As fans, we tend to hate the preseason. We think that professionals should be able to show up to practice, get in a rhythm, and come out and play the game. We've been down on RGIII quite a bit because he has not looked great since coming back. But the reality is, RGIII's performance to date has underscored the importance of the preseason, in a way not seen since 2008.
In 2008, Peyton Manning struggled with health issues through the offseason and into the preseason. As a result, he missed the entire preseason. He was able to come back for the Colts opener, as they opened their new stadium hosting the Bears. He was effective in the loss, but was far from Manning-like. He finished with a line of 30/49, 257 yards and 1 TD. The next two weeks, things got worse. The Colts beat the Vikings the next week, but Manning was 26/42 for 311 yards, but 1 TD and 2 INTs. The next week was disastrous: 15/29 for 216 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, and a rating of 59. Through the first three games, Manning's line was 71/120 for 784 yards, 3 TDs and 4 INTs. His rating was 73.1. In week 4 the Colts had a bye, then Manning came back in week 5 looking like himself. In the last 13 games of the season, he completed over 2/3 of his passes for 24 TDs and 8 INTs, and a rating of 101.1.
We should all agree that RGIII is not on Manning's level; especially not on the level Manning was at the peak of his career. If Manning struggled without playing in the preseason (when surrounded by arguably better players with the Colts of the mid-2000s) we should not be surprised that RGIII is struggling. In fact, we should be heartened by the fact that his struggles really haven't been that bad. Here are RGIII's numbers through the first three games: 88/139, 975 yards, 5 TDs and 4 INTs, and a rating of 84.1. He's completed over 60% of his passes in each game, and has been better than Manning was in just about every category over this limited time span.
What does this mean? Not very much, if the Redskins can't figure out how to play defense and avoid bonehead errors. The one significant advantage Manning had and has over RGIII is football IQ. RGIII probably has above-average football IQ, but it was his ignorance of a key rule that, in the end, probably cost the Redskins the game yesterday. I don't think Manning, even without preseason, would have ever not understood a pretty basic rule. But I do think we don't need to worry about RGIII; he may not be quite the player he was, but even with a bit of rust, he's still been a very good quarterback.