Has Washington Done Enough This Offseason to Get RG3 Back on Track?

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Has Washington Done Enough This Offseason to Get RG3 Back on Track?
Evan Vucci/Associated Press

After a disappointing sophomore campaign last year, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III should feel good about a couple of big moves made by general manager Bruce Allen this offseason. 

Out goes former head coach Mike Shanahan, with whom Griffin reportedly had a "rocky" relationship, and in comes Jay Gruden, who had most recently been the offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals

Griffin was also given a new dynamic weapon on the outside in former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. 

But are these two major moves enough to get RG3 back on track this year?

In order to try to figure that out, let's take a closer look at Griffin's first two seasons, how DeSean Jackson fits into this offense and what Gruden was able to do in Cincinnati. 

Let's start by comparing Griffin's first two seasons from a basic statistics perspective. 

Below are the numbers from the 28 starts Griffin made over his first two seasons.

A tale of two seasons, RG3 in 2012 and 2013 (regular season)
Year Starts Record COM-ATT PER YDS TDs INTs
2012 15 9-6 258-393 65.6 3,200 20 5
2013 13 3-10 274-456 60.1 3,203 16 12

ESPN.com

At first glance, more attempts, more turnovers and a lower completion percentage are the numbers that really jump out in comparing these two seasons. 

This is obviously a very basic portrayal of the issues Griffin had last season. 

The biggest issue of them all had to do with his health.

Coming off a torn ACL suffered in the playoff game in his rookie season back in 2012, many believed Griffin was rushed back too soon and shouldn't have began the 2013 season as the starting quarterback. 

In any case, Griffin did start and did struggle. 

But diving deeper into some of the analytics on Pro Football Focus (subscription required) regarding Griffin's first two seasons, there's more information into exactly where Griffin struggled.

Griffin's 'passing under pressure' numbers over last two years
Year Pressure ATT COM PER YPA TDs INTs PFF Rating
2012 No pressure 208 303 68.6 8.1 17 4 30.4
Plays under pressure 59 108 54.6 7.6 5 2 4.4
When not blitzed 203 314 64.6 7.1 11 4 20.1
When blitzed 64 97 66 10.8 11 2 14.7
2013 No pressure 210 316 66.5 7.6 11 7 7.1
Plays under pressure 64 140 45.7 5.8 5 5 -10.2
When not blitzed 194 308 63 6.8 11 10 -7
When blitzed 80 148 54.1 7.5 5 2 3.9

Pro Football Focus

Some of these numbers jump out a little bit.

For starters, Griffin attempted 53 percent more passes when the defense blitzed in 2013 than he did back in 2012 (148 to 97). 

And in 2012, Griffin completed 66 percent of his passes when blitzed, while averaging 10.8 yards per attempt (YPA), compared to just 54.1 percent and 7.5 YPA in 2013. 

Bottom line is Griffin was blitzed a lot more last season and didn't make defenses pay for their gamble.

 

Addition of Jackson

One big reason defenses might pay for that gamble this season is the addition of Jackson on the outside, who provides a home run threat for the Washington offense.

Something that, outside of Pierre Garcon, they didn't have last season. 

Pierre Garcon vs next three receiving options combined in 2013
Washington Player(s) REC TAR YDS TDs 20+ plays YAC 1DN REC
Pierre Garcon 113 184 1,346 5 16 667 60
Jordan Reed, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson 117 187 1,326 8 10 569 79

ESPN.com

Although Jordan Reed only played in nine games last season because of injury, there's no doubt a healthy tight end threat will help Griffin as well. 

Jackson steps into a situation where a playmaking threat opposite Garcon was sorely needed.

DeSean Jackson's career numbers
GP REC TAR YDS AVG TDs 1DN
Six years w/ Eagles 87 356 650 6,117 17.2 32 245

ESPN.com

But while Jackson provides big-play ability with his career 17.2 yards-per-reception average, Griffin did struggle to get the ball down the field last season compared to his rookie year. 

It's easy to believe the struggles with his downfield passing had to do with his injury and the subsequent rehab—and being able to trust it.

Terry Shea is a well-respected private quarterback coach and worked with Griffin over the offseason, and he believes this to be true, via Alex Marvez's piece on FoxSports.com.

"I noticed when Robert missed that a lot of his misses were high," Shea said. "That tells me he's just not transferring over that front foot and using his lower body as well as he should be."

Shea might have been alluding to the repaired knee—that Griffin might be "babying" it by not transferring his weight, and that would be affecting his accuracy. 

These two passing charts, via Pro Football Focus, show Griffin's deep-ball passing numbers over the past two seasons. 

Pro Football Focus

This chart shows Griffin's passes by direction in 2012. 

Pro Football Focus

Here's a look at the same chart for his passes in 2013.

As you can see, Griffin's numbers on passes beyond 20 yards were significantly better in 2012, when he completed 16 of 37 passes for 559 yards with seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. 

Compared to 2013, where he went 12-of-46 for 406 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. 

But a healthier knee for Griffin, new offensive personnel and a new head coach should shake things up for the Washington offense next season, and Gruden has found success with quarterbacks far less talented than Griffin.

 

From Cincinnati to Washington

Gruden's three years as the offensive coordinator for the Bengals saw him with Andy Dalton as his quarterback.

While Dalton improved each successive season since 2011 under Gruden in terms of completions, yards, yards per attempt, touchdowns and quarterback rating, that doesn't mean anything to Griffin. 

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Different teams, different personnel and different situations, but there's no denying that Griffin has a higher ceiling than Dalton, and Gruden found success with Dalton with three straight trips to the playoffs.

Judging by some comments made by Griffin recently, it's also safe to say he is excited about the opportunity with Gruden moving forward, via video at CSNWashington.com

"We've got some new faces here...a lot of excitement," Griffin said.  "We'll actually get a chance to play the brand of football that we want to play. Determined by the players, and coach Jay Gruden is going to allow us to do that."

A healthier knee, a healthier relationship with his head coach and a dynamic weapon added on the outside. It's hard not to think the arrow is pointing up for Griffin and the Washington offense. 

How far and how improved they are as a unit over last year remains to be seen, but a regular-season opener on the road against J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Houston Texans might quickly show us what Griffin and Washington have in store for the 2014 season. 

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