— Don’t Believe (Most Of) The Hype
A frequently asked question on just about every major National Football League television program (whenever they can stop talking about what dumb crap the New York Jets are up to for five minutes) is “Will Robert Griffin III perform as well or exceed Cam Newton’s numbers?”
And usually the analyst answer with a certain level of double talk. “Well it’s unfair to think RG3 is going to do what Cam Newton did,” they’ll say on one had. Then they’ll quickly turn and say some variation of “But the real expectation is of the fan base and this organizations. The Redskins have to win now. How long will Shanahan be able to try to turn this around? Will they be willing to build around him?”
No one wants to compare Robert Griffin III to Cam Newton. But they do want to, in a way, make it about our fanbase. And our fan base (and our ownership’s) willingness to let him grow. Really, everyone’s expectations of Robert Griffin III are high. It’s hard not to be. After what Cam Newton (and to a lesser extend, Andy Dalton) did last season, after the success that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez had, after Sam Bradford was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, there’s a certain expectation that Robert Griffin III comes in and does what they do.
And there’s an expectation that if somehow he doesn’t do that, then heads will roll.
Some of the hype over Robert Griffin III is RG3′s own doing. He’s seemingly all over the T.V, all the time; in commercials for Subway, Adidas, Gatorade. Avoiding Griffin has been a hard thing to do, and the more media exposure he gets, the more hype he gets.
Think about it; when’s the last time you saw a story about Andrew Luck? Anywhere? It’s like Griffin was the first overall pick.
The thing I think Washington Redskins fans have to do is separate themselves from the hype. For too long, what has happened on the football field has influenced fans to try to seek validation from the media. We want to hear how good we are. And I think the fear of more criticism drives a lot of the criticism the people heap on the Redskins.
Just for example—Peter King of Sports Illustrated pointed out yesterday that he was surprised that the Redskins ran as many quarterback draws and designed quarterback runs as they did when he went to practice. Likewise, on Sirius NFL Radio’s Movin’ the Chains, host Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan also questioned how much Griffin had been running so much in practice.
And in the light of the relative small bit of barely there criticism, a small portion of fans also began to wonder why Griffin was running so much, and questioned why Mike and Kyle Shanahan would have him running at all, as Griffin needed as many “passing reps” as possible.
Of course, fans who have attended training camp and beat writers alike know that there are some days that are more pass heavy than other. And you can’t just run pass plays. You have to install your whole playbook and perform it in practice. They may not run those plays much, but when they are called, the team and Griffin have to be able to run those plays effectively and efficiently.
It’s time to tune out what the outside world is saying. It’s virtually impossible for this team to be “under the radar”, but maybe we can pretend it’s under the radar for once.
— Robert Griffin III is “holding onto the ball too long”.
Fear is one of those base emotions that frequently overwhelms common sense. It was high times that first week, when Griffin went 5 practices without throwing a pick. A sort of calm had come over the fan base.
And then Griffin — a rookie quarterback playing against a veteran defense — started throwing picks. The coverages got a little bit tighter. The windows got a little bit smaller, and he started holding onto the ball a little bit longer. And as that uncomfortable reality creeps in, that fear in the back of people’s minds rears its head.
As much as I thoroughly believe that Griffin will have a solid season for the Redskins, we can’t forget that what he is coming to is miles different than what he played in at Baylor. And while Griffin is smart and being well prepared, some struggle can be expected.
Griffin went 5 practices without throwing a interception, but it’s fair to say that he also had quite a few picks dropped. The defense now has tape on him and has seen him. They’re not letting Griffin throw it deep. They already know what the offense is doing; guys like DeAngelo Hall and London Fletcher have practiced against this offense for three years.
Griffin knows the defense can’t touch him during practice, and so he holds the ball a little longer to keep going through his progressions. At Baylor, Griffin didn’t have to take many reads; it was one, maybe two reads, and by that point the pocket had collapsed and he had to do something else.
Every rep in camp counts. So, rather than throw an interception and force throws, Griffin stands in the pocket, tries to make his reads, and by that point either the play ends or he pulls the ball down and goes. He can’t do that in games, obviously. But in practice, when he knows no one can tee off, he’s working through his progressions and take advantage of every rep he can.
Bill Walsh was a big believer in practicing every situation, in making every rep count. In the West Coast Offense, the footwork and the timing aspects of the offense take a tremendous amounts of repetition. Every rep in practice counts. So, while there’s no contact and the defense can’t touch him, he’s got every reason to take his time, make it through his reads and determine where to go with the football.
He rarely if ever showed a reluctance to throw the ball at Baylor. And again, totally different offense without a whole lot of reads, but he rarely looked unsure of what to do or where to go with the football. This isn’t Blaine “Deer-In-The-Headlight” Gabbert we’re talking about here. Some days he gets rid of the ball quicker than others, probably because some days the defense gives him more than they do other days.
