RICHMOND, Va -- At the Redskins' new training camp in Richmond, all eyes -- and there were plenty of them -- were on the quarterbacks. Specifically, Robert Griffin III, and, more specifically, his surgically repaired right knee.
Washington's season essentially hinges on Griffin's health; you can say whatever you want about Kirk Cousins' ability to produce under center (and he can produce), but even the second-year former Michigan State star acknowledged here that it's Griffin's team and that he's merely an "insurance policy."
So what do we make of RG3's quick departure from the team's walkthrough Thursday morning? Admittedly, I missed Griffin's only rep -- he took the first one and handed off to Alfred Morris, but we have photographic evidence of Griffin's activity:
We also have photographic evidence of Griffin departing to the sideline where he attached a brace to the injured knee. Griffin then headed back to the field, where he watched Cousins, Rex Grossman and Pat White all take reps under center for the remaining hour of the walkthrough.
Did the knee swell up? Did he feel something that made him nervous? Or were the Redskins just playing to the crowd by having the franchise savior take the first snap of the team's first activity in front of several thousand burgundy-and-gold clad supporters? Or did everyone just forget?
Apparently it was the last answer -- Shanahan said it was all an accident, and maybe a costly one.
"No, there's no plan, and you just got him fined for not having a knee brace on, so I'm hoping you're very happy with yourself," Shanahan said, freezing the press conference in awkward silence before chuckling at his own line.
"That was somewhat of a joke. No, he's supposed to do everything with a knee brace on. I'm not sure why he didn't have his knee brace on."
So ... that's good. I think. Maybe. Whatever. Griffin didn't talk about the brace issue, as he was closely guarded following the morning practice and didn't answer questions (he'll appear around once a week through training camp), though he did sign plenty of autographs and brought one lucky fan onto the field with him.
Griffin was, not surprisingly, the unquestioned star in Richmond. Fans spent half the time chanting his name, lost their collective minds whenever he touched the ball and went absolutely crazy when Griffin would acknowledge their sideline shouts with some friendly waves or a subtle salute from the center of the field.
He gave them plenty to cheer about on the field as well -- Griffin looked, well, completely healthy or at least close to it. He wouldn't offer a number when asked how close to 100 percent he was, but I would say at this point he's no less than 75 percent and potentially as close as 90 percent healthy. That's based on very limited action during a pair of practices. It just looked like, based on Griffin cutting and moving during bootlegs and read-option plays, he's not really suffering as a result of the knee right now.
We still won't see him during the preseason, though. Shanahan confirmed as much Thursday.
"What we plan on doing is progressing every day like we did today," Shanahan said. "We'll get a chance to see when he's ready for a possible team drill, more reps, all those type of things that come with time. But we're going to take it slow.
"Relative to preseason, my plan is not playing him any preseason games."
Which leads us to the rest of the depth chart.
Cousins is the proverbial "next man up" if Griffin goes back down. Cousins was quite good -- undefeated, even! -- in 2012, completing 68.8 percent of his 48 passing attempts in three games (one start) last year, orchestrating an impressive comeback against the Ravens and beating the Browns the next week.
Cousins looked quite sharp Thursday and is locked into the No. 2 spot on the quarterback depth chart. What makes the whole RG3-won't-go-in-the-preseason thing interesting to me is that it gives the Redskins a legit shot to showcase Cousins to the rest of the league for a substantial portion of time before real action kicks in. I don't think Washington will trade him this year; there's too much at stake if Griffin goes down. But what if he looks like a better option at quarterback than a quarter of the other starters in the league? Won't some team be willing to pony up a second-round pick -- or even more??? -- for him at some point in the future? And can I delete this post and admit that the Shanaclan is smart when it comes to quarterbacks?
Speaking of which ... the other two options for the Skins are Rex Grossman and Pat White. If you're betting on who wins the No. 3 spot out of camp, a) you're a degenerate and b) put your mortgage on Grossman. White looked lost in the first day of camp, generally missing his passes. But he does have a couple of features that make him important: he's a fast, athletic, left-handed quarterback. Yes, the Skins play Michael Vick and the Eagles in the first week of the season. I would bet he sticks around for a while to help simulate that experience.
Grossman's just Grossman at this point. He's a veteran who knows the Shanahan system, someone who could step in and play in an absolute emergency and eternal amusement for a variety of reasons. It's a comfortable fit, though, and it's why he'll win over White.
More Redskins camp observations
• Second-round pick David Amerson lined up with the first-team defense on Thursday thanks to Josh Wilson dealing with an injury. The former North Carolina State star, whose stock plummeted during a disappointing 2012 season, told me he has a chip on his shoulder and believes he could wind up landing a starting job. It wouldn't be out of the question to have him work on the outside -- he matched up against Pierre Garcon at the X most of the time, with DeAngelo Hall shading Santana Moss -- regardless of his standing on the depth chart when the team's in its nickel and dime packages.
• Another young secondary guy to watch is Bacarri Rambo. The sixth-round pick in the latest draft worked with the first-team defense at safety -- he and Amerson both found out on Thursday they would be doing so -- and was impressive attacking the ball. It's probably name-driven (for now), but he's clearly a fan favorite.
• Adam Carriker's going to have a four-to-five month recovery after surgery, Shanahan said. He could be a long shot to play this season.
• I'm interested to see how the Redskins will handle the running back situation this season. Clearly Alfred Morris is the bellcow and he'll see he majority of carries. Shanahan didn't directly say it, but he clearly believes Alf can improve on his impressive 2012 rookie season. Both he and Alf also mentioned improvement in the passing game. And yet, Evan Royster and Roy Helu both looked good in the early going. It wouldn't be stunning, and it would certainly be smart, if they were used to lighten Morris' load throughout the season.
• Keenan Robinson suffered an injury during drills and is reportedly set to miss the entire season. That's just another early blow, along with Carriker, to a defense that definitely doesn't need a(nother) pile of injuries decimating it early on.
• The crowd at Skins camp was impressive. All told, Skins PR said 4,000 folks showed up for the morning practice in Richmond and then counted 6,100 for the afternoon session. They were rowdy too. My favorite part was the hearty booing that was pelted on the brave soul who kept walking through the crowd while wearing an Emmitt Smith Cowboys jersey.
Brave - and heavily booed - is the man who wears an Emmitt Smith jersey to Redskins training camp: pic.twitter.com/Kwua1mPUpI— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) July 25, 2013
• Along those lines, it makes a ton of sense to keep coming back to Richmond, primarily because it strengthens the Redskins' footprint in the state and even draws fans from further south in North Carolina (many NFL fans rooted for the Skins before the Panthers rolled around).
• Washington had a lot of fan-friendly things going on, from VIP tents for various lucky fans to a really cool auto-tweeting photobooth. You hop in the booth, tweet @RedskinsLiveIt, a locker opens, you have 45 seconds to grab all the gear you want, throw it on and have your picture taken. The Twitter account then automatically fires back the picture your way. Cool stuff from the Redskins digital team, which was doing strong work to connect with fans on site.