METAIRIE, La. – Three seasons ago, the New Orleans Saints debuted a brand new defense against a rookie quarterback in the Louisiana Superdome, marching away with a dominating 18-point victory.
Other than the opponent being different, New Orleans hopes the only other part of the aforementioned scenario that changes is the name of the structure the game is played in.
Those attending today's game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will have a keen eye on the Saints’ defense and how they’ll try to stop Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner will become the first Redskins rookie to start the season opener at quarterback in the Super Bowl era. But he’s mature enough to already know what will work for him.
“You take what the defense gives you,” Griffin said. “If they’re going to allow you to run the ball, you’re going to run the ball. If they’re going to allow you to throw the ball, you’re going to throw the ball. That’s how I’ve always approached it.”
It certainly worked for him at Baylor, where he took a moribund program and made it a consistent bowl-contender. His Heisman Trophy was the program’s first and he also earned other national honors, including the Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards.
He completed 800 passes and finished with a 67.1 completion percentage. He had 78 touchdown passes and recorded 12,620 total yards of offense.
For the Saints, it’s a doubly-tough task considering they’ve never seen him in an actual NFL game. They don’t know how he’ll react to certain defenses or situations.
“This guy, as talented as he is, there will be some adjustments that need to be made,” Saints interim head coach Aaron Kromer said. “Adjustment in, are we keeping him in the pocket, are we trying to flush him, are we trying to hit him with blitzes.”
Figuring out how to slow down Griffin will be a problem for both Saints defensive ends and defensive backs.
New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan said part of stopping Griffin will be not overrunning plays, giving the speed quarterback room to move around.
“You can’t really attack directly at him if he’s coming off of a boot,” Jordan said.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, meanwhile, said the Saints can’t just focus on Griffin. Jenkins expects a steady dose of running backs Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Alfred Morris.
“I think whenever you have a young quarterback going into a hostile situation like the Superdome, one thing you want to do is protect him so what you do is you run the ball, keep the ball away from Drew Brees and you play-action pass or move the pocket to get him away from some of the pressures,” Jenkins said.