Robert Griffin III: 3 Things to Look for If QB Starts vs. Eagles

Aidan Reynolds@@aidanreynoldsContributor IIIDecember 21, 2012

Robert Griffin III: 3 Things to Look for If QB Starts vs. Eagles

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    Robert Griffin III really wanted to play last week against the Cleveland Browns. We know that because he's still talking about it.

    Griffin spoke to The Washington Post and again illustrated that he wasn't happy with the team's decision to sit him in Ohio:

    There’s no strained relationship. What they’re going to tell me is they did the best thing for me. But as a player, I’m not going to say sitting out a game is the best thing for me. That’s just not how you operate or how you think.

    Personally, I'd like to see him give Kirk Cousins some more credit for the way he stepped in and performed. Despite the win looking comfortable in the end, there were still some doubters regarding Cousins' ability to get the job done.

    He deserves all the praise he has received for that game and the Ravens game. That's just me, though.

    Despite this, if Griffin is cleared to play, there should be no debate over who should start. It's Griffin's team, and his desperation to play hurt only reinforces that.

    A week on the sideline is enough, and he needs to lead the team to the playoffs.

    If he starts on Sunday, there are a few things to watch out for, some of which could affect the team as they make a run at the postseason.

Increased Number of Carries for Alfred Morris

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    With Griffin as his quarterback, Alfred Morris averages around 19 carries a game. With Cousins under center last week, he had 27.

    This is obviously due to the reduced mobility of Cousins, but Griffin is still coming back from an injury. If there is any chance that he can play, he'll play, but an increased reliance on Morris as a runner will show that he isn't quite 100 percent on his feet.

    Griffin remains a threat, and the Redskins have the luxury of his reputation to fall back on. He repeatedly escaped pressure against the Eagles earlier in the season and picked up vital first downs with his feet (as well as throwing four touchdowns).

    He already sells the fake on his handoffs as well as anyone in the league, so it may be that Kyle Shanahan uses that skill to reduce some of the pressure on Griffin's knee and have him run much less.

    Not that it's a bad thing to get Morris into the game as much as possible. The rookie out of Florida Atlantic has proved beyond all doubt that he can be the Redskins' entire rushing attack when he needs to.

    Cleveland knew Morris would be carrying the load on the ground and planned for it accordingly, yet he still got yards when needed.

    He has eclipsed Redskins rookie records for touchdowns, yards and carries with two games to go, and there's no sign of him slowing down. The Eagles gave up 169 yards on the ground the last time these two teams met, with 76 of them going to Morris.

Griffin Running the “Cousins Offense”

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    Although it was essentially the same as the Rex Grossman-led offense last year, it's much nicer to pretend that he didn't exist and that the way the Redskins played last week was specific to Cousins.

    An emphasis on the play-action, bootleg and roll-out schemes are familiar to the Shanahan offense, and as Bleacher Report Featured Columnist James Dudko pointed out, they have been successful with or without Griffin at QB.

    However, it's the read-option plays—and the threat thereof—that has kept defenses guessing this year. Due to his speed, it's a large part of what makes Griffin special.

    It's not all he is—Griffin has shown he can make plays from the pocket and stretch the field with an accurate deep ball, but it's likely that the offense dials back some of the plays that could leave the quarterback exposed.

    Cousins has shown that the Shanahans' system works. All they needed was talent under center. Griffin or Cousins could feasibly lead the team to the playoffs, but in order to make a postseason run, it needs Griffin at the helm.

    It makes sense to protect Griffin just that little bit more on his return from injury. He doesn't need conservative play-calling, and he won't get it, but it's worth paying attention to how many times he leaves the pocket and makes a run for the open field.

Increased Pressure from the Right

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    Tyler Polumbus is coming off a concussion, and he did not practice on Wednesday. He needs to be cleared by an independent examiner before he can play, per the NFL's concussion regulations.

    Shanahan will hope that he is able to play, as backup right tackle Jordan Black has been suspended for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

    Tom Compton would be the next guy up, but since Polumbus has been poor in pass protection and neither Black nor Compton have beaten him out, it's not necessarily a good thing.

    If Andy Reid is looking for his team to play spoiler, he will attack that side of the Redskins offensive line early.

    Attempting to flush Griffin out of the pocket might seem like a risky maneuver—especially when Griffin was able to pick up 84 rushing yards in their previous meeting—but it will give the Eagles a chance to assess just how he performs on the ground.

    With Will Montgomery suffering a partial tear in his MCL—although he still expects to play—the Redskins are weakened along the offensive line.

    With an increased focus on Griffin coming back from injury—and an improvement on defense from the Eagles over the last couple of weeks—it's almost definite that they will look to get at him early and take control of the game.

    On the other hand, they could roll over and let the Redskins win, just to spite the New York Giants.

    That could happen, right? It is Christmas after all.