The Redskins starters managed a little more than a quarter’s worth of snaps in their second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. More reps for the starters ultimately draws more attention and scrutiny to quarterback Robert Griffin III; who had an up-and-down performance, completing six of his eight passes for 112 yards and an interception. While he looked far from a finished product, Griffin did show signs of progress as a pocket passer, standing longer in the pocket and progressing through multiple reads.
One of his first plays of the night was a 23-yard pass to new wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
The Redskins run a play-action pass. Griffin’s first read is Pierre Garcon running a dig pattern. He also has Jackson running a corner route as his second read.
Griffin reaches the top of his drop and looks to his first read, Garcon. The timing between the two appears to be slightly off, Griffin takes a couple of hitch steps to try and sync up the timing of the route.
But Griffin feels the pressure closing in on him and does a good job moving onto his second read. He quickly pulls the trigger as Jackson begins his cut to the sideline. Jackson is wide open and makes the easy catch for a big gain.
Griffin has struggled somewhat in the past getting off of his first read. It looked to me like he stayed with his first read a touch too long on this play, but was able to move on and find Jackson when he needed to. This was an encouraging sign that Griffin was working towards improving as a pocket passer, something he needs to do to be successful in the long term.
I felt further encouragement later on in the game on this play.
This play was set up to be a deeper pass, with Jackson running an underneath crossing route as a checkdown target. Griffin has his eyes glued firmly downfield. He reaches the top of his drop and his first read isn’t open.
He takes a hitch step and keeps his eyes downfield looking for a target.
Griffin still has no target available. In the past, his instincts would have told him to take off running. But Griffin fights those instincts and stays in the pocket with good protection.
He eventually checks it down to Jackson on the crosser, but Jackson can’t pull in the catch.
While the pass ended up incomplete, Griffin and Redskins coach Jay Gruden should be happy with how Griffin stayed in the pocket and worked through his reads before checking it down. He didn’t take off running unnecessarily and he didn’t feel imaginary pressure, something he might well have done in previous seasons.
Griffin, however, did have his bad moments. The big talking point with Griffin has always been about how many hits he takes. Against the Browns, he didn’t do himself any favors, missing chances to get rid of the ball instead of running.
This was a play-action bootleg that had Griffin running to his right. He had Garcon running a crosser here and even saw him early in the play.
But Griffin opts to hold onto the ball and continue on his running path. As he approaches the line of scrimmage, he still has Garcon available, as well as Darrel Young running up the sideline.
But instead of dumping the ball off to either Garcon or Young, Griffin tucks the ball and cuts back inside to run.
Griffin attempts to slide, but does so ungracefully and takes a hit in the process. He had two receivers open, but still opted to run the ball and take a hit.
Here’s another example of a similar incident.
The protection broke down early for Griffin on this play. He was forced to scramble out of the pocket as he reached the top of his drop. He does a good job escaping the pocket, but then lets his running instincts take over. In the picture above, you can see Griffin has tight end Jordan Reed wide open in the flat, but he elects to run it himself.
Griffin is forced to slide just after he passes the line of scrimmage for a minimal gain, when he could have easily dumped it off to Reed and allow him to do what he does best, run after the catch.
These plays add to the concern about Griffin’s long-term career as an NFL quarterback. He cannot afford to be taking as many hits as he has done in the past. Some of that is down to protection up front, but these plays show he has plenty of opportunity to avoid hits. Griffin doesn’t help himself in this aspect of his game, and it could lead to another serious injury in the future should he fail to improve. Obviously, running is going to be part of his game, and it should be. But he can’t miss opportunities to avoid hits like did on these plays.
The other big negative from Griffin’s performance was his interception. After showing some signs of progress, he took a step back with this throw.
Griffin is looking to hit Jackson on an out route. Cornerback Joe Haden is playing off coverage, watching Griffin the entire play.
Griffin stares down the pass, and then isn’t able to step into the throw after Roy Helu Jr. and Chris Chester miss their blocks.
Without being able to fully step into his throw, the ball lacks velocity. Haden is easily able to jump the pass, having seen it develop the whole way. (Side note on this play, credit to Jackson and Trent Williams for giving full effort to sprint back and chase down Haden after this interception.) To be fair to Griffin, Helu and Chester did miss their blocks and Griffin was under pressure quickly. However, he still stared down the throw and made a poor decision to pull the trigger without being able to fully step into it.
Griffin did end his night on a positive note. He hooked up with wide receiver Andre Roberts to complete a 49-yard pass and move the Redskins into the red zone.
Griffin makes his first read to his right, looking and pump faking to Jackson to draw the deep safety to Jackson’s side of the field. Meanwhile, Roberts is running up the seam on the other side of the play.
Griffin then works back to the opposite side of the field and quickly throws a deep ball to Roberts.
The pass is almost perfect, hitting Roberts in stride for a big gain. Roberts did a good job running past his corner, while Griffin’s pump fake moved the deep safety out of position, making it difficult for him to recover.
Overall, Griffin showed plenty of signs of progress, but clearly has a long way to go before becoming the finished article. Washington will go as far as Griffin takes them this season, and that will come down to how quickly he develops.
More from The Post: