7 Areas RGIII Must Improve Before Season's Start
It is likely that we have seen the last of Robert Griffin III for this preseason, which means the next time he steps on the field, it counts. Between now and his official debut, Griffin will have to spend his time not only honing his skills, but improving the areas in which he is lacking.
Three preseason appearances have offered plenty of positive signs for the coming season, while reinforcing the fact that RGIII is still just a rookie.
Every rookie goes through growing pains, and Griffin will be no different despite the great expectations the Redskins and their fans have for him. Here are the areas he will have to improve in if he wants to ease those rookie growing pains.
He can run, he can throw, and he can throw on the run. It isn't a question of ability, but a question of deciding which to do that Griffin must improve upon. He's going to have trouble reading defenses with defensive linemen breathing down his neck, but he needs to make a decision and stick with it.
Griffin can't follow Rex Grossman's act of thinking about throwing a pass, seeing a defender in his way and then throwing it anyway.
With his physical gifts, Griffin can hurt defenses in a lot of ways, but he has to learn when he should run, when he should throw, and when he should throw it away and live to fight another day. Getting stuck between one action or the other will stifle the offense and his development.
Holding the Ball
Since his first preseason appearance, Griffin has shown a tendency to hold the ball a little too long. He has improved in subsequent games, but there are still too many instances where he could have, and should have, delivered the ball sooner.
Defenders are going to look for those late throws and jump in front of them if Griffin doesn't improve his timing.
It isn't outright tentativeness that has Griffin holding the ball, but rather, his continued efforts to read a defense in a pro offense.
He is still gauging the speed of the game, and he needs to learn that the throwing lanes that open up don't stay open as long as at the college level.
He can't worry about throwing interceptions; otherwise, defenses will dictate the throws he makes, and the Redskins can't afford that.
Reacting to Pressure
At this point in his development, Griffin's natural reaction to pressure is to move and keep moving to get away from the pass rush. While his elusiveness may be invaluable in the long run, he doesn't need to relocate himself entirely to be effective.
Running from pressure is one thing, but Griffin has to learn that small adjustments can be just as effective in the passing game.
The Redskins offensive line may end up as the patchwork unit from the past two seasons, so merely shifting away from rushers may not be a possibility. However, there will be occasions where a full-on scramble will close throwing lanes and force a more rash decision to tuck the ball and run.
Stepping away from pressure and resetting his feet will mean less time between adjustment and locating a target.
Reading the Defense
Preseason or not, the Redskins offense has looked fairly simplified with Griffin under center. He hasn't had to make tough decisions, and he hasn't had to do so against fleshed-out coverage schemes and blitz packages.
Like all quarterbacks coming from a spread offense, Griffin didn't have to make a lot of reads in the passing game.
Everyone runs vanilla offense and defense in preseason, but Kyle Shanahan's offense has looked especially so with Griffin. Though he threw three bombs against the Colts, they didn't come off of great reads, but good offensive designs.
Griffin's success thus far has been on short throws, which is fine for preseason. Moving to the regular season, however, means he will have to read defenses and make some tough throws.
Completing the Long Ball
The very first pass of the game for the Redskins, a long bomb to Pierre Garcon who had a step on the defender, would have been a big statement for the 'Skins and Griffin. The pass, along with two others later in the game, fell incomplete.
Griffin's showed his arm strength on the incompletions, but also showed the need to refine his release and touch on his long ball.
With a potentially elite receiver like Garcon stretching the field, Kyle Shanahan can call the offense the way he has always wanted. If the Redskins are going to bring Shanahan's offensive vision to reality, Griffin can't miss his open shots.
Protecting the Ball
Griffin lost two fumbles this preseason, one on a missed hand-off and the other on a thwarted scramble in the backfield. While he shows the instinct to keep the ball tucked when running, he doesn't secure the ball when he's just moving away from pressure, or looking to extend the play.
With the questionable protection up front, particularly at right tackle, Griffin needs to keep his wits about him and a handle on the ball.
The potential for pressure may put Griffin in more situations where he is forced to run away while keeping his eyes downfield. Griffin can't expect his one hand on the football will be enough to keep possession with defenders swatting and grabbing for it on every drop back.
Given the recent injury history of the Redskins offensive line, Griffin is going to take his fair share of hits this season. With his ability to make plays with his legs, Griffin is going to expose himself to punishment outside of the pocket and down the field.
What Griffin is going to have to learn, sooner rather than later, is how to avoid unnecessary hits.
The Redskins don't need Griffin to try to do everything from day one, though the rookie may feel it is his responsibility. He needs to know that he can throw the ball away, he needs to learn to slide to finish a run because he isn't going to have free runs to the sideline every time he breaks the pocket.
He isn't built the way Cam Newton or Andrew Luck are, and he can't deal out the punishment he will absorb. Not that he should play scared, but learning to play smart could save his body and his career.