ASHBURN -- Early in training camp the Redskins' defense showered Robert Griffin III and the offense with multiple looks. They peppered him with blitzes, forcing him to learn about life in an NFL pocket rather quickly.

Other times Mike Shanahan placed him in third-and-long situations or with the offense backed up near the goal line.

When it comes to his summer experience, the Redskins say that will help him as much as the games he played. Griffin only attempted 31 passes and won't play in the final preseason game, so they have to hope that these practices helped get him ready for the Sept. 9 season opener at New Orleans. He's already looking at tape of the Saints and has looked at what new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo did in St. Louis.

Graham Gano said he has matured as a kicker, which the Redskins are counting on after they released Neil Rackers on Monday. Gano won the job without attempting a field goal in the first three preseason games. But they had been fairly close throughout practice, and Gano got the edge because he's 11 years younger. "There's definitely some relief," Gano said. "I feel I've improved for sure, more mature. [But] I think I did a good job last year." Gano made 31 of 41 field goals in 2011. He made 15 of his last 16 with the lone miss a block. And he did not miss a kick under 49 yards after the opener. Gano had five kicks blocked. Had he made all five of those, he would have finished tied for seventh in the NFL with an 87.8 percent success rate. "Those blocks weren't his fault," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "Graham has a strong leg, and he has a lot of ability. Hopefully he has a strong year. ... We'll find out in game situations how he plays. It's really hard to say [whether he's better]. Graham has always been consistent." Gano is a career 73.8 percent kicker. He had 32 touchbacks on kickoffs last season and did well with directional kickoffs. Rackers is a career 80 percent kicker. He had 15 touchbacks last season but showed enough leg this summer to reach the end zone consistently.
ยป Running back Evan Royster will play vs. Tampa Bay on Wednesday after missing Saturday's game because of a sore knee. Royster woke up with a sore right knee Wednesday, but an MRI was negative. He thought he could play Saturday, but the coaches rested him instead. Shanahan said he wasn't sure whether running back Roy Helu (Achilles) would play against the Buccaneers.

Griffin said another series or a little extra work in the other preseason games wouldn't have mattered.

"It won't make a huge difference," the rookie quarterback said. "I'm ready to go for Week 1 against the Saints. ... You want to play enough to where you get better but not too much where you leave yourself out with injuries. I don't feel like I didn't work enough. I feel like I got a lot of work in. I threw the ball on third down. We moved the chains. We scored some touchdowns. That's all you can ask for."

By comparison, Carolina's Cam Newton attempted 57 passes in his rookie preseason. But Newton didn't have the benefit of organized team activities and a minicamp because of the lockout. Griffin took part in all of those.

"Every time you practice it, it's game situations, so it's not a big difference," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "You try to make it just like a game situation."

But there's no doubt game situations help a guy learning the NFL at the most demanding position. Two weeks ago he held the ball too long on busted screen plays. Griffin learned his lesson: When he encountered a similar situation in practice Monday, he threw the ball at his target's feet and into the ground.

"That's one of those situations where you're hoping a quarterback doesn't make the same mistake twice," Shanahan said. "You put him through those situations enough that it becomes automatic. ... It's a constant new learning experience."

One thing Griffin did not do is hit a deep pass during his three preseason games. He missed all three attempts Saturday vs. Indianapolis, two to Pierre Garcon in which the receiver had an advantage. Afterward Griffin talked about needing to get his timing down on that throw.

But he said that stems more from practice.

"It's about throwing deep balls, and we need to practice that whenever we get a chance," he said. "The more comfortable we get with each other and figure out their speed and how they like the deep ball thrown for them individually, then I can throw it that way for them. It'll take a little time, not a whole season. But that comes with more practice, not missing throws in games."