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Examining Redskins’ RG3’s passing under pressure

May 22, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

RG3-vs-NYG

The Redskins are taking some steps to try to help Robert Griffin III succeed at quarterback.

—They spent their top draft pick on a new right tackle, Brandon Scherff, to help plug up the leaky offensive line.

—They are going to emphasize power running more, hoping to put Griffin in more favorable down and distance scenarios when he needs to pass.

—You could even say that the upgrades on defense, with six free agent acquisitions and a high second-round pick going on that side of the ball, have the potential to help Griffin succeed by not being put in situations where he is playing from behind.

That’s all good and it should be noted that these upgrades and changes will also help Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy should either one of them end up behind center. But the focus is on Griffin. However, for Griffin to succeed the person that can help him do that the most is Griffin himself.

Let’s take a look at an article from Pro Football Focus to see one of the issues that Griffin needs to fix in order to be successful. In looking at quarterbacks under pressure, they found that Griffin was under pressure when he dropped back to pass 44.9 percent of the time, more than any other NFL quarterback.

Before Griffin’s defenders get all riled up here and insist that he could never succeed behind the offensive line he has played with the last two year, hold on a minute. According to the writer, this “under pressure” stat is much more a reflection of a quarterback who holds on to the ball longer than others than it is of the quality of the offensive line.

Certainly it is reflective of some jailbreaks by the defense but it also has to do with Griffin being indecisive when surveying the field. But there’s not point in dwelling on it here because that’s not the most alarming thing about Griffin that was in this article.

Griffin’s PFF score while he was under pressure was -2.6. Zero is average so that’s not too bad. He was better under pressure than Joe Flacco, Cousins, Andy Dalton and both of the Manning brothers.

But you look at Griffin’s score when he is not under pressure and it’s -7.9. Yes, he was worse when he was not under pressure than he was when he was under pressure. (For the record, Cousins’ PFF score without pressure is a +2.7)

Let me insert a sample size warning here. Griffin dropped back only 247 times last year (214 pass attempts, 33 sacks) so a few things going wrong while he wasn’t under pressure can skew the numbers.

Still, it has to be somewhat alarming that Griffin is not substantially better when he does have blocking and is able to make the decision to throw before the pressure gets to him. If he can’t thrive even when the line is doing its job and he is making decisions quickly it is going to be difficult for him to be successful.

  1. bangkokben - May 22, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    Truth serum. Tastes yucky.

    Here’s to hoping year two in the same system with a healthy off-season yields some major improvement.

    • berniebernard666 - May 22, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      yea, that isn’t good. But here is the one good thing about this whole QB situation: it will be clear after this season. If Griffin plays 16 games and remains healthy and shows improvement, then all is well.

      If he fails, then next years draft will be all about choosing the new savior. But either way. its a new beginning!

      • ET - May 22, 2015 at 11:55 AM

        Or there’s Cousins, already at +2.7 without pressure … Give the kid extra time in the pocket, a stronger running game, Crowder over the middle, a healthy Reed, and coaching by Cavanaugh. Just sayin’, more than one of the QBs on the roster could/should improve under those conditions.

    • jonevans511 - May 22, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      Agreed. I wonder what was in RGIII’s mind during the times he wasn’t under pressure, as Rich pointed out. Seeing how his score is so much worse when he’s not under pressure, is it nerves? Does he sit back there and worry about a rush that ultimately never gets to him, and meanwhile misses his reads?

      An inability to handle the jitters/nerves is something that worries me, regardless what QB we’re talking about. You can’t always teach a player how not to get nervous in the pocket (or out for that matter), so my only hope is RGIII’s humbling experience both on and off the field these last couple years will lead to the game slowing down for him this year. That should “hopefully” lead to better and QUICKER decision-making, and at that point things should fall in to place. I don’t need him to become an All-Pro QB; Just a smart decision-maker with the ability to make big plays when we need them. Of course there will be some mistakes mixed in, but with an improved D we should be able to weather the storm in those cases.

      Rich made a great point about playing from behind- true gunslingers like A Luck appear to prefer playing from behind because it sets in motion a sense of urgency. Only time will tell if RG can adopt that mentality and effectively run the offense regardless of score or field position.

      • sidepull - May 22, 2015 at 1:31 PM

        I kind of liked Rg3’s come from behind mentality in 2012. Its buried in there somewhere. He has it. Just not showing it. I hope everybody is right and he can settle this year. If not I am all in on giving Cousins anther look with new coaching and a years growth in the system. They are going to go through some more growing pains this year but the big difference is how much money is it going to cost?

