Observations after watching Robert Griffin III's game in the Washington Redskins' 38-20 loss at Green Bay.
1. Griffin was better in the second half of this game than in the second half in Week 1 against Philadelphia. Not that it mattered a whole lot because of the score, but every step is a helpful one for the Redskins quarterback -- and every minute of game action will speed his return to being the player he was before offseason knee surgery. So his stats were built during a blowout; take that for what it’s worth. But the time in the pocket and on the field absolutely matters. And Green Bay’s defense was still coming after him. Griffin’s mechanics weren’t great last season, so, after an offseason mostly spent rehabbing, they’re not going to be where he wants them to be just yet. Accept that part of his game and move on. What made Griffin good last year was his ability to overcome mechanics issues by using his legs, or by making a flick pass in the pocket -- the kind that not every quarterback can make. Without certain parts of his game working (legs), his passing is getting dissected more.
2. I’ll have more on Griffin's third-down passing in Wednesday’s quarterback watch. Suffice to say there’s been a big difference when he’s throwing on what is considered the money down for quarterbacks. A big problem is that he’s staying in the pocket and facing more rushers than he did a year ago -- but that should result in big plays at some point, right? The Packers sent an extra rusher on each of Griffin's third downs in the first half (while playing man coverage). He stayed in the pocket behind a line that was built more for movement than blocking on drop-back throws; the Packers also did an excellent job staying disciplined in their rush and keeping him contained. It’s not the ideal situation for Griffin. This isn’t just about running more, but teams do not fear his legs -- and have found a way to neutralize them.
3. Want to know the difference a half-second makes? You saw it early in the third quarter on a zone-read play-action pass. Earlier in the game, this action resulted in the linebackers taking 1.9 seconds to drop into their lanes -- and they were off when they got there. The first time the Redskins ran this action, Griffin delivered a strike to Pierre Garcon on a dig route for 18 yards. The left end hesitated on the rush and the linebackers not being in their lanes created a successful play. The next time, the linebackers dropped in 1.4 seconds. This time, Griffin threw a deep out for Garcon that would have been completed had the 'backer not dropped to tip it away.
4. Two plays later, Griffin made a terrific play in the pocket, which had been considerably squeezed after a zone-read fake. But I loved how Griffin kept his eyes downfield as the space tightened (center Will Montgomery, who had a tough, tough day, was driven back). Griffin slid, stepped up and hit Garcon on a dig for 18 yards.
5. Griffin also made a good throw, again to Garcon, for the third-quarter touchdown pass. A week earlier, Griffin tried to hit Garcon on an out and threw it too far inside, almost using the same falling-to-his-left motion. This time? He placed it where only Garcon had a chance, and the receiver grabbed the ball for a score against man coverage.
6. When the Redskins ran the zone-read option, Griffin did not have a choice to make. The Packers blitzed the linebacker right at him both times, forcing Griffin to hand off. There were times it looked like a zone read, but was likely a handoff the whole way.
7. Griffin’s final series showed where he is in the passing game: sort of all over the place. He did a good job under duress in hitting Santana Moss for 19 yards, leading him into 12 yards after the catch by hitting him in stride. Good throw. Next play, against a five-man rush, he threw too far inside to Moss, who ran an inside-out route. Had he led Moss, there were decent yards available after the catch to the outside. Instead, just three more yards. Next play, Griffin threw high to tight end Jordan Reed -- as you’ll see the more Reed plays, this isn’t a bad strategy; the kid is good making tough catches -- for a completion. Actually, had Griffin gotten the ball down it would have been a pick. Then Griffin threw behind Aldrick Robinson on a slant route; their timing together is off. It almost seems like Robinson moves too fast for Griffin’s game. But on the next play, Griffin connected with Moss in the corner on a beautiful ball -- off his back foot as he was getting hit. A little of everything and six points.
8. I did not like that Griffin, on the run, threw back to the middle for Moss on one play. A dangerous throw.
9. I’m not sure Griffin is throwing with enough trust right now or anticipation. That could just be a rhythm/timing issue, but I saw this in Week 1 and again Sunday, where he’s just starting to unload the ball as the receiver breaks. It led to a breakup on a attempt to Moss on one third down as the defensive back drove on the cut. I don’t know if that’s all on Griffin or not, but it’s where the passing game is for now.