- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thoughts and observations after re-watching the Washington Redskins' 45-21 loss to Denver:
This is not a news flash: Robert Griffin III did not have a good game. It’s also true that hanging the troubles all on him would be wrong. As coach Mike Shanahan said Monday, there were a number of issues. Griffin deserves credit for being able to take a hit and get back up. But games like this show that he still has to grow as a pocket passer, in terms of reading defenses quicker and knowing when to get off the primary target.
Griffin made some questionable decisions that led to a longer time in the pocket and being hit or interceptions or near-disasters. It’s easy to pick apart any quarterback’s game and decisions that are made under duress. Of course, some of that duress stemmed from those decisions. But there’s no doubt this wasn’t Griffin’s best outing. Too many missed opportunities. He’s just not connecting downfield, either; too inaccurate. Griffin showed toughness in this game; he’ll have to show resolve coming back. You can’t make too much of one bad game, but after the win over Chicago, there had to be a sense that he would be better.
It started on the first play of the game. Griffin fakes a handoff to Alfred Morris, then an end around to Josh Morgan. That buys Griffin time in the pocket and also causes the linebackers to delay their drops. Griffin looks like he wants Pierre Garcon on a deep post down the middle. Garcon does not have the edge and Griffin should look off him sooner. It’s a bad habit. Had he done so, he would see tight end Jordan Reed turning at the 32-yard line -- with the linebacker responsible for that area running with his back turned to Griffin. An easy completion. It’s tough to tell when Griffin saw Reed, but regardless it was too late. Instead, Griffin scrambled up the middle for 4 yards. Pressure was not an issue.
Griffin did not help himself prevent hits, a theme that was popular last season as well. I’m not sure why he didn’t throw this ball sooner, but because he didn’t it led to him getting drilled at the end of a 14-yard pass. A zone-read play-action fake fooled the Broncos and, after about two seconds, both inside linebackers rushed. They’re still a good 7 yards from Griffin as Garcon, one of two receivers on the route, cuts toward the middle. Garcon cuts inside, then back outside and no one is within 5 yards. But Griffin did not throw until after he cut (holding the ball for 3.6 seconds) – and then paid a price.
The play Griffin missed near the end of the first half looks just as bad two days later. That play worked so well that all three receivers were open. A zone-read fake slowed the rush and caused the inside linebackers to get out of position. Morgan motioned to the backfield and then, after the snap, reversed field and headed for the right flat. Eventually two Broncos started running that way (though they were about 15 yards from him). That left a little lane for Reed, who could not jump high enough to catch the ball. And, yes, Garcon was open on a deep cross; the corner on his side started with him down the field, then backed into the deep right half. Nobody paid attention to Garcon. This play didn’t hurt Washington because it scored on this drive anyway. Griffin was hit at the end of the throw, but, again he held the ball for 3.7 seconds.
On the next play, Griffin didn’t see Aldrick Robinson, who was open over the middle. He had been jammed off the line and stumbled. But he was open; Griffin had spent the time in the pocket looking to his left and by the time he started back to the middle, he was already starting to gather his feet to run.
Here’s an example of Griffin waiting too long for his receivers to win a one-on-one. It happened right after the 1-yard scramble. Griffin waited to see if receiver Leonard Hankerson would win his one-on-one deep left. Griffin hung in a while and gave Hankerson a lot of time. But he never gained an advantage. Had he looked off sooner, Griffin could have dumped it to Roy Helu for a long gain. As it were, Griffin still hit Helu for 14 yards but was leveled on the throw. Time elapsed in the pocket: 3.0 seconds.
One of Griffin’s best throws came on the same drive when Santana Moss dropped a pass in the end zone. Moss, running out of a bunch formation on the right, received off-man coverage. Moss ran about 7 yards, faked the corner and cut back to the middle and created separation. The throw was perfect.
Yes, Garcon slipped on the first interception. I don’t blame the throw for this one because if Garcon stays up, there’s no interception. It happens. Thing is, Reed was open several yards away. He would have gained maybe 5 or 7 yards on the play – about what Garcon would have had if he had remained upright. The second interception resulted from being creamed as he threw the ball.
The decision to throw back to the middle while being hit, trying for Hankerson, was just bad. Looked like a guy trying to make a big play out of nothing. Griffin got lucky that Denver dropped the floating pass. Perhaps Hankerson could have come back for the ball instead of waiting, but it was still a horrible decision.