In his rookie season, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III recorded the highest passer rating against the blitz at 131.1. Not the highest just for a rookie, not the highest in 2012 alone, but the highest for any passer, ever.
RGIII was able to beat the blitz by combining his unmatched elusiveness with a rocket arm. But in 2013—less than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery—Griffin isn’t playing the same game. Take a look at Griffin’s numbers versus the blitz last year compared to this season, per Pro Football Focus.
2012: 64-for-97 (66.0 percent) for 1,043 yards (10.8 YPA), 131.1 passer rating
2013: 35-for-72 (48.6 percent) for 421 yards (5.8 YPA), 69.3 passer rating
Quite a difference.
Washington is easing their young quarterback into games by keeping him in the pocket more than ever. That means fewer designed runs, which is reflected in RGIII’s per-game rushing average after each contest.
Whereas RGIII’s 2012 rushing yards eventually leveled out at between 50 and 60 per game in 2012, he has yet to rush for more than 37 in any game this season.
In addition to fewer designed runs, Griffin is also 1) scrambling less and 2) getting rid of the football quicker.
Through four games, RGIII has stayed in the pocket an average of 2.77 seconds—down three-tenths of a second from his rookie year and the exact same number Tony Romo posted in 2012.
In addition to an obvious commitment from the coaching staff to put Griffin in safer situations, the quarterback also seems hesitant to run and less effective when he does it.
Last week in Oakland, the Redskins lined up in a variation of their Pistol formation on a second-and-10.
Washington ran read-option on the play, and RGIII decided to keep the ball.
Once he got outside, RGIII had a humongous lane through which to run. With a fullback out in front and just one unblocked safety to beat downfield, this is about as positive of a situation as you’ll see in the running game.
As he’s done numerous times this year, though, Griffin bounced it to the outside. Right now, he’s either not seeing things clearly or scared to test his knee, because he’s not even close to running like the 2012 version of RGIII.
A week earlier, the Redskins faced a first-and-10 in the red zone against the Lions. They lined up in a “Double Tight Left Twins Right Ace” formation—a look the Cowboys use frequently.
RGIII showed run-action on the play, with defensive end Willie Young reading it well.
Young was in a position to at least pressure Griffin, but this is a situation in which we saw the quarterback continually leave defenders in his dust last year. Once the two reached the hash marks to the field, it was a one-on-one sprint to the sideline.
Young is a 255-pound defensive end who ran a mean 40 yard-dash time of 4.88 seconds coming out of college. He’s not an extremely fast player, even for his size, but RGIII was unable to beat him to the edge.
Griffin awkwardly threw the ball while in Young’s grasp, and the Lions intercepted the pass.
Containing RGIII on Sunday Night
Despite his reduced mobility early in the season, it’s not like Griffin is incapable of beating the Cowboys with his legs. He’s still a dynamic play-maker. More important, the Redskins seem more open to letting him loose in each game, so we could very well see Griffin circa 2012 on Sunday night.
But we just don’t know that yet, so it might be in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s best interest to force the issue, at least early. In his last game against the Raiders in Week 4, Griffin was blitzed 20 times. He completed only eight of those passes (40.0 percent) for 107 yards (5.4 YPA).
Until RGIII shows he can continually escape pressure and make accurate throws on the move, you can expect the ‘Boys to bring the heat in Week 6.