Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III entered the 2014 season in search of redemption. That may have to be put on hold temporarily after RG3 suffered a hip contusion in Week 2 of the preseason against the Cleveland Browns.
Head coach Jay Gruden confirmed the news after the Redskins' 24-23 win, via Chick Hernandez of CSN Washington:
Jay Gruden: RGIII has a thigh contusion— Chick Hernandez (@CHICKatCSN) August 19, 2014
Griffin III finished the night completing six of eight passes for 112 yards with one interception and a lost fumble.
RG3 was amazingly able to recover from a torn ACL suffered in the playoffs two seasons ago in time to start Week 1 last year. He was able to remain largely healthy throughout the campaign, although then-Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan shut him down for the final three games.
While Griffin's will and determination certainly deserved a great deal of praise, it was apparent all season long that he wasn't the same player that he was as a rookie. His numbers dropped off significantly, and Washington finished with a disappointing 3-13 record.
In fact, no signal-caller had a bigger drop-off in play from 2012 to 2013 than the Baylor product, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Redskins went 3-13 in 2013, worst since 1994. Robert Griffin III’s Total QBR went from 73.2 to 40.1, largest decrease for a qualified QB.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 23, 2014
Griffin came under fire for his mediocre play last season, but much of the criticism was unfair. Not only was he less than a year removed from a major knee injury, but he had to overcome plenty of on-field obstacles as well. Chief among them was Washington's defense as it was among the worst in the league, and it put RG3 and the Redskins offense at a disadvantage on many occasions during the season.
Simply put, RG3 didn't get much help last season, but he shouldered much of the blame anyway. That's the way it is when it comes to the quarterback position in the NFL, so Griffin has a lot of work to do when it comes to re-establishing himself as an elite quarterback whenever he returns to action.
While Griffin's current status is still up in the air, it was quite evident last season that RG3 was a shell of his former self. Baylor head coach Art Briles believes Griffin simply didn't give himself enough time to heal properly before returning but had big expectations entering the 2014 season, as Briles told Sirius XM Radio (h/t Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post):
The thing about ACLs: I've always thought they take a complete year to get over. And I think he rushed himself a little bit, just because that's the way Robert is. He's always going to be determined to do more than is humanly possible. ... So I think this year, I do think we'll see a very healthy RG3. I think we're gonna see a guy that's happy playing the game, that has a fire and attitude that you need to have a chance to be successful, because that's who he is.
Briles wasn't the only one who anticipated a big year for Griffin. In comments to ESPN 980 (h/t Steinberg), new Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay felt as though the offseason did RG3 a world of good in terms of returning to top form:
I don't think there's any question: he looks explosive. He looks like he is exactly what he was in the 2012 season. I think people underestimate when you have a brace on your knee how much that truly restricts you. ... So I think being able to take that off, he looks extremely explosive.
Griffin may have been fully healthy entering the season, but the NFL is a grind, and it is extremely difficult to avoid injury. That is especially true of a slight quarterback like RG3 who utilizes his legs more than most.
Provided Griffin is forced to miss some time, fellow third-year quarterback Kirk Cousins will step in. Cousins was extremely impressive in a spot start in 2012 and had some good moments during three starts at the end of last season. He's no Griffin, but he seems like a guy who can win games in the league as long as his supporting cast is strong.
Griffin is in no danger of losing his starting job currently, but there will be even more pressure on him to turn things around if Cousins steps in and plays well. It is often said that the backup quarterback is the most popular guy in town, and that appears to be the case when it comes to Cousins.
The Redskins' success this season and in the future hinges largely on the play of RG3, though, which means the team can't afford to throw him into the fire until he's ready. He may have rushed back in order to play last season, but the organization shouldn't let that mistake happen again.
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