Before the Robert Griffin III-Cam Newton showdown, one defensive coach who has faced both players said he noticed hesitancy from the Redskins’ rookie at times. That’s natural considering his youth. But it’s also a function of his ability to run, the coach said. Griffin knows, unless it’s wide open, he can always extend a play with his legs and perhaps find a better option. The coach didn’t blame him for this and said he’d probably do the same.
That seemed to be evident vs. Carolina. Griffin made some plays with strong, aggressive passes. But there were plays that were available that weren’t taken. And they would have given the Redskins some “chunk” plays. Despite running 75 plays the Redskins only had three pass plays for 20 yards or longer and none for more than 25.
But plays like this show that there are more to be made and it’s why Griffin can improve and why the offense, though not scoring much lately, is not being completely shut down. Here’s a look at some of his throws on a day where he had mixed success:
1. Third and 10, Redskins’ 3, first quarter. Tight end Logan Paulsen, aligned on the right, releases down the middle and is five yards behind the linebacker with the safety 10 yards behind him. It’s a soft spot in the zone. The pocket starts to collapse, but he’s in Griffin’s line of vision for a moment. A second later, pressure from the left defensive tackle forces a checkdown to Evan Royster that let Washington short of a first down.
Impact: None. Griffin got hit in the face on the play resulting in a first down.
2. Second and 2, Carolina 21, first quarter. This play doesn’t count because of a holding penalty on left tackle Trent Williams. However, the hold didn’t factor into Griffin’s decision-making. After executing the play-fake and dropping into the pocket, Griffin eyes Santana Moss on the right as he runs a deep inside route. The receiver on the left, Joshua Morgan, runs the same. Both are open as they cut inside. But Griffin is looking to his right; the linebacker is five yards in front and the safety is two yards behind his target. He also had a lane to run to pick up a first down. Instead, he dumps it to the right for Darrel Young and no gain.
Impact: Williams’ hold negates the play so it’s irrelevant, save for an illustration of where he’s still growing.
3. Third and 10, Carolina 45, second quarter. On a straight drop, facing what looks like Tampa-2 coverage, the Redskins just miss a chance for a 15-yard gain. The receiver on the right, Morgan, runs a deep post. He’s a step or two from getting leverage on the safety, but Griffin has to come off him because it’s taking too long. But Hankerson is free running a 15-yard in-route. Griffin sees him for a split second, but this is where the defensive coach’s words come into play. Rather than passing, Griffin, with the left end about five yards away, takes off running to his left for seven yards. A pocket passer makes the throw because he has no real choice: it’s that, a sack or a throwaway.
Impact: The Redskins could have picked up 15 yards. But they ended up picking up the first down on the next play anyway, in part because despite not making an aggressive pass Griffin still picked up positive yards.
4. First and 10, Carolina 32, second quarter. I love throws like this because it shows what Griffin is capable of and that it’s not a matter of being unable – or afraid – to make throws into tight windows. Again, there seems to be a thought that if he’s not 100 percent sure he will go elsewhere or extend the play. He might miss some big plays, but it also helps him gain positive yards. Anyway, on this one, the safety is only a yard or two behind Morgan and the linebacker is three to four yards in front. Griffin throws it just over the linebacker and to Morgan’s outside, away from the safety. It’s a tougher throw than other one’s he passed up, but it’s effective.
Impact: Morgan gains 13 yards, but the Redskins get no points on the drive (after missing on fourth and goal from the 2)
5. Second and 10, Redskins’ 41, third quarter. Griffin fires low to an open Logan Paulsen, running a deep cross. Whether or not you think it was a catch (the refs did not, overturning the reception), it was still a missed opportunity. If Paulsen gets the ball standing up, he has a chance to gain yards after the catch. He likely would have gained six or seven in addition to the 14 on the catch and, with a block or a broken tackle, maybe more.
Impact: Griffin was sacked on the next play and the Redskins punted. So instead of a first down, potentially, at the Panthers’ 40-yard line they surrendered possession.
