The Washington Redskins‘ latest defeat has added even more fuel to the fire for fans and media calling for Coach Mike Shanahan to be fired. Many people have been quick to blame the coaching staff for the results on the field, with just about every coach seeing criticism at some point over the season, even quarterback Robert Griffin III wasn’t shy in saying his team was out-schemed. But Griffin himself should be taking a fair share of the blame. He had one of the worst performances of his NFL career this past Sunday, if not the worst. His running ability, which the Redskins’ offense needs to be successful, couldn’t help make up for his deficiencies as a passer, as perhaps they have done in the past.
His development has been brought into question; and sure, it’s tough to develop when you spend your entire offseason rehabbing from anterior cruciate ligament surgery. But there are basic things Griffin is failing with now. Griffin appears hesitant in the pocket. Instead of waiting until his receivers are open, he should be anticipating his receivers cutting to get open. Here’s an example:
On this play, Griffin had one of his favorite targets, tight end Jordan Reed, running a quick out route off play-action.
At the top of his drop, Reed cut to the outside. Griffin was looking in that direction and should have pulled the trigger.
But instead, he hesitated. That gave the pass rush an extra second to get to him. Griffin then felt the pressure and took off.
Sure, Griffin outran the defenders and ended up with positive yards. But he had to work a lot harder to pick up those yards when he could have thrown to Reed at the top of his drop and get the ball in the hands of one of his best play-makers.
That wasn’t Griffin’s only missed opportunity.
Here, the Eagles sent an extra blitzer after Griffin. Griffin had his number one receiver, Pierre Garcon, running a slant pattern underneath.
At the top of his drop, he could have easily dumped it off to Garcon before the blitzing linebacker arrived.
But instead of dumping it off, Griffin attempted to elude the blitzing defender by stepping up in the pocket.
But Griffin couldn’t avoid the free blitzer. While the Redskins’ offensive line shouldn’t have allowed a rusher to blitz that freely, Griffin had an opportunity to get rid of the ball and failed to do so.
On the sack-fumble in the red zone, Griffin had another opportunity to get rid of the ball.
Washington ran a play-action fake to Roy Helu Jr., who quickly had to block Connor Barwin off the edge. Jordan Reed ran another out-breaking route.
After taking a hitch step, Griffin had Reed breaking outside. He could and should have stepped into the throw and pulled the trigger. But instead, he hesitates and holds onto the ball for an extra second. Helu failed to stop Barwin from getting past him.
That led to Barwin landing a big hit on Griffin as he went to throw. The ball came loose and the Eagles recovered. No NFL team can afford turnovers in the red zone, particularly not a losing team fighting to save its season. You can look at Helu and say he should have done a better job slowing down the rush of Barwin, but Griffin had his opportunity. Instead of throwing the ball, he took an extra hitch step.
The other problem Griffin is having is with his mechanics. It’s understandable, given his injury, but he’s been struggling with them all season. He looks reluctant to fully plant his front foot and transfer his weight over his front knee. Instead, he’s staying on the ball of his foot, which doesn’t allow him to transfer his weight properly. Take a look at this play.
This should have been an easy completion for Griffin. Fullback Darrel Young lined up as an extra tight end, running up the seam, while Logan Paulsen ran a quick out.
Griffin had both routes open and a clean pocket to throw from.
But instead of planting his entire foot, Griffin throws from the ball of his foot, almost like he’s trying to stand that extra bit taller. But that stops him from fully bending his front knee an transferring his weight over it.
The ball then sails over the head of Paulsen and behind Young before falling incomplete.
Griffin has struggled mechanically all season, which is understandable. But he does still show glimpses of better form.
On this throw, you can see how Griffin plants his entire front foot. That allows him to flip his hips and transfer his weight much better.
The result of those better mechanics? A much more accurate throw. Griffin hit Santana Moss right in the numbers with a throw typical of what we came to expect from Griffin last year.
The Redskins’ season may be over, but they need to keep working with Griffin. The idea of bringing in Kirk Cousins is absurd to me. I have nothing against Cousins; He has the potential to be an excellent quarterback. But clearly, Griffin has more talent and the higher ceiling. The only way Griffin is going to improve these areas of his game is by taking as many reps as possible against live defenses. He can’t do that if he’s on the bench. While the playoffs are a nearly unreachable goal, Washington can still take something out of this season if they can get Robert Griffin III to improve and make up for lost time.
Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins’ play without the benefit of access to the team.
● The Redskins practice at 1 p.m. Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III are expected to speak to reporters afterward.
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