Robert Griffin III Will Need Improved Run Game in Order to Be Successful

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins warms up before their game against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on September 29, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins won their first game of the year Sunday, but star quarterback Robert Griffin III will continue to struggle if the team does not revamp its offensive strategy.

Last season, the squad reached the playoffs due to Griffin's impressive play in his first year in the NFL. He was efficient as a passer while throwing 20 touchdowns and five interceptions, giving him a quarterback rating of 102.4 to rank third in the league.

He also excelled as a runner and finished with 815 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

However, he would not have been able to do this without some help around him. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris was one of the best running backs in the NFL, pounding his way to 1,613 rushing yards to finish second in the league behind only Adrian Peterson.

Head coach Mike Shanahan displayed a lot of trust in Morris last year, giving him the third-most rushing attempts in the NFL. 

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:   Alfred Morris #46 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball in the first quarter of their NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Win McNamee
Win McNamee/Getty Images

This strong effort on the ground helped give Griffin more room on read-options as well as on play-action passes, where he had a lot of success.

The quarterback suffered a devastating knee injury at the end of last season, which certainly affects the offensive game plan to move away from the read-option. Still, the squad has made a huge mistake by completely changing things on that side of the ball.

After missing the entire preseason, Griffin has been asked to carry the squad almost exclusively with his arm. In four games, he is averaging 42.5 pass attempts per week. This is more than any single game last season.

To continue the trend, only eight teams have run the ball less often than last year's No. 1 rushing attack.

The end result is not surprising; Griffin's numbers are down in completion percentage and yards per attempt while almost matching his number of interceptions from all of last season. His Total QBR is currently at 29.1 compared to 73.2 last year.

Obviously, the increased emphasis on the passing attack can be blamed on a number of things. Primarily, the struggling defense has put the squad in an early hole in most of the games this year.

On the other hand, it can be argued that the team is looking to abandon the run too early. Against the Detroit Lions, the Redskins were within one score for most of the game but still passed the ball more than twice as often as they ran it. 

Additionally, running the ball would help control possession for longer, which would only help the defense.

Another argument is that Griffin's injury leads to fewer designed quarterback runs. Then again, this still does not excuse why Morris currently ranks only 17th in rushing attempts this year despite averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

The running back did leave last game with injured ribs, but Chris Russell of ESPN 980 reports that he will be fine for the next game:

If he is ready to go, Shanahan has to make sure his running back gets the ball early and often against the Dallas Cowboys.

Regardless of how Griffin feels physically, his team is not putting him in a position to succeed on a weekly basis. The plays that worked last year are not being used, and the quarterback is being asked to do too much.

While some are simply waiting for the rust to wear off after missing the preseason, his performance will not improve if things continue to go the way they are going. 

Instead, Washington has to start doing a better job of utilizing the rushing attack to set up the pass. This worked last year, and it will be the only way for Griffin to get back to the dominant player he was last season.


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