Through nine games, opposing quarterbacks have combined for a grand total of 26 rushing/scrambling yards and zero touchdowns on 15 attempts against the Tampa Bay defense.
The dual-threat QB awaiting the Buccaneers Sunday afternoon at FedEX Field can top that production in one quarter – maybe a single scramble out of a broken play.
Since Cam Newton didn’t appear in the season-opening loss against Carolina, Washington Redskins signal caller Robert Griffin III is the first mobile quarterback that Tampa Bay defenders have had to prepare for this year. The Bucs and Redskins met in the preseason this year but on the fourth and final week when regulars typically don’t participate.
Griffin entered the league in 2012 as a highly touted, electrifying rookie out of Baylor with franchise-resurrecting expectations immediately placed on his shoulders. While those outsized hopes have been tempered because of injuries that have caused Griffin to miss six games this season and 10 for his career, he still presents a dangerous threat Tampa Bay must be prepared to contain.
“He’s still the same,” Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said of Griffin after watching tape on him from last week’s Redskins-Vikings game, the QBs first start since injuring his ankle during a 41-10 Week 2 win over Jacksonville. “It looks like he hasn’t missed a beat at all. That just goes to show what type of worker he is and how dedicated he is to being great.”
David entered the league the same year as Griffin and got to face him head-to-head for the first time during a 24-22 Week 4 loss at Raymond James Stadium in 2012. David produced the first double-digit tackle game of his career that day, racking up 14 total takedowns. David never faced Griffin and Baylor during his two Division I collegiate years spent at Nebraska.
Griffin’s recent run-ins with lower-body injuries combined with his role in first-year head coach Jay Gruden’s offense has led to the notion that the 6-foot-2, 222-pounder will be instructed to keep his game in the pocket or, when scrambling, to dash for the sideline or slide as opposed to trying to break off big gains.
It’s a small sample size, but Griffin’s averaged only 4.0 rushing attempts and 16.0 yards through three games this year. That’s below his career averages of 7.0 rushing attempts and 43.6 yards. Griffin showed last week in Minnesota, though, that it’s still foolish to think his legs are suddenly a non-factor. He didn’t have a big day during the 29-26 loss, but did leave the pocket seven times for 24 yards.
“[He looked] pretty good to me,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday. “[I] didn’t see any signs of a player that’s injured or anything like that. It seems like every time I look at him he looks like a pretty good quarterback on the other side of the ball.”
“When you go through a period of time like he’s gone through … I just know that now, it seems like that’s all behind him. The last time he played it’s not like he’s become a drop-back quarterback. He’s still running the read or zone option plays, he’s still scrambling around, and I think that’s just life as an NFL quarterback. You’re going to go through a few valleys along the way.”
Gruden was brought into Washington after spending the past three years as the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator. During a conference call with the Tampa Bay media Wednesday morning, the younger brother of former Bucs Super Bowl champion coach Jon Gruden threw cold water on the theory that he’s ordering Griffin to limit his rushing.
“There’s a fine line,” Jay Gruden said. “He’s the quarterback that has to make those decisions and we have to live with them. You can’t pull back the reins and say, ‘Hey, stay in the pocket all the time.’ It kind of defeats the purpose of having a guy like that – an athletic guy that can run and get outside the pocket, work some read options, some of that stuff that really make him who he is.
Gruden said since Griffin’s had less than three full games of regular-season work executing the Redskins’ new scheme, it’s too early to start assuming the quarterback is a less-dynamic player. But the coach also said Griffin needs to realize his role as the face of the franchise.
“Unfortunately for us, I’ve only had him for nine quarters in the regular season,” Gruden said. “He played the game against Houston, one quarter against Jacksonville and then the game against Minnesota. So we’re still working with him very closely with his footwork and fundamentals and trying to get to know the plays that he’s comfortable with and the plays that he likes so we can really execute. And that takes the most time: just getting a feel for what he’s most comfortable with.
“As far as him running and all that stuff, he understands that he’s the franchise quarterback and he has to protect himself, but he also understands that sometimes plays have to be made and risks have to be taken – it’s just part of the position.”
Griffin followed Gruden on the conference-call schedule Wednesday and stuck with his standard response that he doesn’t plan on changing the way he plays the game anytime soon.
“I think God blessed me with unique abilities: the ability to throw from the pocket and throw on the run and move around using my legs,” Griffin said. “So I think that’d be a disservice to Him and myself and this team if I didn’t utilize that. For me, I just go out and play. I don’t worry about what anybody has to say or what they think I should be doing or shouldn’t be doing. I listen to my coaches, I work the scheme and just make sure I execute each play to the best of my ability. And when it’s not there, make something happen.”
As for how the Bucs plan to deal with Griffin’s mobility, Smith didn’t go into much more detail than saying eyes need to be dedicated to the quarterback each and every play.
“I think you have to have built-in things to take care of a mobile quarterback,” Smith said. “You can’t just have coverages where, if the receivers release, there’s nobody in the middle of the field. You have to have someone that can – I wouldn’t necessarily say spy on him … but there should be base parts of your defense that you can go to where you have someone hovering around the quarterback. And you use that with different players that have mobility like that. If not, a quarterback just taking off can really hurt your defense in critical situations.”
One of the Buccaneers on the edge who will be challenged to contain and wrap up Griffin will be defensive end Michael Johnson. Dealing with his own spate of injuries throughout his first season in Tampa Bay, Johnson said the Bucs can’t afford to lose sight of Griffin’s movements for even a single down Sunday.
“He’s a very good player, very talented,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to do our best; it’s going to be a challenge. [He’s] probably one of the most elusive guys in the league, so we’re going to have our hands full.”
This is reality and I don’t see our Defense good enough to stop our opponent scoring 27 points; so the question is can our Offense score at least 28-30 points? Putting pressure on Griffin and containing him is a must; maybe he will make poor passing decisions. All I know is we have played against him twice before and he has beaten us. I’d just like to see continued improvement. Go Bus!
We have a dual threat QB too. A threat to fumble and a threat to throw an interception.
The only way we could score 30 points is if we have strip fumbles and INTs. Although RG3 is not the runner he was when he came into the league, with the gap integrity issue that has plagued the Bucs, I see his running contributing a number of first downs Sunday and possibly a breakaway of 20 plus yards.
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