Once he enters the game, I very much doubt that he’ll be locking onto receivers anymore than any other rookie does, and he’ll be much more willing to get rid of the ball quicker when the game is real.
And yes, Rex Grossman and Kirk Cousins have been getting the ball out quicker. But Rex Grossman is going into his tenth year in the NFL, and into his fourth year in the system. He should pick apart the number 2 defense. I’d be really worried if he didn’t. And Kirk Cousins has taken the bulk of the third team reps. When he has played against the second team defense, sure, he gets it out quicker, but he also has thrown more picks than Griffin at this point.
— Regarding Robert Griffin III’s playing time in preseason; it’s just preseason.
Preseason games are not practice. It is, in effect, a way for the veterans to knock off a little of the rust and get back in football shape, while evaluating your later round draft picks, free agents and undrafted free agents. Your first and second round draft picks are going to be on your team regardless.
I sort of understand the people who go “well he needs all the reps he can get against NFL defenses!”. I get it. You hear it all the time, all about how much rookies are behind and how they need to get all the reps they can get.
Even I just said how important repetition is to getting this offense down.
Here’s the thing; Robert Griffin III has been getting reps since March. He’s attended every minicamp and OTA. And for that one person who has “he missed a week!” on the tip of their tongue, the rookies didn’t do any work on the field that whole week.
He’s pretty much been at Redskins Park for all the time he’s legally allowed to be by the CBA. Shanahan named him the Week 1 starter for a reason; so he could get every rep that he can get. He’s taken 90% of the first team reps in OTAs, minicamps and training camp. And in that time frame, he has faced the number one defense the entire time. And I guarantee you, this defense is going to show Griffin far more than he’ll ever see in preseason, particularly in game 1 of the preseason.
Defensive coordinators do not like tipping their hat, and offensive coordinators aren’t wild about exposing any of the wrinkles they have in their offense. If you watched Cam Newton or Andy Dalton play last year in preseason, pretty much nothing they did looked like what they would end up doing in the regular season.
What teams run in preseason is very, very vanilla. Yes, Griffin needs to play against other defenses. But he’s not going to see anything in the preseason that he didn’t see at Baylor University. He will need to react faster, but the concept that he needs to get under center and “adjust to reading NFL defenses” is kind of bogus; the kind of defenses he’ll have to read versus the Buffalo Bills will pretty much be the kind of defenses he’s been reading since he was in high school.
Maybe that’s a tiny bit of hyperbole, but unless you’re an absolute jackass like Gregg Williams, you’re not going to throw your entire blitz playbook at someone in preseason. Robert Griffin III will be seeing simple coverages for the most part in the preseason; Cover 2, Cover 3, 2 Man Under, and Cover 1, with maybe a blitz thrown in. Maybe.
Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris have been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Griffin in practice in terms of coverages, blitzes, and stunts by the d-line. Nothing Buffalo throws at Griffin should be a big time shock to him. That’s not to say he won’t make mistakes. It’s just that what he’s going to see is pretty basic.
According to LL, the plan for Griffin is that he’ll get maybe 6-7 passes plays, and we’ll probably see 6-7 run plays against the first team defense. And I know this upsets fans who want him to get every rep possible, but Griffin’s reps really have to coincide with the first team defense being on the field. It’s the most competition he’ll get in what will be a very vanilla first preseason game.
— What should we expect from Griffin?
Really simple; complete some passes, flash some of that potential, then get the hell out of there while being healthy as possible.
Preseason games are not about stats. I couldn’t care less about if he scores on a play or throws a beautiful deep ball. Those would be pluses. Mainly, I want him to look mostly in control of the basics of the offense, and be healthy.
As vanilla as I said the defense is going to be, that’s as vanilla as I expect the offense to be. Lots of really, really basic West Coast Offense stuff. Slants, drives routes, and lots of zone stretch plays. Maybe we’ll see one read option. Maybe. And we’ll probably see a bootleg left and a waggle right.
If we score, cool. If we don’t, so what? It’s just preseason. It doesn’t count. Trying to infer anything from this first preseason game based on 12-15 snaps and maybe 7 drop backs is pretty ridiculous in my opinion. Again, look at Cam Newton’s first preseason game. And he was playing against the second team defense, not the first team.
Meanwhile, I seem to recall Blaine Gabbert getting a certain level of praise (or at least getting a good pat on the back) when it came to how “good” he was in preseason.
The only thing I want is for Griffin to remain healthy, and show some basic level competence. It’d be nice to see the offensive line not totally suck, but again, it’s just preseason.
I understand people are eager to see him play (which is where I think a lot of the “concerns” about his snap count come from), but we will have plenty of opportunities to see him play. His first real test will be in Week 3 when the second overall pick battles the first overall pick Andrew Luck in the preseason. And then we’ll very likely have 16 games to watch him be everything that he can be during the regular season.
Patience, as always, is a virtue. It’s not one fans are very good at yet, but your patience should pay off.