  2. Redskins_USA's Team - May 22, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    We all like RG3 and in the offseason, fans and media alike tend to focus on the positives and hope for the best. Which is why I like this article, gently and respectfully reminding us of the fact that RG3 has had some struggles. No one should question the 5th year option–we needed to do that. I think Scoty is doing an awesome job at GM and has partnered with the HC to do things right. But we also have to make sure we are protecting RG3, from other teams and himself, to prevent injury-related issues specific to contract/cap space for 2016 season. I also think collectively we need to put the good and bad- the 2012 and the 2013-2014 seasons behind us, and look to RG3 to create a new identity for himself and this offense moving forward. This season is the one where we hope it all comes together and see serious improvements over past 2 seasons. The fact that the whole league is sleeping on us only helps RG3 to not feel unnecessary pressure. Here’s to hoping he gets it done!

  3. manchild157 - May 22, 2015 at 12:17 PM

    Hard to believe that Griffin will be better after watching last year’s performance. Is he going to magically get better because the team is better around him? I don’t wholly believe that. It’s got to come from him…improve his check downs on receivers, don’t panic in the pocket, and for heaven’s sake don’t take off running when there is no pressure, and study defenses as well as offense.

  4. Derek Schmitt - May 22, 2015 at 12:45 PM

    Not being under pressure could be 7 defensive backs and a 4 man rush. Not defending his horrible play; however, statistics in a vacuum don’t tell the whole story.

    • rtcwon - May 22, 2015 at 2:24 PM

      Yup, I read the article to figure out where the “stats” came from & its just some guys opinion of where the ball should have been thrown.

  5. Skulb - May 22, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    The time to pressure is the stat to measure Olines by and the Redskins have an average one; almost exactly in the middle of the pack. Time to throw is the measure of the QB and RGIII is at the moment one of the slowest in the league. Peyton Manning can play just fine behind an average Oline, probably even a bad one, because he`s fast. RGIII, Geno Smith or Russell Wilson need good Olines because they`re so slow. Right now only one of them has a good Oline, unless the Jets and the Skins have been able to somehow upgrade from average to good with a single draft. Personally I doubt it, which means that RGIII will have to get faster on the draw., even if it means eating some interceptions. Playing slowly at QB in the NFL is a bad habit. The sooner he breaks it, come what may, the better.

    • sidepull - May 22, 2015 at 1:36 PM

      Agree. I swear he hesitates at times rather then throwing to a WR before he hits his break. Its like a trust issue. He holds the ball until the break when he should have let it go. Not all the time but I have seem him do this on timing routes etc.. Just wont let it go. Hope Cavanaugh gets him coached up/

      • ET - May 22, 2015 at 1:52 PM

        You aren’t alone in making this observation; Griffin seem to have a mental block when it comes to anticipating the receiver’s point-of-reception, at least on underneath or more precise routes. Cousins, at times, has the opposite problem—trying to force the ball to the correct location despite warning signs in the coverage. Hopefully Cavanaugh can help them both.

        • berniebernard666 - May 23, 2015 at 2:54 PM

          EVERYBODY has seen that hesitation. Nothing new here. Most of us were yelling at the TV last season “STOP HOLDING THE BALL…THROW THE DAMN BALL!”

          Griffin looked like a deer in the headlights at times. He looked FROZEN holding the ball. Okay, we all understand that because everybody can see that part. But……….with that said……

          It helps to be in a system for more than 1 year in a row. It helps to have the same QB coach for more than 1 year in a row. It helps to be healthy for more than 1 year in a row while learning. Etc etc etc.

          This is the first year for Griffin to attempt to be a pocket passer in which he is fully healthy, and in the same system for 2 years in a row. I don’t think there is a QB out there who has more weapons to work with, or who has more support on offense and from management than Robert Griffin. The Redskins are ALL IN for Griffin’s success in 2015. If he fails….it will be ALL ON him.

  6. morrallnotearlthough - May 22, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    Rich, what do Griffin’s PFF scores look like for his lifetime NFL stats? Maybe you could show where he stacks up against other quarterbacks at their three year mark? Thanks!

  7. hitmeimopen - May 22, 2015 at 2:30 PM

    Looks like RG will have an opportunity to grow and learn how to read Ds and anticipate his connections, but I noticed something last year in his post-snap action that really bothered me. And I saw it more than once. Play-action with a RB fake was executed by faking the handoff to the wrong side!!! The RB blasts up on one side of RG and RG is faking the handoff to the opposite side. At first I thought I was wrong (because it seemed so horrible a mistake) but then I saw him do the exact same thing at least a few times. Maybe that’s what Gruden was upset about, too. Can’t say for sure about this but I’ve been a Skins fan since ’70 and watched all those QBs who’ve come through this franchise and I’ve never seen that happen at such an alarming rate. Sure, at the snap, a lot of shti is going through his head, but that fake is a make-or-break action that draws the D to the run POA and w/o it, the play is doomed. He has to not only know the action but perform it without hesitation, and convincingly. Ugly!

