RGIII key: Single-safety approach

AP Photo/Tim Sharp

Robert Griffin III's ability to pick apart defenses has been vital to his success.Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has completed better than 60 percent of his passes on throws more than 10 yards downfield this season, the highest percentage in the league.

In fact, no quarterback has finished the season with a completion percentage that high on those deep throws in any of the previous three seasons.

What has keyed Griffin’s downfield success this year?

Let’s take a look at what our video review of coaches’ film showed on the Griffin’s success. We broke down every coverage used against Griffin excluding penalties, spikes, desperation pass attempts and plays inside the 10.

Analysis on the Giants single/split-safety defense is solely focused on the position of the safeties playing the conventional safety positions and shouldn't be confused with what has commonly been referred to as the Giants 3-safety formation. The Giants 3-safety formation is referring to their personnel, where Antrel Rolle takes the place of a nickel cornerback guarding the slot receiver.

What the tape shows

Griffin has shredded single-safety defenses this season.

A single-high safety is like a centerfielder in coverage, typically requiring man-to-man defense from cornerbacks, while the other safety prowls the line of scrimmage.

Griffin Passing This Season
by Post-Snap Safety Defense

Griffin has averaged 10.3 yards per pass attempt against such coverage. When he faces split-safety defense (meaning a defense with two safeties split deep), he is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt.

Griffin has aired it out more against single-safety coverage. His average pass travels 10.3 yards downfield against such coverage, and 5.8 yards against split-safety defense.

He has completed nearly two-thirds of his passes on throws more than 10 yards downfield against single-safety coverage, and fewer than half against split-safety coverage.

Based on Griffin’s previous matchup with the Giants, he could see opportunities downfield on Monday.

Passing 11+ Yards Downfield
Single-Safety Defense (2012)

Griffin III saw single-safety coverage on 21 of his 26 (81 percent) pass attempts in Week 7, the second-highest percentage of single-high looks he has seen this season.

He exploited that coverage downfield, as he completed seven of 10 passes more than 10 yards downfield, including a go-ahead 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss late in the fourth quarter.

The Giants approach

The Giants’ struggles defending deep passes with a single safety were not limited to their first matchup with the Redskins.

The Giants have allowed 18 pass plays of more than 30 yards this season (tied for the third-most in the league) and 13 have come with single-safety coverage.

What kind of adjustments could the Giants make in their second matchup against the Redskins? Keep in mind, they will be the first NFL defense to face Griffin for a second time.

Look no further than the Giants’ game last Sunday night against the Packers to see an example of quick adjustments.

Aaron Rodgers threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson on his second pass of the game, as both Giants safeties bit on a play fake and CB Corey Webster was beaten on a double move.

From that play on, the Giants’ defense used split-safety coverage on all but two of Rodgers’ pass attempts, effectively taking away the big play. The Giants dominated the rest of the game with their pass rush en route to an easy win.