Dual-threat QBs like Robert Griffin III, who can actually throw as well, are nearly impossible to stop.
After all, they’re a fairly rare breed.
I don’t know what Mike Shanahan fed Griffin over the Skins’ bye week, but whatever it was, it morphed the quarterback into Superman.
Over his past four games, Griffin has thrown for an average of 227.3 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game while maintaining a completion percentage of 68.5 percent and a passer rating of about 123.5.
If a pocket passer like Nick Foles put up those numbers, the Philadelphia Eagles would be absolutely ecstatic. That’s what makes Griffin special. He’s as talented as almost anyone as passer, and he’s more talented than everyone as a runner.
Since the Redskins’ winning streak began, RGIII has rushed for 54.8 yards per game. Sure, those aren’t overwhelming numbers—and he hasn’t even scored a touchdown on the ground since Week 6—but the thing is, that he’s picking his spots perfectly regarding when to take off from the pocket. Griffin is averaging an extremely efficient 7.0 yards per carry since Week 11.
How do you stop that? Well, against a quarterback as hot as he is right now, there are only a few attemptable strategies in a defense’s arsenal.
But here’s what must be done to stop Griffin.
3. Contain. Contain. Contain.
Containing a quarterback with 4.4-speed is far easier said than done, but it must be done in order to stop Griffin. Now, when I say, “contain,” I don’t mean that the defensive ends should stand upright and wait for RGIII to scramble in their direction. With that much time, he’d shred a secondary.
Creating pressure is a must, and the ends should pin their ears back to get to Griffin.
That is why the containing should be done by the linebackers.
When the Carolina Panthers defeated the Redskins by the score of 21-13 earlier this year, they sacked RGIII four times. Each of those takedowns was by D-lineman.
An aggressive four-man pass rush is key because there needs to be bodies at the second level to stop Griffin from transforming the gridiron into a track. Case in point.
The Minnesota Vikings didn’t do that and they paid severely.
2. Play Zone Coverage
Did you happen to catch why there were no Vikings at the second level to tackle RGIII, besides the fact that their backers blitzed and missed?
They were also in man coverage. Against a freak athlete like Griffin, that’s suicide.
Blitzing multiple linebackers against the Redskins is a justifiable risk if timed correctly. But, first of all, it should be done sparingly. And more importantly, the defenders left in coverage should always be in zone.
In man coverage, the majority of defenders on the second level have individual responsibilities to stop the players around Griffin. Only a select few will be left with their eyes in the backfield, whether they’re assigned to spy him or just drop back in zone and help with coverage.
When RGIII, or any quarterback, takes off against that scheme, he can be 10 or more yards downfield before a defender with his eyes on Alfred Morris or Santana Moss even realizes that he's left the pocket.
That’s why playing zone against Griffin is a must—everyone’s eyes will be in the backfield. Therefore, they’ll be able to react to a Griffin-scramble instantly instead of seconds later.
1. Prevent Splash Plays
Yes, stopping the home run is a clichéd key to victory and a necessity for every football team. But it’s even more imperative against RGIII.
Washington didn’t have a single offensive play net 40 yards or more against the Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers—the last two teams to beat the 'Skins and the only ones to hold their offense to under 14 points.
But back to Griffin’s four-game display of domination that I was drooling over earlier. In those contests, Griffin didn’t attempt more than 27 passes in a single one of them. He doesn’t need to, though, when he’s breaking huge gains.
Defenses must make Griffin march down the football field. Another cliché, “bend but don’t break,” is the motto for many NFL stop units. But there’s no shame in breaking against the Redskins as long as a defense bends for a really long time before snapping.
Why is that? Well, the longer that Washington marches, the more likely Griffin or Morris are to cough up the football—they’ve fumbled a combined 15 times this season.
It’s a pretty simple concept: the more plays an offense is forced to run, the more chances it has to screw up. And when the 'Skins screw up, their opponents must take advantage.
Or, they’ll just end up being another victim of RGIII.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.