  8. 226thebeatdontstop - May 22, 2015 at 5:29 PM

    So the offensive line wasn’t too bad this is the same line that helped Alfred Morrises numbers decline …You had Scot McCloughin come in the team immediately hires a new line coach an in the draft continue to upgrade offensive line but according to your point the line isn’t one of many issues..

    Look RG3 can an will play better he was hurt regardless of what the media says, this Gruden system , his play calling, and quarterback development were poor at best.

    RG3 is a competitor and a leader . There are better players around him an he is year two in system he an the team will be better if not I’m blaming Gruden

  9. mr.moneylover - May 22, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    The offense should be better this year if everybody around robert do they job…the offense is all about running the ball and giving the QB just 25 pass attempts a game…I hate bringing up this team but the cowbodys was good last year only because they raned the ball if you shut down they run game they will be the same ol cowboys and they will make tony throw alot….the difference with the redskins robert can throw the ball really well at times and he can run as well at times and that can be another weapon they can add to they power run scheme….I just hope it all comes together before week 1 and if they be gun shy and not be aggressive in play calling then that says its still a working progress but it shouldnt be as difficult as last year

  10. troylok - May 23, 2015 at 11:14 AM

    Does RG3 hold on to the ball too long? Yes, but given the offense he played in college and Gruden’s unwillingness to use the read option, it is reasonable to expect RG3 will take time to learn how to read defenses more quickly.

    Does Alfred Morris miss the occasional blitz pickup? Yes, and the team drafted a running back who has been mentioned as being a good pass blocker, but I think they were more interested in the guy’s ability to run between the tackles. I wouldn’t say that is conclusive evidence that they think the running back position was a serious contributor to sacks on the QB.

    Do the tight ends miss the occasional blitz pickup? Yes, but it must not have been too big a deal if the Redskins totally ignored the position in the draft and in free agency.

    Did the team address offensive line in the draft? Oh yes. Three times. Despite arguments otherwise, I kind of see this as the biggest reason RG3 was sacked. A QB has to have faith in the guys in front of him. It wasn’t just RG3 who was impacted by poor offensive line play. I look at Cousins behind center and the offensive line could take the blame for some of the interceptions he threw. Cousins was throwing off his back foot with the pocket crushing before him. McCoy? I would say this shows McCoy’s strength as a QB. He is decisive. It comes from playing behind crummy offensive lines in the past where he had to make a decision fast or get crushed. If the Redskins were not going to fix the offensive line, I say McCoy would have been their best bet for wins because of this strength, but given time in the pocket, he is nowhere near the QB that RG3 or Cousins can be.

  11. skinsgame - May 23, 2015 at 1:13 PM

    Where are the folks calling everyone “HATERS!” now? I don’t think he will turn this around but I sure as hell hope he proves me wrong.

  12. berniebernard666 - May 23, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    Gruden made a HUGE mistake shielding Robert last preseason by playing him sparingly. Griffin did not even play in the final preseason game while Russell Wilson was not only playing in his final game of the preseason but Wilson was running and sliding and trying to win. It’s what the Seahawks do….they go for broke on every play of every game, while Gruden seems to be a bit conservative and relaxed.

    GRUDEN BETTER TAKE NOTE AND AMP UP…..OR HE WON’T BE HERE NEXT YEAR.

  13. timwillhidetimwillhide - May 23, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    I would like to know what the Time Till Pressure was on his Drop backs. Im willing to beat Dollars to Donuts that is wasn’t very long and it was on most of his drop backs. Allot of time the Time to Throw stat is not that accurate because they count the QB running for his life as Time to Throw. The only way to actually tell if the QB is holding onto the ball is watch the Tape. What happened after the GM watched the tape? He signed a New Oline Coach, signed a couple Olinemen while trying to sign a couple others he missed out on, and Drafted 3 Olinemen in the Draft one of them with our top pick. In fact he is still signing and releasing Olinemen trying to improve that unit. I suspect he will sign a Veteran free agent Olinemen that will yet be released before the season starts also

  14. skinsgame - May 24, 2015 at 2:35 AM

    Looking at the stats, every Qbs time to pressure stat is almost identical to the time to throw stat.

  15. berniebernard666 - May 25, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    all this debate about the Redskins offensive line and time to throw is smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that either Griffin can’t spot the opening in the defense or else Grudens receiver route tree is imbalanced and confusing.

    I noticed on one pass play last year in which Griffin threw the ball, there were THREE receivers in the same 5-6 yard area. THAT cannot happen. Because there were also FOUR defensive backs in that area. Its a big damn field. There should always be large gaps between the receivers patterns.

    Also, I notice that many times Tom Brady takes a 3 step drop and lets the ball go immediately in less than 2 seconds. I fail to understand why the Redskins can’t pull out film on that and just copy or mimic the same plays. It appears to work for the Superbowl team.

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