LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Redskins hoped to see more progress from Robert Griffin III. Instead, what they saw was a quarterback being pummeled and then leaving the game with an injury. And now what they have to see are question marks.
It's not just about Griffin's health, either. It's about much more, and that's the troubling part. For all the talk of progress, we're back at a familiar point, wondering about Griffin's ability and his future.
Let's make this really clear: The protection was bad Thursday in the Redskins' 21-17 preseason win over the Detroit Lions. Really bad. It did not help that left tackle Trent Williams missed the game, resting a sore knee. His replacement, Willie Smith, probably won't make the roster -- not everything was his fault, but it was a struggle.
Rookie right guard Brandon Scherff, the fifth overall pick, was driven back and allowed a sack. His run blocking is coming along nicely; he's still adapting to the quickness of NFL pass-rushers. That's understandable.
Griffin had little chance and is just not equipped to operate in a situation that demands even faster reads and the ability to feel pressure and slide away. He dropped back to pass eight times and was hit on six of those attempts while being sacked three times. That's what you call a total meltdown and an all-around effort of futility.
The protection needed to be much better. But good quarterback play is about helping yourself as well. Griffin is still learning to handle life in the pocket, and that means he'll step into pressure too often, as he did on a couple of occasions. On a second-and-12 in the second quarter, Smith was driven back but there was room for Griffin to slide right. Instead, he took off running into the pressure and was drilled.
Again, this is not all on Griffin. But if there are issues up front, then it compounds the learning curve he's enduring. They need to stay in positive down and distances for it to work as he tries to develop his game.
The Redskins play Miami in the season opener, which just might have the NFL's best line. Then they play St. Louis, which applies plenty of pressure. Game planning can help, but at some point it's about more than just schemes. Where will the right side be? How about Griffin?
The Redskins will have Williams back, but their right side will still be inexperienced. Washington must run the ball well to not only help Griffin but also the right side so defenders can't just worry about the pass rush.
This was not the showing Griffin or the Redskins' offense needed. Earlier in the week, as you're well aware, Griffin made headlines when he said he felt he was the NFL's best quarterback -- he just had to prove it on the field. We get what he meant; he's confident in himself and just expressed it in a way those who truly are the best would not have done.
"The whole thing about great quarterbacks and the top-notch quarterbacks, they're durable and they do it year-in and year-out and game-in and game-out," coach Jay Gruden said earlier in the week. "We have got to make sure we do our best to keep him healthy and he has got to do his best to perform."
Griffin took some killer hits last week against Cleveland. On Thursday night, the problem was even on short drops and quick throws, Griffin was being hit, and hit hard. One time he was pummeled before the receivers turned around. Another time he got the ball out before the receiver broke only to be drilled. Kudos to Griffin for standing in on this one. But then it deteriorated for him and the line.
On his final snap, Griffin, on a third-and-16, tried to run from a clean pocket against Detroit's backups. He had options to dump the ball and get what he could -- a prime rule on third-and-long. But he took off instead. Last week, Griffin passed up a short pass to an open target and ran for three yards. The Redskins said it was good because he picked up the first down. But my thought was that he had an open target and opted for a tougher route. It's a dangerous way to live for a quarterback who takes too many hits. Sure enough, one week later, he paid a price.