Robert Griffin III has to be more decisive in the pocket in terms of when to get rid of the ball and when to take off if he is going to have the long, illustrious career many thought he would coming out of Baylor.
Griffin’s legs have been his bread and butter ever since entering the league.His 815 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns were part of the reason for his Rookie of the Year win in 2012.
Exploding onto the scene as a dual-threat passer, Griffin took the league by storm, and it seemed like the sky was the limit.
However, after tearing his ACL and LCL in last year's playoffs, Griffin hasn't looked the same since, both mentally and physically.
After rigorously rehabbing to get himself ready for the 2013 regular-season opener, Griffin rushed for a combined 72 yards in the first four weeks of the season. He looked hesitant, uncomfortable and, most importantly, physically limited in action.
As a result, his natural instincts seemed hampered and his decision-making suffered.
Following the team’s bye in Week 5, though, it appeared he had gained confidence in his surgically repaired knee as he rushed for a combined 161 yards in games against the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. He made quick decisions throughout the game and kept the defense on its heels.
Unfortunately, he took another step in the wrong direction in Washington's Week 8 loss to the Denver Broncos, in which Griffin rushed for just seven yards and looked indecisive in the pocket throughout the game.
When Griffin sits in the pocket, which he has done much more often this season as he regains mobility in his right knee, he absorbs huge hits.
His offensive line isn’t doing him any favors either; the Redskins' offensive line has allowed 48 quarterback hits this season, which is tied for seventh most in the NFL.
As a result, when he hangs onto the ball too long, he's paying the price. While the team may have been trying to protect him by limiting his rushing attempts, his line simply hasn't been protecting him enough to do so.
Griffin took several big hits before finally leaving in the fourth quarter of Washington's 45-21 loss to the Broncos.
The biggest hit came with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth and the Redskins trailing 38-21. Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton broke through the coverage and got a solid shot on Griffin. He threw an interception on the play and remained down clutching his left knee before being examined on the sideline.
"There at the end of the game, talked with coach, talked with the doctors and decided to keep me out of the game," Griffin told the media via Redskins.com. "The way the game had gone, it was already out of reach for us so they didn't to take any extra risks putting me back out there, but I cleared the test, I was fine, I was ready to go back in."
Griffin completed 15 of 30 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions and was sacked three times in Sunday’s loss.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, who came under fire last season for mishandling his quarterback's injury situation, appears to have learned from prior mistakes.
"I think he's okay," Shanahan told Redskins.com after the game. "Doctors told me his knee looked fine, he could go back in, but at that time I didn't think it was smart to put him back in."
Griffin's doctor, James Andrews, told NFL Media's Omar Ruiz that RG III is "OK," per NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal.
Griffin's ability to use his legs is what makes him both unique and effective as a quarterback. But he has to get back to his 2012 mindset, when he consistently decided more quickly when to tuck the ball and take off. Until then, his performance will continue to suffer and he will continue to expose himself to contact.
One way or another, he’s going to have to figure it out. At the rate he’s going, another serious injury isn’t far off.
At just 23 years old, Griffin has already had two reconstructive surgeries on his right knee for ACL tears. That's not exactly what a team wants regarding its franchise cornerstone.
The good news for Griffin and the Redskins is Sunday's removal from the game was just precautionary, and Griffin is expected to start Week 9 against the San Diego Chargers.
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