Last summer, we wrote that Robert Griffin III needs to become a more refined passer. We thought that the injury at the end of his first season hindered his development during that offseason. We anticipated that a healthy Griffin would be able to make more plays with his legs and also develop as a passer. Then, in Week 2 another lower-body injury sidelined him for almost half of the season, and once again, his opportunity to develop diminished. Unfortunately for him, and for the Redskins, nothing has changed from a year ago. He still needs to become more refined as a quarterback, whether his legs get back to their 2012 form or not.
His arm talent is undeniable. There isn’t a throw that Griffin is physically incapable of making. But we’ve said this about many quarterbacks before. Physical skills alone don’t translate to success in the NFL. A quarterback has to be able to see the field, read the defense and anticipate throws. He has to have disciplined footwork and the ability to move WITHIN the pocket while keeping a downfield focus. He has to manage the game. He has to do all of the little and unglamorous things right. This is where Griffin’s game has fallen short.
Last year RGIII did not see the field well. He predetermined throws and struggled to read the coverage. The below play from a Week 11 game against the Buccaneers provides a glaring example of this. Here, versus the Buccaneers’ Tampa-2 coverage, the Redskins had a perfect Tampa-2 coverage-beater called. They used mirrored routes that attacked just about every void in the coverage. The protection was there. Griffin had time to throw. This is as wide open as all 5 receivers can be on the same play.
Yet Griffin didn’t hit anyone. He moved inexplicably to his right and took an unnecessary hit as he was throwing an incomplete pass to the flat. This was on first down, by the way. He had an easy big play if he wanted it or an easy short pass that would have at very least set up a second-and-short and kept the offense on schedule. Everything that is missing from Griffin’s game came to the forefront on this play.
Griffin also hasn’t shown the consistent ability to throw with anticipation throughout his career. He needs to see his receivers turn around before releasing the ball, and this gives the defense more time to react. This Week 16 play against the Eagles shows just how far Griffin needs to go in refining his skills. On this play, the Redskins used a post-corner route combination to break down the defense. Again, the design worked. The outside receiver took his cornerback and the safety with him. This left the corner route wide open. But as you can see, Griffin still had not even started his throwing motion.
The good anticipators in the league have already started their motion at this point. The best are releasing the ball. The design of this play had worked and there were no surprises here. So why hadn’t Griffin released the ball? Aside from his poor anticipation skills, he perceived pressure. He made an initial move to run when he saw a white jersey flash in front of him, regrouped, and then threw the ball.
By this time, as you can see, his receiver was already looking back at him. This meant the defensive back covering him, who was beat, had time to recover. Griffin also threw the ball too far inside, and the result was an incompletion on what should have been an easy big play.
This leads us to another issue with Griffin. He was very reactive to pressure in 2014. And when he moves, his first instinct is to move to run. This has resulted in him leaving a lot of big plays on the field in the passing game.
Another issue with Griffin has been his sloppy footwork when dropping back to pass. We’ve seen everything from Griffin stopping his drop too early to him taking an extra few shuffles. Both are bad for the timing of the passing game.
We illustrated above the problems that occur when a quarterback is late. When the quarterback is early, many problems arise as well. When Griffin cut off his drops too early last season, this left him waiting for his receivers at times. When a quarterback feels like he has to wait for his receivers, regardless of whose fault it is, he becomes more aware of the pass rush. This happened to RGIII several times and added to his antsy play in the pocket.
The timing of the passing game did not mesh well when Griffin was in the lineup last year. Hopefully for him, and for the Redskins, he’ll have a chance to develop this offseason. The physical tools are definitely there. Now he needs to put the rest of his game together.