Robert Griffin III will be close to the player who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Washington Redskins in 2012, but coming off an ACL tear, subtle differences should be expected from the quarterback on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles.
RG3 went bonkers in the two games against his green-clad NFC East rivals last season, as he completed 30 of 39 passes for 389 passing yards with six touchdowns and only one interception. He also ran the ball 14 times for 88 yards. Washington won the first meeting 31-6 and the second 27-20.
In what should be a downright fun game to watch, one loaded with offensive fireworks, innovative sets and an uptempo pace, here's what we should look for from Griffin III.
Fewer Designed Runs
RG3 ran the football 120 times in 2012 and ran it rather successfully. He totaled 815 yards on those carries for an 6.8 yards-per-rush average and scored seven touchdowns on the ground.
However, Griffin III exposed himself to far too many hits in the open field during his debut NFL season.
Coming off his second knee-ligament tear in three years, the former Baylor quarterback undoubtedly has to be more careful when he leaves the pocket with the football in his hands.
Actually, many of the hits RG3 took last year came on designed runs, not scrambles:
|Hits Taken||55||Hits Taken||19|
|Yards Per Carry||6.0||Yards Per Carry||9.4|
ESPN Stats & Info and SportsCenter
Based on those numbers, don't be surprised if Mike Shanahan saves most of the designed runs for Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. this evening and throughout Griffin III's sophomore campaign.
There's only so much the Redskins coaching staff can do to keep their franchise quarterback healthy. RG3 is a world-class athlete who's going to make plays with his legs; there's no doubting that.
Although he demonstrated amazing accuracy and efficiency from the pocket last season, he often reminded the masses how much of a bonus his athleticism can be.
Ask the Minnesota Vikings.
Even if the Redskins scale back the amount of designed runs for their 6'2'', 217-pound signal-caller, he'll still need to be more intelligent carrying the football.
On more than one occasion in Week 1, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick slid or found the sideline before he saw a big hit coming against the Green Bay Packers. He took what was there and wasn't afraid to get down if a major hole didn't materialize on read-option keepers and improvisational runs to the outside.
Both quarterbacks are fierce competitors and aren't fond of backing down to any opponent, but Griffin III has to understand that sliding a yard short on a third-down scramble is better than risking injury by staying upright in an attempt to move the chains.
Impressive Stat Line
Some are worried about a rust factor with RG3 against the Eagles, and rightfully so.
After all, he didn't take a snap in the preseason.
But the former Heisman Trophy winner practiced for much of the offseason and had plenty of time to continue formulating rapports with his pass-catchers.
Furthermore, the Eagles secondary is a weak point of their defense. Chip Kelly's offense will accumulate yards and score points against Washington, but Philadelphia's defense appears to be much stingier than it was last year.
Here's how the team's offseason additions were graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) in 2012:
|Name||Position||2012 PFF Grade (Positional Rank)|
|Connor Barwin||OLB||-12.1 (30 of 34)|
|Cary Williams||CB||-2.2 (69 of 113)|
|Isaac Sopoaga||DT||-12.0 (82 of 85)|
|Patrick Chung||S||+.9 (38 of 88)|
Obviously, the Eagles defense can improve from a rather disappointing effort a season ago, but RG3 shouldn't have much trouble moving the football efficiently, especially if Washington's offense is on the field often.