Examining RGIII's Recent Rash of Mistakes: Who's Been at Fault?
There are many areas in which Washington Redskins sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III hasn't been himself this season. When it comes to his overall prowess as both a passer and rusher, it's been a roller-coaster season. But there's one thing Griffin has been doing consistently, even when he's shown flashes of his 2012 self, and that's turning the ball over.
In fact, on paper, Griffin has been more sloppy with the football during the past three weeks than at any other point thus far in his NFL career.
Last year, he had a league-low interception percentage of 1.3, throwing just five picks on 393 passes and 488 dropbacks. During the first four weeks this season, that increased to 2.4. And during the most recent three weeks, it has kept plummeting to 4.1 (four interceptions on his last 98 throws).
During that same time frame, Griffin has handled the ball 121 times (113 dropbacks, 98 throws, seven sacks, eight scrambles, eight designed runs) and has five fumbles. That's 4.1 fumbles per 100 touches, which is more than double his rate from the first 19 games of his career (1.9).
It's not as though he was much better with ball security before. After all, Griffin has fumbled a league-high 21 times since entering the league. Only one other player has more than 15 during that span. He's been very fortunate to have only lost five of those 21 fumbles, but two of those cough-ups have taken place during this recent three-game span.
If we bring the fumbles and picks together but forget about recoveries (because that's mostly luck), the numbers indicate Griffin has really hit a rut in that category. He averaged just 3.5 fumbles and interceptions per 100 touches last season, and that number increased only slightly to 4.3 during the first four weeks of 2013. But since the bye, that rate has shot up to 8.2.
To get a better feel for why this might be happening, let's take a look at the nine instances in which Griffin coughed the ball up between Week 6 and Week 8.
Mistake No. 1: Fumble (recovered) in third quarter against Dallas
The ball was knocked loose when Griffin was hit nearly six full seconds after the snap. Where's his internal clock? You have to get out of the pocket or release it well before it gets to this point.
Mistake No. 2: Fumble (lost) in the fourth quarter against Dallas
This is an example of Griffin trying to do too much on a second-and-very-long from deep in his own territory. He held on for nearly four seconds before being victimized on a strip sack. The protection wasn't as strong as it could have been, but he could have checked to Pierre Garcon early...
Mistake No. 3: Interception in the fourth quarter against Dallas
The 'Skins were a bit desperate down 15 in the fourth quarter, which might explain why Griffin took a shot at the end zone. The problem was that Santana Moss slipped just after Griffin released the ball, and Orlando Scandrick was smart enough to basically take over Moss' route for an easy interception.
We won't show you any dropped passes in this breakdown because drops and picks/fumbles are quite separate, but that's been a factor, too. In Week 7 against the Bears, Washington receivers dropped five passes, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and that group's overall drops-per-game average has increased from 2.3 in 2012 (not good) to 3.5 in 2013 (much worse).
Who's at fault? Moss, but this is also just bad luck
Mistake No. 4: Interception in the first quarter against Chicago
This is pretty much all on Griffin, who had Leonard Hankerson open way earlier in this route but waited too long while never taking his eyes off of Hankerson. A smart defensive back like Charles Tillman is going to pick up on that. He ditched his coverage of Aldrick Robinson and bit down to make an easy interception.
Mistake No. 5: Fumble (recovered) in the first quarter against Chicago
It certainly looks as though this was on Alfred Morris, who simply never got a grip on Griffin's handoff.
Mistake No. 6: Fumble (recovered) in the first quarter against Denver
The shotgun snap from Will Montgomery came too early on third-and-inches. Roy Helu jumped on it, but it meant Washington had to punt it away. It's impossible to know for sure—and I can't find a quote on this from Griffin, Montgomery or anyone else—who had the snap count wrong, but that's usually on the center.
Who's at fault? Probably Montgomery
Mistake No. 7: Fumble (lost) in the fourth quarter against Denver
The pocket collapsed very quickly, and Griffin was stripped within three seconds of the snap.
If he had a blatantly open receiver or if the pass protection was half-decent, it would have been a different story. But he did not...
As a result, his sack percentage has increased from 4.1 to 7.1 and he's been turning it over more.
This Broncos game really was a killer in every respect. The receivers were useless, the line couldn't block, especially inside, the play-calling was brutal down the stretch and Griffin himself was bad. His whole career, including in Weeks 6 and 7, Griffin has almost always gotten rid of the ball in 2.8 seconds or less, but he held onto it for an average of 3.3 seconds in Denver.
Who's at fault? The offensive line, mainly
Mistake No. 8: Interception in the fourth quarter against Denver
Pierre Garcon fell down while making a cut, giving Chris Harris any easy pick...
Who's at fault? Griffin and Garcon
Mistake No. 9: Interception in the fourth quarter against Denver
At this point, the 'Skins were down 17 late and Griffin was in desperation mode. He had been getting rushed aggressively all game, and the pocket was collapsing quickly yet again. He was crushed as he threw over the middle, but there wasn't enough on it.
That offensive line was struggling and Alfred Morris was running well, but 13 of their first 15 offensive plays at the start of the fourth quarter were passing plays. On those plays, Griffin was 4 for 11 with three turnovers and two sacks.
Despite the fact that Morris' average has grown from 4.8 to 5.2 and that Roy Helu has emerged, the Redskins have been passing more and running less all season long. Griffin's pass attempts per game have increased from 26.2 to 38.3, which is insane. And that has little to do with his lack of mobility, because his rushing attempts per game have only dropped from 8.0 to 6.1.
And yet after receiving 23.4 carries game last year, Morris' average has dropped to 20.9 this season.
The 'Skins threw on only 48 percent of their offensive plays last year, which was second-least in the NFL. That has shot up to 60 percent in 2013. Yes, they've been trailing more, but that's still very odd.
I think that lack of balance was a factor on this pick and on the rest of his turnovers in this quarter.
Who's at fault? Lichtensteiger and Kyle Shanahan
Again, it's sort of a perfect storm here. Griffin was charged with all nine mistakes above, but he was only at fault four times, max. And he was only solely at fault twice. That's still not good, but it wouldn't be disastrous all on its own.
Who deserves the most blame for what's happened to the Washington offense?
Throw in that receivers are failing to get open and dropping too many passes, blocks are being missed and pass protectors are being manhandled. And then add the fact that they've been throwing their somewhat brittle young quarterback to the wolves by calling far too many passing plays and not enough running plays, and you can begin to understand why the Redskins are 2-5.
Lots of bad habits and trends are factors here, at different times and to varying degrees. That probably indicates that this offense isn't ready to be consistently great right now. That could change this year, as it did last year just beyond this point, but those things are impossible to predict.
The major difference this year, and especially in the last three games, is that RGIII has been at fault a lot more than he was in 2012.
Unless otherwise indicated, all advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
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