Washington Redskins focus on safeguarding Robert Griffin III

The Post Sports Live crew makes some bold predictions for what will happen when the San Diego Chargers play the Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
November 1, 2013

The list of things the Washington Redskins must fix about their offense for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers includes their pass protection for quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Griffin absorbed some heavy hits during last Sunday’s loss at Denver, including one by Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton that knocked him from the game in the fourth quarter with an injured left knee.

“Robert took a pounding in that game,” former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said earlier this week. “He took some big hits. You can’t have that happen too often.”

Protecting Griffin has not been a major issue for the Redskins. The team has surrendered a relatively modest 14 sacks in seven games. The Redskins have the NFL’s sixth-lowest rate of sacks yielded per pass attempt.

“It’s always tough when you become one-dimensional because they can just kind of pin their ears back and just come at you, whether it’s run or pass,” Redskins guard Chris Chester said. “But we’ve done a pretty decent job protecting, although last week we got loose on a couple. But as a whole on the year . . . we’ve done a decent job protecting.

The Post's Jonathan Forsythe talks with beat writer Mark Maske about Brian Orakpo's performance this season and whether the Redskins linebacker is worthy of a big contract. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

“It’s just all of us being in sync on offense and throwing it, throwing it on time, protecting him long enough, identifying the defense in the right way and just things like that. This year we’ve just been off, for whatever reason.”

Asked whether he attributed the number of significant hits on Griffin in the Denver game to protection breakdowns or the circumstances of the game, Chester said: “It’s both. Even some plays are designed where the quarterback is just gonna get hit. That’s just the way it is, a [pass rusher] unaccounted for and [Griffin] has to hold it for a little bit longer. But it comes back to all of us. It’s giving Robert time to throw. It’s running the right routes. It’s knowing the right protection. It’s getting the ball on time. We all play a role in it.”

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan credited the Broncos’ pass rush, with linebacker Von Miller back in the lineup after being suspended earlier in the season.

“I think that game versus Denver looked pretty much like every game does versus Denver, especially with [Miller] out there,” Shanahan said. “You watch any of their tape last year. . . . They hit every quarterback. That’s how it is when you throw the ball. You always want to protect him. You always want to keep him upright and take those hits off. But you turn on any tape versus Denver and that pass rush, especially when [Miller is] out there, I think a lot of those games will look worse and not many will look much better.”

Redskins left tackle Trent Williams expressed similar sentiments after the game, saying: “He’s Von Miller. He’s a great player. He’s going to continue to make plays in this league. He’s that type of dynamic rusher.”

The Broncos had three sacks against the Redskins, including one by Miller that caused Griffin to lose a fourth-quarter fumble, and have 22 on the season. The Chargers have 20 sacks, and have no individual player with more than three sacks. But the San Diego defense ranks 16th in the league in sacks per opponents’ pass attempts, seven spots higher than the Denver defense.

For the Redskins, the issues might be as basic as getting their running game revved up and avoiding facing a significant deficit in the game. That keeps a defense off balance, makes Griffin’s play-action fakes more effective and prevents him from being the sort of target in the pocket that he becomes if the Redskins have to go to a drop-back passing style to catch up.

“A lot of teams say, ‘Get hits on the quarterback. It can affect him and make him try to get rid of the ball a little bit quicker out of the pocket, make him make some bad decisions,’ ” Griffin said. “I try to make sure that never happens. You’ve got to make sure you take each play as its own play. Yeah, somebody might get through here and there. But you’ve got to still sit in that pocket and you’ve got to make plays. And when the plays are there to be made, you’ve got to make the throw no matter who’s coming after you.”

Redskins notes: Wide receiver Pierre Garcon was back at full speed during the team’s practices, Coach Mike Shanahan said. Garcon was a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice because of a calf injury but returned to full practice participation Thursday. Shanahan said after Friday’s practice that Garcon was to be listed as probable on the official injury report for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.

Quarterback Griffin and safety Reed Doughty also are to be listed as probable.

Reserve safety Jose Gumbs is listed as questionable because of a sore ankle. Defensive end Stephen Bowen (knee and shoulder), nose tackle Chris Neild (calf), wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (foot), tight end Logan Paulsen (knee) and running back Chris Thompson (shoulder) are listed as probable. . . .

Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard was fined $15,750 for roughing the passer on a helmet-to-helmet hit on the quarterback last Sunday against the Redskins, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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