Will Rust Be an Issue for Robert Griffin III This Season?

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst ISeptember 4, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have to worry about Robert Griffin III's surgically repaired knee, and the quarterback building on not regressing from his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2012, but they shouldn't have to worry about him being rusty against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Playing this preseason wasn't necessary for RGIII. 

Not at all. 

In 2012, he completed over 65 percent of his passes at an NFL-leading 8.1 yards per attempt, and only 1.3 percent of his attempts were intercepted—a league low.

Furthermore, Griffin III ran the football 120 times for 815 yards with seven rushing touchdowns.

Oh yeah, and Washington went from 3-6 to 10-6 and won the NFC East title.

Using as much time as possible to recover from the knee-ligament tear he suffered in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks on January 6 was more important than anything else for the Redskins' franchise foundation.

However, RGIII was only a rookie last season, so he undoubtedly has much to prove in his NFL career. If healthy, preseason reps certainly could have aided the sharpening of his overall quarterbacking acumen. 

Due to that, it wouldn't be crazy to expect some rust from Griffin III upon his return to the football field, so the potential of rustiness is at least worth examining. 

While every player is different, let's start by dissecting Adrian Peterson's 2012 resurgence after he went down with a gruesome knee injury on December 24, 2011.

Eight months later, the Minnesota Vikings star played against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 and carried the football 17 times for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Some thought his knee would be a season-long hindrance, as his next 41 rushes—across two games—totaled just 146 yards, which equated to a 3.56 yards-per-carry average. 

After that, Peterson exploded en route to an epic 2,097-rushing-yard campaign. 

He carried the ball 290 more times for 1,867 yards—6.43 yards per carry—and was named league MVP. His stunning rehabilitation process was undoubtedly awe-inspiring.

However, Peterson wasn't the first NFL star in recent memory to return from a serious, late-season knee ligament injury and thrive the following year.

Denver Broncos wideout Wes Welker tore his ACL and MCL as a member of the New England Patriots on January 3, 2010, the final game of the 2009 regular season. 

In a slightly shorter time period than Peterson, Welker recovered fully and played in the 2010 season opener on September 12. 

He caught eight passes for 64 yards with two touchdowns in a 38-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The diminutive yet pesky Welker appeared in 15 games that year, caught 86 passes for 848 yards and had accounted for seven touchdowns. 

By the numbers, it was his least productive season during his stint with the New England Patriots:

We can't be sure Welker's down year in 2010 was solely due to his knee injury, but it's not a stretch to think his ailment factored into the one-season regression. 

Some believe Peterson's otherworldly athleticism and genetics allowed for such an incredible recovery that led to the finest season in his sparkling professional career. 

The All-Pro running back even said so himself this offseason, via Andy Fenelon of NFL.com:

This is also a matter of genetics. Look at my dad. And my mom's side, my aunts and uncles, they're all ripped. At 50 years old, they've got six packs and eight packs. My body just heals differently. I know it has a lot to do with rehabilitation and work ethic -- but I really credit my genetics for my recovery as much as anything else.

Many would label Peterson as one of if not the most impressive physical specimen in the NFL today, but it's important to remember that Griffin III isn't exactly a run-of-mill athlete either. 

He participated in the United States Olympic Trials during his time at Baylor University and put on a show at the 2012 combine, as he ran a 4.41 in the 40 and had a 39.5-inch vertical leap.

Even if Griffin III isn't as genetically or athletically sound as Peterson, Welker, the much more physically "normal" player, proved that although statistics can dip following an injury, rust isn't necessarily bound to materialize initially. 

Furthermore, RG3 has been down this road before. In 2009, his sophomore season at Baylor was cut short when he tore the same ACL he injured as a Redskin. 

It happened on September 26 in a game against Northwestern State.

Less than a month later, he had surgery and didn't play a down again until the beginning of the 2010 campaign. 

Griffin III started against Sam Houston State on September 4, 2010 and threw for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also carried the ball six times for 59 yards and added another score on the ground. 

His final stat line that year looked like this:

In all likelihood, most involved in RGIII's current ACL recovery don't love the fact that he tore his right ACL for the second time in three years, but the quarterback did demonstrate that he can rebound from it and play at an extremely high level.

Because Griffin III has been practicing with his team for quite some time now, there shouldn't be timing issues with his pass-catchers.

Without access to Washington's specific game plan, one has to assume Griffin III will be used less frequently as a designed runner than he was in 2012. 

Here's why: 

Expect more conservative play-calling in regard to RG3 being exposed to open-field hits.

Is there a chance he throws a handful of errant passes in Week 1? Certainly. First-game jitters and Monday Night Football can negatively affect any player. 

But don't expect legitimate rust.

After all, Robert Griffin III completed 30 of 39 passes for 389 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and 88 rushing yards in two games against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. 

He'll be fine. 


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