Redskins' draft can help RG III accomplish more by doing less

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

The philosophical change occurred long before the draft, even before the Redskins announced Robert Griffin III as the starting quarterback in February. The changes made suggested the Redskins knew they had to give their quarterback -- regardless of which one it was -- more help.

In some cases, it came in the form of new coaches Bill Callahan (offensive line) and Matt Cavanaugh (quarterbacks).

And the change continued into the draft. The Redskins had a chance to select the sexy defensive name: Leonard Williams, but they passed him to grab the best offensive lineman, Brandon Scherff.

All of which should please Griffin. While his issues have been well-documented -- he does play the most important position, and his drop-off from 2012 has led to intense scrutiny -- it's too simplistic to lay all the blame on him. In games he hasn't started over the past two seasons, the Redskins are 2-9. They've had deeper issues than quarterback.

But the draft solidified the Redskins' commitment to the ground game. That, in turn, can help Griffin. For as much as the Redskins need to improve protection, they had to become a stronger running team. Alfred Morris' statistics have been fine the past two years, but the running game also has been inconsistent.

The Redskins ranked 16th on first-down runs at 3.98 yards per carry. In the second half of games, they ranked 22nd in this category at 3.7 yards per carry, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Add it up and it places the passing game in a tougher spot. And when you have a quarterback still finding his way in the pocket, it makes it even tougher.

By the way, two years ago the Redskins ranked second on first-down carries at 5.13 yards.

The Redskins not only drafted Scherff, but they added a big back (Matt Jones), a shifty receiver (Jamison Crowder) and a strong drive blocker (Arie Kouandjio). I don't know how much Jones will help -- he did not break a lot of tackles at Florida, so he'll still need to prove himself in short-yardage situations. Scherff and a stronger push up front will make a bigger difference; Kouandjio's impact, if he has one, likely will come in future years. But Crowder can help with his ability to make defenders miss, turning quick, short throws into solid gains (not to mention better field position off punt returns). Again, another benefit for Griffin.

All of this would have been done -- needed to be done -- no matter who played quarterback. This is not a case in which the Redskins drafted these players for Griffin's sake. If Griffin exits after this season, these players will help whoever's next.

Regardless, the Redskins needed to reduce the burden on Griffin and the rest of their quarterbacks. When Griffin is faced with third-and-8 or longer in his career, he has a 75.2 passer rating. When it's third-and-manageable (between 4 to 7 yards), Griffin has a 105.6 passer rating with 58 first downs on 72 completions -- and more importantly, only six sacks. He's lost some explosiveness because of injuries; extra time is needed as teams also blitz him more, making it harder to escape.

If Scherff improves the protection, that, too, is good news for Griffin. Yes, he holds the ball too long and has his own issues aside from protection, including his fundamentals and decision making on the run. There's a reason the coaches, at times, harped more on what he did or didn't do than with what the line was doing. But you can't deny that he would be helped by more time. The Redskins wanted him to develop in the pocket, but the protection did not always give him what he needed.

So here it is: When he gets 2.4 seconds or more to throw on third-and-manageable, he has a 129.1 career passer rating (29 completions in 40 attempts).

When it's third-and-5 or shorter, Griffin has a 91.2 career passer rating. (For what it's worth, his rating on any down when given 2.5 seconds or more to throw is a pedestrian 83.0.)

Everything isn't going to click just because they drafted Scherff. Rather, it's about evolving realities, seeing players for who they are and what they can do (and can't do). Griffin won't consistently drop back and pick apart defenses at this stage. But he can execute play-action passes, which are more dangerous with a productive ground game. As a rookie (with a potent ground game), Griffin averaged 12.49 yards on play-action pass attempts. With his own sporadic play coupled with an inconsistent ground game, he's averaged only 8.2 yards per attempt the past two seasons combined. He must improve his downfield accuracy (19-for-68 the last two years on passes that travel 20 yards or more in the air, compared to 16-of-35 as a rookie).

One last telling stat: Of the 14 games in which he posted a 100 passer rating or better, nine occurred when he attempted fewer than 30 passes. Game situations often dictate that number, but so, too, can a run game (not to mention better defense) that removes the need to throw.

The Redskins entered the offseason knowing one way to help Griffin's game was to attack the roster. They've started that process. Three years ago, Griffin was the identity, the engine that drove the offense. Now he could be helped because he's not.