Robert Griffin III Trying To Play Responsibly As Hits Keep Coming
ASHBURN – When Robert Griffin III was driven to the ground by a defender last week at St. Louis, that player told him the Rams were going to try to hit him on every play.
“I said, ‘Isn’t this football?’” Griffin recalled telling the player, whom he did not recognize. “It’s nothing that I’m not used to.”
Attempting to take the quarterback out of the game isn’t a foreign strategy at any level of football, but for Griffin, the Washington Redskins’ rookie starter, the aggression and vitriol has been cranked up a notch.
Now, after a pair of road games, Griffin will face the strongest defense of his young career this afternoon when Cincinnati visits FedEx Field for the Redskins’ home opener.
The quarterback was knocked to the field roughly a dozen times in the season opener against New Orleans. He was hit approximately 15 times by the Rams. Long-term durability was a concern with the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Griffin before he entered the NFL, and the beating he’ll take each week will be something the Redskins will have to manage.
Thus far, it hasn’t been a problem.
“If guys get a chance to hit your quarterback, whoever the quarterback is, they’re going to,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “When a guy has that ball in his hands a little bit more and [he’s] running a little bit more, they’re gonna take some shots. Guys are always going to take as good of a shot as they can.”
Griffin has said after each of his first two games that he expected the soreness and discomfort to linger into the week, but that hasn’t been the case thus far.
Still, being healthy for the third game of the season isn’t the same as being healthy in November. One way to manage the quarterback’s health could be to minimize his number of carries as the season progresses. With 20 rushing attempts – not all of them designed runs – he’s on pace for a remarkable 160 carries.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, had 126 attempts last season. Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick, who seems to always be injured, ran the ball 123 times in 2006, his final season in Atlanta. Daunte Culpepper ran 106 times in Minnesota in 2002, Steve McNair had 101 for Tennessee in 1997 and Donovan McNabb had 86 in Philadelphia in 2000.
How much, then, is too much?
“I don’t know,” Shanahan said. “This is our first time going through it, too, so we’re kind of learning as we go along also. You never go into a game planning on him carrying the ball all the time, but when the defense covers everyone else, he’s got to be a threat and pull it away and run with it.”
That was evident against the Saints, who struggled to adapt to the Redskins’ use of the zone-read option. Griffin, on the second play from scrimmage, pulled the ball back on a handoff to running back Alfred Morris and took off to the right side before gaining 12 yards.
But as the quarterback’s second touchdown run against St. Louis demonstrated, his ability to run the ball can be harnessed as well. With the Rams’ defensive line spread wide, Griffin kept the ball himself on a quarterback draw and scampered seven yards up the middle to the goal line, practically untouched until he got there.
“On designed runs I can’t really give it to anyone,” Griffin said. “I just have to go out there and try to make something happen. On some of the runs where I break the pocket, I try to dump it off to guys. I also try to stretch it out as long as I possibly can to let guys get open. There are always ways to avoid hits.”
Griffin has only been sacked once through two games. He was hardly hit during his limited run in the preseason, either.
Any concern at this stage is certainly not his.
“I think it’ll die down during the course of the year,” Griffin said. “I think from game to game it will be different. Sometimes I’ll carry the ball 10 times. Sometimes I’ll carry the ball two times. It’s just a matter of how defenses are going to play.”