There was never a question in Robert Griffin III’s athletic ability. The Redskins’ second overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft rushed for over 2000 yards and 30 touchdowns during his four year tenure at Baylor University. There was never a doubt in Griffin’s arm strength either, as he threw for over 10,000 yards and 75 touchdowns during his college years. However, there has always been a question of Griffin’s health. After only playing three games at quarterback during his sophomore season at Baylor, Griffin suffered a torn ACL, sitting him out the rest of the season. This was only the beginning of RGIII’s injury concerns. After rushing for 815 yards, and throwing 20 touchdown passes during his rookie season with the Redskins, Griffin faced the consequences of the hard hits that were dealt to him, suffering another torn ACL in his first playoff game as a pro.
Ever since tearing his ACL a second time, Griffin has not produced as effectively as he did during his rookie year. However, there are more reasons to Griffin’s downfall besides the myth that he might just be “injury prone.” In order for RGIII to return to form and become a star quarterback again, there are many things Griffin, and the Redskins staff need to fix.
Learning to avoid hits
Playing quarterback requires more then just arm strength, accuracy and vision. Playing the position also requires the ability to give up the extra yard in order to keep your own health away from risk. All successful quarterbacks know how to do it. However, Griffin has been terrible at gaining a habit of it, which was a large reason he suffered his torn ACL. Actually, this hit caused Griffin to first aggravate his knee before tearing it in January:
If only Griffin learned to slide….
Griffin needs to learn how to slide effectively in order to avoid hits and stay healthy. It is a simple skill that all quarterbacks use. Griffin still fails to effectively slide to this day.
That’s still not right Robert….
In addition to sliding, Griffin has not taken advantage of his speed to escape the pocket since his injury. As seen by many dual-threat quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, once the pocket collapses on these quarterbacks, and the play seems dead, Wilson and Kaepernick are able to pick up extra yards on their feet before running out of bounds or sliding to avoid hits. By doing this, they avoid being sacked or just simply throwing the ball away. Griffin has showed spurts of his speed in the past. However, more recently, RGIII runs like he is scared to get hit, running slowly and carefully. For Griffin to return to form, he needs to learn when to turn on the jets, when not to, and how to avoid big hits when doing so. All Redskins fans would love to see this again:
But also don’t want to see this:
Developing as a pocket passer
In order for Griffin to transition his game to a safer and more pass-orientated style of play, he must develop himself into a pocket passer. Griffin’s offense cannot work similarly to how it did throughout his rookie year, which was mainly through quarterback options and runs. Although Griffin should continue to include some running in his play style, as he is a freak athlete, he won’t stay healthy if his offense produces effectively only through his running. Griffin must learn how to read and adjust against different defensive schemes, zones, stands and blitzes. In the past, Griffin relied on his feet when he misread a defensive scheme, however, this was a big contribution toward his injury. Experienced quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are able to break down defenses, thus contributing to them being able to find an open man on most plays. By failing to understand different defensive schemes, Griffin has faced the suffering of sacks, hard hits, dead plays, and most significant of all, injuries.
Getting Rid of the Ball
Another important piece of becoming a pocket passer is avoiding sacks, and getting rid of the ball when it is necessary to do so. Now that Griffin is less likely to escape the pocket on a run, due to the fear of injury, sitting in the pocket while defenders have their fingertips on you is not the solution to staying healthy. Griffin must find a receiver down field, or simply throw the ball away before suffering a sack. Not only do sacks cause the Redskins to lose yards, but also put as much physical damage on Griffin as a hit on the run would cause.
Standing at a slim 6’2” and 222 pounds, Griffin does not have the body frame to remain durable after taking multiple hard hits. Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton, who relies on his feet often, stands at 6’5” and 245 pounds, allowing him to stay healthy despite being one of the most hit quarterbacks in the NFL. The same goes for Kaepernick, who uses his 6’4,” 230 pound frame to endure hits, although he also is more effective then Griffin at avoiding them. By adding more muscle to his frame, Griffin would become more durable, resulting in fewer injuries. A larger body frame may help RGIII take more hits like this:
Redskins’ Offensive Line
Although RGIII needs to make multiple improvements in his game before producing effectively, the Redskins’ poor offensive line is big factor to injuries that Griffin cannot control. The offensive line has led RGIII to be rushed, hurried, sacked, make poor decisions and break down physically. Although Griffin must learn to get rid of the ball faster, he must also be allowed enough time for the receivers to fully run their routes so he can find an open man. In his rookie season, Griffin made up for his line’s poor blocking by fleeing on his feet. However, it is difficult for Griffin to develop as a pocket passer when he seems unsettled after receiving a snap multiple times a game. Despite making it a priority to improve the offensive line this past offseason; the Redskins’ failed to add the necessary pieces to protect Griffin. Right Tackle Tyler Polumbus has failed to protect Griffin on his side of the line throughout Griffin’s NFL career. Center Kory Lichtensteiger and Right Guard Chris Chester, like Polumbus, get beat off the snap frequently, not allowing Griffin enough time to make a decision. Griffin’s development into a pocket passer is sufficiently hindered due to the lack of protection he receives. In order for Griffin to become an effective pocket passer, and consistently stay healthy, the Redskins’ must add pieces to improve Griffin’s protection. An improved offensive line, with players who don’t lose or get beat by their assignment often, may prevent Griffin from getting hit like this:
Robert Griffin III’s woes and poor production in the 2013 and early 2014 season have indicated that he must undergo a lot more development before returning to his 2012 form. In addition, Griffin’s recent dislocated ankle proved that he and the Redskins’ have not done what is necessary in keeping Griffin healthy, and ultimately not giving him an opportunity to produce the same way he did during the 2012 season. In order to develop and improve his game, Griffin must stay healthy, and effectively perform skills and strategies that will help him accomplish that. Jay Gruden’s ultimate goal of transforming RGIII into a pocket passer is a long work in progress, and it may take Griffin multiple years before he becomes an effective pocket passer. With his recent injury, it is hard to imagine Griffin returning to form anytime soon. However, Griffin has proved he has the athletic ability and arm strength to be a star quarterback, and can accomplish that by developing injury-prevention skills into his game. Until Griffin puts into action the skills that are required to stay healthy while still performing in an effective way, he will not return to the Robert Griffin III that we witnessed during the 2012 season.