6. Third and 10, Redskins’ 41 third quarter. Right after the Paulsen miss, the Panthers had the perfect rush on Griffin. They were in a cover-2 look, which seems to give the Redskins problems, and rushed four. Both ends pinched the pocket at seven yards depth so they were at the right distance (if they go to, say, nine yards, it leaves too big a gap on the edges). The tackles both collapsed the pocket. The only option Griffin had was to dump off a pass to Morgan over the middle. He would not have gained a first down, but it would have avoided a sack. The other option was trying to extend the play, which Griffin tried. However, because the rush was so good, there were no good lanes and when he tried to move right the end came off Tyler Polumbus and sacked him.
Impact: A punt followed, but this was not a wasted opportunity because there was none. It’s an example of the rush and coverage causing problems. The Panthers needed 3.6 seconds to sack him; tough for the line to block that long.
7. First and 10, Redskins’ 23, third quarter. With the Panthers in a cover-3 zone and eight men up (with Alfred Morris, Morgan and Paulsen in the backfield), Griffin faked to Morris on his left, then patiently waited for Leonard Hankerson to break open on a deep crossing pattern (the play took 3.6 seconds). He was five yards behind the linebacker and about two yards in front of the safety. Trent Williams was moved back so while Griffin was not in danger of being hit, he did have a hand in his line of vision.
Impact: Hankerson gained 25 yards to ignite a field goal drive.
8. First and 10, Panthers’ 34, third quarter. This is the one that should have been a touchdown. The play design was perfect, but there was a little impatience on Aldrick Robinson’s part and a little indecision on Griffin’s. The result: wasted opportunity. Facing a cover-3 look, Griffin play faked to Morris and ran a bootleg to the right. Robinson, aligned a couple yards outside the right hash, runs a deep post – with a hard stem to the outside that fooled the corner. The safety comes up to take Paulsen on a deep cross. The corner covering Robinson was fooled and the Redskins receiver is free at the 15-yard line. There’s no one within seven yards. Two defensive backs on the backside are racing to get back to help but are a good 10 yards away as Griffin stops to throw. Tight end Chris Cooley doesn’t get much of the end about five yards from Griffin and that causes the rookie to tuck and run for six yards to the right. Robinson was open and had Griffin attempted to throw the ball, he would have been hit – but a good throw and catch would have resulted in a touchdown.
Impact: Griffin still ran for six yards but the Redskins settled for a field goal on the drive.
9. Second and 13, third quarter. With three others in the backfield, the Redskins force Carolina to bring up eight defenders (actually, there’s nine within five yards of the line, with only the safety deep). Carolina rushes four. Tight end Niles Paul runs from the backside and once he crosses behind the linebacker, who is only about two yards in front of him, Griffin leads him with the throw for 22 yards. Griffin was comfortable in the pocket, with the play taking 3.8 seconds.
Impact: The Redskins moved to the 15-yard line but the drive ended in a field goal.
10. First and 20, Redskins’ 30, third quarter. Again with three others in the backfield, pushing Carolina into a cover-3 with the safety 20 yards deep. Hankerson runs a deep in and the play fake fools the linebackers. Hankerson is no more open than at times when Griffin did not throw. The linebacker is about four yards in front of him; the corner is about four yards behind him. Griffin steps up in the pocket against a four-man rush and leads Hankerson just inside the linebacker for a nice 17-yard gain. It’s a good, aggressive throw.
Impact: The drive eventually stalled and the Redskins punted.
11. First and 10, Panthers’ 29, fourth quarter. The Panthers play a cover-2 and rush four as Griffin drops straight back in shotgun formation. I love this throw because it’s an aggressive one. At this point in the game, you need to make plays and Griffin does, starting to throw as soon as Paulsen gets behind the linebacker. He hits Paulsen in stride between the linebacker and safety. Paulsen is drilled as soon as he catches the ball for a 19-yard gain.
Impact: The Redskins score a touchdown on the drive.