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Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Antrel Rolle has a point on RG III

By John Keim

I disagreed with Ahmad Brooks when he said Robert Griffin III didn’t look like he should be playing. That was silly. I don’t have a problem with what New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle said when it comes to how many hits Griffin is taking.

"I think that guy takes too many brutal hits. As far as whether he gets hit going out of bounds, whether he's causing himself to hit the ground extremely hard or whether he's just getting hit by opponents, he does take a lot of hits," Rolle said on SportsNet New York.

The main reason I don't have a problem with that statement? One question I heard from NFL people before the 2012 draft centered on Griffin’s durability. They knew his legs would be an important weapon; they also knew he was not a big guy like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton, and that it would be tough to withstand so many hits, regardless if he stood in the pocket or ran.

The Redskins can continue to run the zone read option as part of their offense (as the passing game develops, it should be a smaller part of the offense). And it should be noted that of the hard hits he took Sunday night, none came from the zone read runs (six hits on these runs, though three were shoves out of bounds). It should also be noted that a constant storyline the past two seasons in Indianapolis has been the hits taken by Luck. But he's not coming off a second torn ACL, so Griffin's health clearly is more under the microscope. But as others have said, some of the hits just look worse than they do for other quarterbacks. Still, it must comfort him to know how many players -- and media -- care about his health or whether he should be playing.

Thing is, Sunday night, Griffin did a better job early of avoiding hits by checking down passes or flipping to a receiver or running back instead of running himself (11 of the 16 hits, of various degrees, occurred in the first half). He started upfield on one run only to flip to running back Alfred Morris for a five-yard gain. Had Griffin continued, he might have gained the same yards, but he also would have been hit.

Later in the game, he ran a triple option and instead of cutting upfield he pitched to receiver Santana Moss, who weaved his way for 10 yards. There were other times Griffin had enough vision on his runs to bounce them outside rather than cut inside where extra yards were available, but, so too was danger in the form of a hard-charging defender.

Griffin remains a work in progress in the pocket, like most young quarterbacks. He knows he can make plays with his legs so there are times he'll hold the ball a little longer. But between that, protection breakdowns, receivers who don’t always win routes and Griffin sometimes hesitating when players are open, the hits add up. For him to have a long career in the NFL, he and the Redskins must continue finding a way to limit those hits.