If one thing has been clear through the first four weeks of the season, it’s this; this year’s Robert Griffin III isn’t making playing quarterback look as effortless as he did last year, the offense doesn’t look as easy anymore, and teams aren’t playing him scared. Last season, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan mentioned that, because of the threat of the read-option, teams remained passive and didn’t blitz RGIII as much. With the run game clicking, this created wide open receivers as linebackers continuously jumped to stop the run.
This season, teams have done a far better job of defending the read-option looks. Because of that, they feel a lot more confident about blitzing. Add to that a run game that’s been slow to start up, and defensive dysfunction on the other side of the ball, and that puts a lot of pressure on Robert Griffin III to make plays from the pocket.
In essence, this is like Robert Griffin III’s second rookie year, and almost in mid-stream, the offense has shifted. RGIII is already dealing with putting trust in his surgically repaired knee. At this point, what’s holding him back seems to be mental, not physical, both on the trust side, and on a steep NFL learning curve level.
While it’s easy to make excuses for his play, part of Robert becoming a better rhythm, pocket passer, is critiquing what he’s doing right and what he’s doing wrong. Athletes like Steve McNair and Steve Young both had to learn the nuiances of the position in order to take the next step, and that’s something RGIII must do as well. As much as people have demanded that Kyle Shanahan “open the offense up”, RGIII has to demonstrate he can execute the basics and perfect what he’s being asked to do now, before Kyle can install new concepts. It’s like starting over for scratch, but it’s a necessary evil if we want RGIII to be the kind of quarterback we know he can be.
Each week, RGIII has improved little by little. But he still has things he needs to work on if he wants to get better.
On the Redskins second offensive drive, Kyle Shanahan is going to have a simple high low read. Leonard Hankerson is going to run the curl, while Darrel Young is running an out in the flat.
On this play, Hankerson is going to be the primary and DY is going to be the second read.
From the All-22 we can see the corner is in a real dilemma here. Essentially, he has to defend two players in man coverage. This should be a win for the offense, right?
Notice RGIII has a clean pocket to throw from. He’s reading Hankerson deep. The corners hips are turned, which should leave DY open in the flat. In this case, Rob has two choices, in my mind. He can pump the flat, hope the corner bites, and then he has a wide open Hankerson for a first down. Or he can take DY in the flat.
Part of what’s been baffling about watching RGIII playing this year is his inaccuracy. Here’s an example why; see how close together Robert’s feet are?
From behind you get a better look. Part of what can contribute to Griff’s accuracy issues is over-striding. He’s on the far hash and has to throw a ball back to his left. He has more than enough arm to make this throw, but without a proper base underneath him, it’s difficult. It’s why the term “arm strength” is sort of a misnomer. Quarterbacks get most of their power, and their accuracy, from their legs up through their waist.
That was a problem Donovan McNabb struggled with for years; putting his feet too close together. When you put your feet so close together, you have to take a giant step to put extra oomph. That means you have to rely on pure arm more. The more you rely on pure arm, the less accurate you becomes.
Look at the big, huge step Griffin takes here. When a quarterback takes a huge step like that, it essentially removes all the power and drive from the throw. At this point, you’re relying mostly on arm talent. We all know that Robert’s got a cannon, but without the proper footwork, this throw is going to lose most of it’s energy before it gets to it’s target.
This ball ends up landing about a yard shy. The corner recovers quickly enough that he’s in prime position to tackle if DY does make the catch. In this case, with a clean pocket, an option Griffin had was to pump the flat route to DY, get the corner to turn and run, and then he has Hank at the sticks with green grass and the safety playing deep coverage.
It’s not that it’s a bad decision to throw to DY here. He is the secondary receiver on this play. But those are the kind of plays the elite guys make.
Robert does a lot of his reading of the defense pre-snap. In fact, few people understand just how well he does reading coverage pre-snap. But the next step for him as a quarterback is recognizing how the defense is playing post snap and adjusting accordingly.
The Redskins are going to start in a bunch set showing 11 or Gator/Posse personnel; (3WR, 1TE, 1RB).
