In my weekly column, we take a long look at two or three rookies. I will compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them. Let’s continue this series off by looking back at two Redskin rookies, Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, after their week three performances:
Robert Griffin, QB WAS
Here were my original thoughts on Griffin in college: He is the biggest playmaker in this year’s draft. Griffin can beat you with his arm and legs. While I like his athleticism and competitive spirit that was nurtured by his military parents, Griffin can be quite reckless and fearless when the pocket is collapsing around him. He does have a huge arm and can out-throw everyone including his receivers. Hopefully, RGIII will focus on analyzing defenses, and find ways to get rid of the football as he tends to take a lot of unnecessary physical punishment.
The misconception that many have with Griffin is that he is a runner first and this is not the case. The best plays I saw him make were in space throwing the ball downfield or breaking a long run because the defense’s front seven contain broke down. Baylor was an unsuccessful football program for many years and RGIII put them back on the map. He could make Mike and Kyle Shanahan look like geniuses again. My NFL comparison for him was an inexperienced Steve Young.
This past week against the Bengals, I saw a very frustrated quarterback. It was troubling two weeks ago when Griffin started complaining to the referees during the Rams game. The NFL is extremely physical and he doesn’t seem to care for that side of it. The pocket kept collapsing on him against the Bengals and he did little to get away from the pressure. Now much of this had to do with defensive end Michael Johnson, who sacked Griffin three times and pressured him plenty. The Redskins did not bootleg him out enough to get him in space on passing downs. When you get any young quarterback in space, it makes it easier to comprehend what the defense is doing down the field.
Griffin took many unnecessary hits, rushed many of his throws and threw off his feet. These tendencies led to his inconsistent game that featured 21 completions out of 34 attempts for 221 yards and one passing touchdown. It was encouraging that he finally bonded with his tight end, Fred Davis, who was finally productive with seven catches for 90 yards. The young quarterback looked to find his spots in the weak secondary and mostly concentrated underneath. He did miss wide receiver Leonard Hankerson on a bomb that was obviously pass interference. There seems to be a chemistry issue with Santana Moss, even though Moss was the recipient of Griffin’s only touchdown pass of the day.
Extremely effective is how I would describe his play in the running game. On 12 rushes, the young signal caller ran for 85 yards and a touchdown. He could memorize the defense into thinking he was handing off the ball to his running back. When the defense committed to the rusher, Griffin would quickly snag the ball back and run outside gaining valuable yards. He did most of his damage rushing on bootlegs, and his goal line plunge looked very easy. While the defensive ends contained him well in the passing game, he wrecked havoc on them running the ball.
Through his first three games, he has completed over 66% of his passes, averaged almost 250 yards passing, and thrown for at least one touchdown per game. As most of us suspected, when his passing targets aren’t open Griffin can get it done with his feet as he has rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns this season. I’m not sure if he will stay healthy throughout the season, but he gives a high effort and needs his number one receiver, Pierre Garcon, whom he has only played eight snaps to be at his best. Remember Steve Young had Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters to help him get his Hall of Fame numbers. There will be a few up and down weeks, but consider RGIII a top eight dynasty quarterback for the next five years as I doubt his body will last longer than that.
Alfred Morris, RB WAS
Here were my original thoughts on Morris in college: He is a hard runner who can change directions better than you would think with his bigger build. Morris runs with a lot of determination, but doesn’t have any outstanding qualities. I would describe him as more of a three yards and a cloud of dust runner. He certainly has the skills to be a goal line/short-yardage back at the next level.
Morris reads his offensive line well and takes what the opposing defense will give him as he is not very dynamic. If his offensive line blocks well, he will get the yardage needed to convert the first down. He does not have to come out on third downs and passing situations as he can catch the ball without too much effort and shows the ability and toughness to pass block. Morris should make a good second or third string running back in the NFL. My NFL comparison for him was Sammy Morris, and no, I don’t think they are related to one another.
This past week against the Bengals, I saw a plodding running back for the most part. Now it wasn’t that way on his first two carries as Morris looked explosive at first blush. He ran hard, put his foot in the ground, made a spin move, and broke out for almost ten yards on each tote of the rock. The next 15 carries the defense wasn’t fooled by his lateral quickness. The defensive line began to stay home and maintain their lanes.
Morris continued to run hard, put his head down, and take what the defense gave him. He was very physical with his tacklers and delivered crushing hits while being dragged to the ground. I was not very impressed with the offensive line’s job keeping defenders away from Morris. When he could get into space, especially on the outside, he could use his wiggle to run with determination. On his seven yard touchdown run, he shrugged off and spun out of a the defensive lineman’s clutches to get to paydirt.
Morris is not a special back, but he is a hybrid of the other two running backs that the Redskins roster – Roy Helu (the quick twitched scat-like back) and Evan Royster (the plodder who barely picks up his feet, but is good in short-yardage). It seems the Shannahans do not trust Morris as a receiver out of the backfield. He has one pass target in three games while both Helu and Royster have seven targets each.
If you own one Redskin back, you should have them all. As long as you know the starter each week, you can continue to count on RB2 production, but don’t expect any game changing performances from Morris. He may become the Redskins starting running back for the long term, but I doubt it.