Anyone watching last Thursday's Redskins win over the Lions saw that QB Robert Griffin III took a number of big hits. In fact, Griffin was blasted on six of his eight drop backs, an absurd number for a team trying to get its starting offense preseason work.
The factors involved seem obvious: a new right side of the offensive line with basically no NFL experience, and a journeyman left tackle injury replacement that is not a starting caliber player. Add the O-line woes to an aggressive Detroit front, and there is a bad recipe for RG3. Combine that with Griffin's struggles in the pocket, and an injury seems almost predetermined.
What is known is Griffin got hurt. What remains a mystery is when, and specifically what play, saw Griffin concussed.
"I don’t know. Can’t tell you," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said when asked what play resulted in RG3's concussion.
More from the coach: "The concussion, whether it is a concussion, whether it is not a concussion, it is up to the doctor to decide whether he thinks it is or not. Sometimes a player says he doesn’t have one, but if he is showing signs of a concussion then the doctor will recommend that he go sees a doctor. That’s basically what has happened."
In a fashion that seems all too familiar with the Redskins and RG3, the news surrounding the injury sounds bizarre. In the hours following the win over the Lions, some reports suggested Griffin did not have a concussion, rather the Redskins wanted to keep their starting QB from talking to the media. If true, it's a shortsighted strategy, as Griffin is likely obligated to speak with reporters this week during practice.
Gruden has made it clear his plans on playing Griffin this Saturday against Baltimore, assuming his QB is cleared through the NFL concussion protocol. While Griffin certainly needs the work - the Redskins starting offense has looked between bad and mediocre through two preseason games - how many other teams around the league would play a QB coming off a concussion in a preseason game? Isn't the risk too high for a meaningless August contest?
While expressing concern for his QB throughout this most recent injury scare, Gruden has also been fair to point out that football is a tough sport and QBs are going to get hit. Even if Trent Williams resumes his starting left tackle spot Saturday night against the Ravens, the Redskins will still have Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff lined up to the right side. So far, that combination has not looked ready for the NFL, and in Baltimore they can expect heavy pressure from Pro Bowl caliber players like Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.
"We need to fix a lot, obviously. We are working with a new right side of our line and had some new tight end issues going on in there and a new left tackle," Gruden said. "So we had some guys that needed the work and it wasn’t very effective to say the least."
Now that there appears to be some question if RG3 sustained a concussion, or just showed consussion-like symptoms, the events of last Thursday change ever so slightly. Regardless, the QB was battered against the Lions. Will that change against Baltimore? Seems unlikely.
And yet, what option does Gruden have? The Redskins organization has committed to Griffin as their starting quarterback, and the offensive line that showed up Thursday will largely be the same that shows up Week 1 against Miami. The quarterback - whoever it is - will get hit.
Could that be helped by better pocket awareness? It does seem Griffin is too quick to turn his back and try to run away from pressure in the backfield, opposed to stepping up or sliding over in the pocket, moves that more aware QBs often make. It's possible RG3 wants to rely on his athleticism that got him out of danger in previous seasons, and that after three years of sustaining injuries in the NFL, that level of athleticism is no longer there.
"It’s all a process, a work-in-process," Gruden said of Griffin. "The key is as you’re going through your process of reading the coverage, transition that and having the peripheral to step up in the pocket, that’s something all young quarterbacks have to work through and he will."
Gruden seems confident RG3 can get better in the pocket. Griffin will need to, quick, or the results are unlikely to be pretty. The line must play better too, though that may not happen fast enough for the Redskins or RG3.
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