Five Thoughts on Robert Griffin III’s day in the 30-17 preseason win over Indianapolis. Griffin completed 11 of 17 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown:
1. We saw more of the speed game. It wasn’t just the sprint on third and five, though that was nice. Eventually I would imagine defensive ends will alter their rush; on that play the end went way upfield, leaving an easy gap for Griffin. The last thing a defensive coordinator will want is Griffin breaking contain. On this run, Griffin picked up five yards and a first down. We saw him slide out of the pocket to the right, keep his eyes downfield, and hit Josh Morgan for 11 yards and a first down. Again, footwork. Because of that speed, I would also expect teams to send backside pursuit at Griffin on the boot action so he can’t get a free run outside. The Colts did that one time when linebacker Jerry Hughes ran directly at Griffin as he executed a fake stretch handoff. Griffin avoided him with a hurried throw, but it resulted in a one-yard pass on third and four. The other time we saw the speed was on the sprint rollout that ended in a four-yard TD pass to Santana Moss. It was a bad shotgun snap by center Will Montgomery that could have thrown the timing off. But Griffin got outside so fast that once Moss broke free it was an easy pitch-and-catch. Griffin’s speed inside the red zone will eventually make a big difference. Think about that 18-yard draw to Tim Hightower inside the 20. You can see a Baylor-esque zone read off that, can’t you?
2. Griffin performed well on third downs, for the most part. The five-yard run came on third and five. He also completed three of five passes on third down for 23 yards and two first downs. Overall, the Redskins had seven third-down situations with Griffin in the game and picked up four. That was the No. 1 thing Rex Grossman mentioned when talking about Griffin’s game. These numbers aren’t Hall of Fame worthy, but they were solid – and it helped that every single third-down situation was for five yards or less. Makes a huge difference. That’s why it’s important to be able to run the ball (and it helps facing a defense that isn’t very good) on the early downs. Griffin was able to stay in control because they were in manageable situations. When he’s calm and comfortable, he makes plays.
3. Griffin did miss on his three deep balls. His deep accuracy was a strength in college, but during training camp we didn’t see him throw the long ball often let alone complete it. He overthrew Garcon on the first two deep passes—the receiver had position on corner Cassius Vaughn down the field on the second one. Garcon said it’s about timing; Griffin said it’s about timing. So I’ll say it’s about timing. But it would have been nice to see him hit one of those. They’re not exactly high-percentage throws so even though it was a strength it’s still not an automatic. They’re not in sync yet. Know what that takes? Time.
4. This was Griffin’s preseason finale, so he’ll enter the season having played a little more than four quarters. He attempted 31 passes. Is this enough? It’ll have to be. Perhaps Mike Shanahan could have played him another series or two longer tonight, knowing he wouldn’t play in the finale. It’s 26 fewer passes than what Cam Newton attempted last summer, but Newton didn’t have an offseason with OTAs and a minicamp to help his development. He needed to play. Griffin still has a lot to learn – the timing on certain plays (some play-action tosses), but a lot of what the Redskins will end up running they haven’t shown yet. We’ll see in two weeks where he’s truly at in his progression. It’s difficult to measure until you see the entire package of plays. Griffin had a good preseason, not a great one. Against lesser defenses he showed poise in the pocket and delivered. Against the Bears he endured tougher lessons. But this is just one phase in a long developmental process; patience will be required at times.
5. Griffin also was more accurate on other throws that weren’t highlight plays. On a quick out to Garcon in the right flat, he stuck the ball on the outside shoulder and allowed him to quickly turn upfield. In practices, that pass sometimes ends up on the inside shoulder (even against no defender), preventing yards after the catch. But later in the half off a deep play-action drop, Griffin turned and threw behind Garcon. We’ve seen that before too. There was also an 18-yard pass to Garcon in which Griffin was hit as he threw (Fred Davis allowed pressure). Give Griffin credit on this one because he was unable to really follow through. He released it with more of a flick, it’s what Grossman talked about earlier this summer when he said he had a Michael Vick-like release under duress. There it was.
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