Rookie sensation Robert Griffin III started his NFL career with a bang, but has since shown many areas where he must improve in order to take the next step toward becoming an elite quarterback.
RGIII's Washington Redskins were at home Sunday, facing a team with its own young phenom at QB in Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Despite the Panthers' severe struggles this season, they squeaked out a 21-13 win over the Redskins.
Griffin had a relatively strong day on the ground, finishing with 11 carries for 53 yards, but never found the end zone as his team fell to 3-6 on the season.
Let's take a look at the areas where RGIII must improve as the season passes the halfway mark.
Converting Third Downs
RGIII can love it or hate it, but NFL games are won and lost on third downs. Drives have to be sustained on these crucial plays in order to put points on the board.
A quick glance at the statsheet, and it's obvious that third down conversions are a glaring weakness for Griffin's Redskins. They finished 3-for-15 on third downs in Sunday's loss.
You know your third down efficiency is struggling when you move the chains on fourth down just as many times as third down. The Redskins were 3-for-5 on fourth down conversions Sunday.
Despite the Redskins putting up 24 first downs in the contest to the Panthers' 18, they walked away in defeat largely due to their lack of success on third down.
Usually regarded as one of the best improvisational quarterbacks in the league, Griffin was uncharacteristically taken down in the backfield a total of four times on Sunday.
With RGIII's style of play, avoiding sacks is one of the biggest dynamics toward his—and the Redskins' —success. Because Washington lost a total of 29 yards on RGIII's four sacks, it made it incredibly hard for them to turn drives around.
Griffin is one of the fastest players in the league and certainly needs to use that to his advantage by scrambling, but it complicates the work of his offensive linemen and they need to trust that he can avoid sacks better than the average QB.
Utilizing New Targets
The football gods haven't been kind to RGIII this season, as his favorite target in Pierre Garcon has missed much of the season and wideout Santana Moss went down Sunday with a head injury.
To make matters worse, tight end and leading receiver Fred Davis is out for the season.
For this reason, Griffin has gotten to know receivers Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson much better as well as tight end Logan Paulsen. But it's doubtful at this point that those three guys will be able to completely fill the shoes of their predecessors.
RGIII needs to get his other receivers more involved if the Redskins' passing game is going to get into the end zone from here on out.