The defense is porous, the running game is ineffective and mistakes keep costing the Washington Redskins yards, touchdowns and games. But something perhaps more powerful is missing: the confident, dependable play of Griffin himself.
Two games into this season, Griffin hasn’t been himself, and it’s difficult to know when the fun-loving kid with the Midas touch and the astounding skills will return.
“They didn’t have games like that last year,” ESPN analyst Merril Hoge said at Lambeau Field as he watched the Redskins’ 38-20 loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers.
A season ago, Griffin rallied his team. A defense high on injuries and low on playmakers didn’t cost the Redskins their season, and neither did a 3-6 start. Griffin’s talent seemed to inspire a turnaround, and his attitude was infectious. He made few mistakes, and when he was on, he was magic.
Through two games, both blowout losses that second-half comebacks have masked, Griffin’s passes have been late and off-target. His runs, which are infrequent, have looked tentative. His authority and ability to pick his team up, no matter its problems, seem lost, although teammates say his mannerisms haven’t changed.
“I’m not afraid to sit here and say, ‘Put that on my shoulders,’ ” Griffin said. “I’ll take that. We didn’t start fast because of me.”
That was Griffin trying to use words to overshadow the deeds of the previous six days. He wouldn’t say much about what he can do to improve, and maybe it will just take time. After knee surgery in January, Griffin missed offseason practice, was used carefully during training camp and didn’t play during the preseason. Even if his body has healed, his confidence still could be on the mend.
“It’s not like: ‘Hey, saddle up on RGIII and take us,’ ” said Larry McCarren, a former NFL player and the Packers’ radio analyst. “It might be a while.”
Hoge said he studied Griffin’s performance in a season-opening, nationally televised loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He said Griffin’s footwork was frenetic and shoddy, and Hoge said it was clear Griffin wasn’t as polished as he was last year.
“He was hopping around, skipping around,” Hoge said of the Philadelphia game. “There was nothing sound about him.”
Against Green Bay, Griffin forced passes he rarely attempted last season. He missed open receivers, and on one play, by the time he saw Pierre Garcon streaking across the field, Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk closed in, swatting the ball away.
“Last year, they throw that, and the linebacker would be three or four yards away,” Hoge said.
Part of that was because Griffin was at the center of an offense based on deception. Defenses had to wait, even a microsecond, to make certain Griffin wouldn’t run, and by then an opening was there. Griffin didn’t usually miss them.