ASHBURN, Va. -- The country saw a Redskins team failing to handle extra numbers. The numbers backed up the perception. It wasn’t just due to the rust of quarterback Robert Griffin III playing his first game in eight months.
The questions after Monday’s loss are: What does it means going forward? Will teams now send extra rushers at Griffin, testing his elusiveness as well as upsetting the rhythm of the Redskins’ passing attack? As one Redskins veteran said, “I hope they do.” His point: They had success against these looks a year ago and the rules of the offense, from the blocking to the hot receivers, make it tough to fully stop.
“It’s going to happen,” Griffin said. “We did get blitzed last year; the biggest thing was we weren’t getting blitzed on third down very often. ... [Philadelphia] had some gaping holes to come through and get me. You just go with whatever you see and if teams are going to blitz, you’re ready for that.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Griffin faced a five-man rush or more on 22 dropbacks Monday, two of which resulted in sacks. In those situations, Griffin completed 9 of 20 passes for 78 yards and one interception. Last season, he faced five-man or more rushers on 83 occasions and completed 56 passes for 822 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall, he faced five or more pass-rushers on only 21 percent of his dropbacks -- the lowest rate in the NFL -- and it dropped to 19.4 percent on third downs.
The Redskins aren’t too worried that a trend will develop. Actually, they don’t mind if teams continue to blitz them.
“I don’t know if they want to blitz us, especially if Robert makes them miss, he’ll definitely make them pay,” receiver Pierre Garcon said.
That’s what they didn’t do Monday. The game did show that Griffin and the offense can carry forward. Not every extra-rusher situation was handled poorly: a 17-yard bubble screen to Pierre Garcon is one such example. Griffin did a good job on the previous play, too, throwing deep to Garcon against solo coverage in the end zone. It fell incomplete; it was the right read and throw.
But the Redskins want, and need, to do more against these looks. Here’s a look at three blitzes and how, going forward, it could lead to success -- if handled properly:
Looking back: The corner blitz sack by Cary Williams. The automatic read on this play was to hit fullback Darrel Young in the flat. Before Williams blitzed in the second quarter, he inched inside which drew the attention of Garcon, who pointed at him. Griffin carried out a play fake to his right. By the time he turned around to throw to Young, it was too late and he was sacked.
Going forward: The play was executed correctly by most of the players and Young was wide open. If the same scenario unfolds, and Griffin reads the overload, as he often did last year and unloads the ball quicker, it’s at least a gain of 20 yards as no defender was within 20 yards of Young. This one’s an easy fix for a smart quarterback.
Looking back: The intentional grounding. The Redskins did not agree with this call at all because receiver Santana Moss was within 5 yards of the play. Regardless, the blitz right before halftime worked for the Eagles because left tackle Trent Williams got beat inside, forcing Kory Lichtensteiger to help. That opened a lane through Lichtensteiger’s gap for linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Going forward: Griffin made the right read on the play, looking to his left for Garcon. But Williams took away Garcon’s outside release by his alignment and then with his jam and therefore forced Griffin to hold the ball. It made him look slow in eluding the rush, but this was more about good leverage by the corner, disrupting the timing. The Redskins already have tweaked how they’ll handle such coverage in the future.
Looking back: The interception. There was pressure, but Griffin was not in danger of being sacked as a blitz off the Redskins left side was picked up by Trent Williams. But Cary Williams sat on an out route by Garcon, knowing the pass would come out quick, and made a diving interception.
Going forward: This could be as much a timing issue as anything. As Griffin gets back to a comfort level in the pocket he could be more accurate on the throw, tossing it a bit wider and with more zip -- he was leaning off to the left as he threw. He also had Moss open on the same side, open at the 22-yard line. Moss likely would not have picked up the first down, but in the future it’s the sort of play Griffin made last year: a smart one that avoids the killer mistake.