Fakes are hurting Redskins' RG3

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Photo - Nick Wass/AP
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has been sacked nine times this season.
Nick Wass/AP Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has been sacked nine times this season.
Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

ASHBURN -- The part that often confused defenders is also what landed Robert Griffin III in trouble. Not to mention on the ground. And it's something the Redskins say needs to change. That is, if Griffin wants to last the season.

The Redskins know Griffin is taking too many hits. In Sunday's 38-31 loss to Cincinnati, he unofficially was hit 28 times. He wasn't hit hard every time, but he did get hit five times after he either pitched the ball or handed off.

The worst one: Linebacker Manny Lawson drilled him just after he pitched to Brandon Banks around the left side for 8 yards.

But the coaches have told Griffin he needs to stop selling the fakes so hard. Make the decision, then either run or pitch -- and then make it clear you don't have the ball. If the defense hits him at that point, they could be flagged for 15 yards.

"There are probably seven or eight hits in that game he didn't have to take at all," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "He is going to get better and better at that. One thing we want to make sure is he stays healthy, and we want to limit the hits."

Griffin would be fine with that idea, though he also has made it clear he won't shy from contact. The Redskins like that he doesn't instantly try to avoid contact or run out of bounds; it speaks to his mindset. But they would like it if he learned how to handle it better. Not that he likes getting hit so much. He's already carried the ball 32 times and been sacked nine times. That doesn't include the number of hits after handoffs and pitches.

"There's not a person in the league that says, 'Hey, sign me up for a car accident every play,'?" Griffin said. "As a quarterback, there's games where you rarely get hit and then some games you get hit almost every single play like I did against the Bengals."

Griffin admitted feeling dizzy after his 7-yard keeper around left end to the 3-yard line in the third quarter Sunday. After the drive ended, he was tested for a concussion on the sidelines.

"When I dove, I got the ball inside the pylon, thought it was a touchdown and I got up to celebrate," Griffin said. "Everything on the left was on the right and everything on the right was on the left, so I just fell back down and took a second. I stood up, and I was fine. They tried to check me and see if I had a concussion, but I didn't have a concussion. I was just a little bit dizzy -- nothing to worry about."

The Bengals targeted Griffin until the Redskins countered with a triple-option threat, using Banks in the backfield. Opponents know what Griffin wants to do and how he can beat them.

"When he has the ball and he's not a passer, you have to treat him like a runner," Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber said. "He's talented enough to make you miss. If you don't, then he'll make you pay for it. You have to be pretty diligent as a defender on knowing when he's a running back and treating him like that."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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