Griffin signals Hankerson to come in motion to get the defense to declare coverage. If a DB tracks Hank across the formation, he’s in man. In this case, Hankerson goes and motion and no defender moves with him. That shows Griffin the defense is in zone defense.
That coverage dictates where the ball is going to go. In this case, RG3 reads that #24 (Charles Woodson) is playing in center field. The route called for Hankerson is a comeback. In theory, with Woodson playing centerfield, that should get Hankerson one-on-one with the cornerback.
The Raiders are actually utilizing 3 safeties. They’ll send one over the top of Hankerson’s route, and one on the blitz, while Woodson appears to be the spy. The comeback route against this coverage is the right call.
The key to the comeback route is to sell that you’re going to run the 9/GO route, push the corner vertically, then break the route off and come back to the sticks. Hankerson comes off the line hard and pushes, but the corner doesn’t bite. He sits on the route, even though his hips are turned the wrong way. But the route doesn’t surprise him.
This is another area where Griffin can improve; diagnosing post snap. The design of the route is one based on timing. As Hankerson’s getting into his break, Griffin is already in the process of delivering the football. But with the corner squatting, the chances are low that ball is complete, and Griffin should be able to see that even as he’s taking his drop.
In the meantime, you have Logan Paulsen sitting in zone, matched up on a linebacker. Understanding that the play calls for an isolation route with Hankerson, if you see the corner sit on the route as you make your drop, you have to check your secondary receiver. Logan is wide open on this play, while three players are all over Hankerson’s route. Post snap recognition is just as important as pre-snap.
And if you do decide to throw this ball, it has to be catchable. Griff doesn’t really give Hankerson a shot to make a play here as the ball is high and out of bounds.
It certainly wasn’t all bad with Griff, and, as has been the case the last few weeks, as the game went on, he seemed to get into a groove.
Late in the first quarter, the Redskins switched into a hurry up attack. This play kicked it off. The Raiders are playing press man coverage against 22 personnel (2WR, 2TEs, 1 RB). Pierre at the top of the screen is going to run a deep out, while Hank is running a deep in. RG3 motions both Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen into the back field.
All the linebackers suck up on the play action and RG3 is reading Pierre all the way. But D.J Hayden does a great job of disrupting the timing of this route.
From behind, you can see that Robert is waiting for Pierre to come open, but it’s not there. The Redskins max protect on the two receiver route which means he has more than enough time.
You can see Rob turn his helmet here to find Hankerson, who separates on a sharp in cut.
A coaching point here is that despite looking to his right, Griffin doesn’t bring his feet with him. The ball is always going to go where you feet are pointed, and with a better foundation, Griffin could’ve led Hankerson and allowed him to get a little more YAC.
But, in this case, it doesn’t matter, as he puts this ball right in Hankerson’s hands for the first down.
Robert is getting better at manipulating the pocket too. He made one of his best throws as a Redskin Sunday and it was a fairly routing play.
The Raiders are going to rush 6 on this play; without the perceived threat of RGIII running, teams have been a lot more bold about sending this kind of blitz at him.
#66 Chris Chester gets beat off the snap. The DT comes swiping for the ball, but look at the side step RG3 does as he climbs the pocket.
He sidesteps, climbs the pocket, knows he’s going to get hit, but still delivers a strike down field. That’s advanced level quarterbacking, and one of the best plays I’ve seen him make in burgundy and gold.
And here’s a little post snap recognition on the same drive.
The Redskins will be running a combo of deep outs and deep ins. Roy Helu is the running back. If the Raiders blitz, he’s going to stay in and protect. If the drop, Helu is going to release and be the primary checkdown. On this play, the Raiders only rush 3.
Griffin reads Hankerson deep, then comes back to Paulsen short…
Then reads Pierre…
Goes back to Logan and thinks about throwing it…
Scrambles right his left, see Helu open…
Complete for 15 yards.
RGIII isn’t playing to the extraordinary level he did last season; even he’d tell you that. But this is just the next step in him becoming the quarterback we all know he can be and who he wants to be. Every week he gets a little bit better at playing the position. With a few tweaks and a little more learning, the Redskins offense will look like normal in no time, and RGIII will be even better for it.