Robert Griffin III, Redskins suffering from lack of playmakers in passing game

The Post Sports Live crew breaks down Robert Griffin III's performance in the Redskins loss to the Broncos and whether the quarterback can be a great pocket passer. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
October 30, 2013

A week after Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins racked up 499 yards and 45 points, their struggles returned Sunday in a loss at Denver.

The Redskins generated a decent rushing attack, with 112 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. But Griffin had one of the worst passing outings of his career, completing only 50 percent of his passes for 132 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. His 45.4 passer rating represented a career low.

Those numbers reflected ongoing struggles between Griffin and a wide receiver corps plagued by inconsistencies and ineffectiveness.

“We can’t just have some of the things we’ve been having: missed assignments, missed throws, dropped passes,” Griffin said. “All those kinds of things lead to not being successful, and we can’t have any of those.”

Sunday’s struggles proved most frustrating to the Redskins, who didn’t crack the century mark in passing yardage until midway through the third quarter despite facing a Denver defense that entered the game among the worst in the league, surrendering 319.9 yards per contest through the air.

Kedric Golston talks about the pride he feels playing for the Redskins, even though there are protests from some Native American groups to change the name. (The Washington Post)

But statistics wound up not mattering, and after the game, wide receiver Pierre Garcon bluntly told reporters in the locker room, “It doesn’t matter if we play the worst team in the league on defense. If we suck at passing, we suck at passing.”

Griffin said he didn’t take offense to Garcon’s words and said he understood the frustrations.

“These are grown men. I can’t control what they say,” the quarterback said. “Obviously, we’re all in this together, and everybody’s going to be frustrated here and there. But the only way for us to get better is to stick together, and that’s what we have to do.”

Part of the Redskins’ struggles in the passing game have stemmed from an inability to find consistent contributors for Griffin to utilize.

Garcon stands out as the clear-cut No. 1 receiving threat on the team, ranking seventh in the NFL with 47 catches on 78 targets (fifth most) for 512 yards (24th).

But none of the other four wide receivers — Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss or Aldrick Robinson — have produced consistently.

Garcon consistently plays the bulk (roughly 87 percent) of his team’s offensive snaps while lining up as the “X” receiver spot. Morgan spent last season as the team’s No. 2 wideout and started 15 of 16 games. He opened the year as the starter at the “Z” position, but his activity has diminished as he has played just less than 25 percent of his team’s offensive snaps each week.

“Things have changed from last year,” Morgan said. “I don’t know [why]. I just work here. I have no idea at all. It definitely was a surprise to most, but I have no clue. I couldn’t tell you. I guess it’s just the way that it is, and like I said, we have to make the best of it — whatever opportunities we have out there. We just have to do what we can and what we’re confident and whether we’re in the flow of the game or not.”

Hankerson replaced Morgan in the lineup, playing anywhere from 41 to 64 percent of his team’s offensive snaps, but he hasn’t capitalized. Moss has seen his playing time fluctuate the most, playing 50 snaps one week and fewer than 20 the next and more than 30 the following game. Robinson played only a handful of snaps in Games 4 and 5 before playing a season-high 24 snaps this past weekend.

But the shuffling and tinkering has yet to produce the desired — and needed — result.

Through seven weeks, none of those four players have more than 19 catches, and as a team, Washington ranks seventh in the NFL with 18 dropped passes. Tight end Jordan Reed has emerged as a reliable option with 34 catches. But none of the wide receivers have convinced coaches they are part of the solution for a turnaround.

“I think we do have a second guy,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “Who that guy is right now, I’m not sure. But we’ve got guys competing, and we’re going to have a guy step up. We’ve got guys with the ability to be a number two, but you want to take control, and that takes everybody. . . . When they go in and they get an opportunity, then they better show us that they deserve to be in there more time, and if you do, then you’ll stay in there longer. If you don’t do something outstanding and you’re full speed, the chances are you’re not going to be in there all the time.”

Moss said he and his fellow receivers can’t worry about snap counts. They simply must prepare and play and hope their work translates into improved production.

“Things are going to change all the time, and if you’re not ready, you’re hurting yourself,” he said. “You just have to mentally be focused, and physically you’re ready because you’re already out there. But, mentally, you have to hold on to it and know your time is going to come or that time is going to come and you’re going to be called upon.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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