respect for the way Kyle calls games. Obviously it didn't work out the way he wanted."
At 2-5, Washington is still in the NFC East race since Dallas leads the division with a 4-4 record, a fact for which backup receivers Josh Morgan and Moss are thankful.
"When you're in a season like this, all you can do is keep grinding," said Moss, who was part of Washington's 7-0 (2012), 5-0 (2005) and 4-0 (2007) stretch drives that clinched its only playoff spots during this millennium. "We put in good work every day. Eventually, if you keep putting good work in ... then we have the chance to see the light at the end of the tunnel."