Washington Redskins: How RGIII Can Be Successful Against Each NFC East Opponent
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Robert Griffin III will face most of his NFC East opponents at the end of the Washington Redskins’ 2012 schedule. This gives a lot of time to formulate—and change—game plans against each team, but there are things that remain constant regardless of how the season develops.
Griffin should hope that he is comfortable within the offense by the time the divisional games arrive, as nearly all of these things fall on his shoulders.
This article takes a look at some ways he can combat the threat posed by the division he finds himself in.
New York Giants
Jason Pierre-Paul will be gunning for Griffin when the two teams meet.
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From a quarterback’s perspective, the thing that sticks out when surveying the Giants’ roster is the quality of the pass rush. Regardless of the trust he has in his line—which may have diminished slightly following the game against the Bears—he will be praying that they do their job against the Giants.
Jason Pierre-Paul got the better of Trent Williams during their meeting last year, by quite some distance. Griffin will hope that Williams’ new-found commitment and form will extend to their meetings late in the season.
The rest of the pass rush is equally as intimidating. It’s reasonable to expect both Osi Umeniyora and Justin Tuck to be better in 2012, which is depressing enough, but when you factor in Pierre-Paul’s own improvement in his third year it’s flat-out unfair that a rookie QB should have to face them twice.
However, the thing that both Griffin and Redskins fans can cling to is the fact that they beat them twice last year with Rex Grossman under center and a banged-up O-line. Why can’t they do it again with the improvements they’ve made?
If this is to happen, there will be things needed that go beyond Griffin, but I’ll focus on his responsibilities since that’s the whole point of this exercise.
The first thing Griffin absolutely must do is get the ball out on time. That is going to be integral to the whole Redskins campaign, but it is particularly valid in this case.
The quality of the Giants defensive line means that he will have less time to run through his progressions and make his reads, so he must be quick and decisive when releasing the ball. If he needs to throw it away then that’s exactly what he should do.
Extending the play in the manner that we saw in Chicago won’t be tolerated here, but Griffin will know this, as well as having six weeks of full NFL experience in the bank. He learns fast, but he will need to here.
In addition to releasing the ball in a timely manner, Griffin must lean on his running backs to keep the defense honest. In the December fixture last year we saw some innovative play-calling from Kyle Shanahan that got the run game going—thus opening up the defense for exploitation via the pass—and he should look to do the same this year.
Following the game, HogsHaven.com wrote an excellent analysis that broke down the gimmick plays and illustrated how the Redskins out-thought a supposedly superior opponent and came out on top.
Michael Vick has been successful against the NFC East.
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The Eagles are always a difficult team to call and much will depend on the fitness of Michael Vick by the time they face the Redskins in Week 11. If Vick is in the game then there is always going to be a threat, ably demonstrated by his demolition of the Redskins at FedEx Field last year.
The additions of Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks through the draft brought further weapons to an already impressive defense. Griffin will be pressured again here—although the Eagles didn’t blitz much in 2011—and must ensure that his release is as quick as it’s ever been.
With regard to weaknesses to target, the safety position looks to be vulnerable, with both Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen having problems with tackling over the course of last year. The signing of O.J. Atogwe was intended to bring depth to the roster, but the Redskins have good knowledge of Atogwe so it shouldn’t faze them too much.
Griffin had enviable deep-ball accuracy last year at Baylor and it is here that this will serve him well. Lining up Garcon on the back side of the run on play-action bootlegs will give him a chance to fool the defense, get separation from defenders with his pace and provide a legitimate deep threat for Griffin to look for.
We’ve already seen the connection between Griffin and Garcon in the preseason and I expect it to be further developed by the time Week 11 arrives. Again, a lot will depend on Trent Williams on this play, as he needs to hold off the defensive end. In an ideal world, this should be long enough for Garcon to make his move, stretch the field and have Griffin hit him in stride in the deep.
Of course, this play has the added bonus of enabling Griffin to keep the ball and take it himself for extra yards with his straight-line speed. No doubt Redskins fans would be more comfortable if he threw the ball, however, or at least learned to slide more.
The Redskins have practiced a lot of bootleg plays in camp this year, so look for situations similar to the one described above as the weeks roll on.
The Redskins will be looking to erase the memory of last year's game against the Cowboys.
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The Cowboys had some problems with tackling last year and will look to get that under control before the new season is properly underway. The addition of Morris Claiborne should bolster the Cowboys’ secondary and help cut down the number of big plays surrendered.
However, it is still possible to gain yards on the Cowboys by using their own tactics against them. The Cowboys are predictable in that they blitz too much, so if Griffin can get up to speed on reading blitz packages then he can make some plays.
Using a team’s predictability with the blitz against them will be very familiar to the Redskins. Against the Cowboys last year, the Redskins called a Cover Zero for the third time in a row and Dallas saw it coming all the way.
As Rich Campbell noted for The Washington Times, the addition of a tight end in the backfield allowed the Cowboys to pick up the blitz and block effectively, leaving Tony Romo to throw to Dez Bryant. Bryant beat DeAngelo Hall and the game was gone.
Campbell quotes Hall as saying “you don’t have to be a [expletive] rocket scientist to figure it out after a while.” Even though I am often completely baffled by Hall, I couldn't help but feel that he was totally correct in that instance.
In their eagerness to hurry the quarterback—a tactic that had worked previously, I admit—the Redskins had become predictable. The Cowboys do the exact same thing—forcing the game when patience would be more appropriate, thus leaving themselves open.
The Eagles use a Wide Nine setup on defensive plays, but the Cowboys don’t. This means that Griffin can break on bootlegs or set up the running game by playing on the fact that the Cowboys will be wary of his pace and cover him. This is a tactic that has worked well for Michael Vick in the past.
It’s likely that Griffin will unsettle defenses with the threat that he poses through the air and on the ground, so Shanahan will look to use this to his advantage. Although Griffin had some trouble picking up the blitz against the Bears, it’s still the preseason and the game will slow down for him more as the season progresses.
As he develops through the year, the things that Griffin does well will become clearer—and the things his opponents struggle with will also reveal themselves.
At the same time, let’s just hope that Griffin’s weaknesses don't become so apparent.