It’s not debatable.
Space Jam is one of the greatest sports movies ever made. Hear me out, here. Remember the part where the little aliens steal the talents of star players such as Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing? They absorbed all of their talent into a basketball, and when they touched the ball, they grew into gigantic, monstrous aliens who could dominate on the court.
Well, through three weeks, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is looking like an alien stole his talent.
As someone who loves RG3 as not only a player, but a person as well, it frustrates me to see Griffin struggle like this. Keep in mind that I don’t own him in any leagues, so the frustration has nothing to do with fantasy. However, many people do own him, and many people are also becoming very impatient and confused. Griffin is sporting a quarterback rating of 84.1, 975 yards and five touchdowns on the year thus far, which isn’t bad by any means, but after throwing just five interceptions in all of 2012, he already has four through three games. As of right now, he’s still ranked as a top-10 fantasy signal caller with just over 65 points through three games, but owners were expecting more. Is it the ACL? Is it a sophomore slump? What is it?
I tried to dig into why RG3 hasn’t looked exactly like himself.
When you looked at the 2012 Redskins, the first thing that came to mind was the run game. Last year, Washington was the number one rushing offense in all of football, averaging 169.3 yards per contest. They also finished with the third most rushing attempts in football with 519. Despite the stellar play of RG3, it was the running game that lead this team to an NFC East title and playoff berth. 6th round draft pick Alfred Morris may have been even more impressive than RG3, rushing for over 1,600 yards and a whopping 13 scores. The Redskins were aware of their identity, as Morris averaged almost 21 carries per game. The offense pounded the rock constantly, and when opposing defenses cheated, Griffin sold the play-action pass so perfectly, and would hit one his wideouts with a bomb downfield. Washington’s offense had balance, and was extremely difficult to stop.
Fast forward to 2013 and this offense looks like they lost their identity.
Through the first three games, the Redskins are throwing the ball a lot more than they are running. Morris is averaging slightly over 13 carries per contest, while RG3 ranks third in passing attempts (139) on the year. Last year, he only threw the ball 393 total times, so he is clearly on pace to surpass that total… and then some. Of course, Washington’s poor defense has them trailing in all of their games, which forces Griffin to throw the ball more than he should in catch-up mode, but still, Washington is shying away from their original style of play far too easily. The Redskins currently rank as the worst defense in all of football, allowing 488 yards per game. That’s just bonkers. Many fantasy owners may actually enjoy the fact that the Redskins defense is struggling because RG3 will get a bunch of garbage time points, which he already has. However, it’s worth monitoring that his struggles aren’t all exactly his fault, he hasn’t quite looked like the RG3 of last year either.
If you have watched all three of his games, you’d easily notice that Griffin looks almost lost out on the field. During the first game of the season, he appeared very shaky, almost hesitant to put all of his body into his throws. Perhaps it was nerves, or perhaps he was afraid to use all of his force after his ACL injury, but RG3 didn’t look as accurate as usual. He posted a poor completion percentage of 61.2 percent in that contest (fourth-lowest of career) and missed throws that he typically would make. It got a little better in Week 2, as he completed over 65 percent of his passes and scored three touchdowns against the Packers, but most of it was during garbage time. However, he wasn’t as aggressive with his running ability, which was one of the reasons why he was so unstoppable last season. On Sunday, he made some very poor decisions with his throws, including an interception he threw when he was being chased, and instead of throwing it away, he tried to squeeze it down the sideline. He did, however, run the ball six times (the most all season), but lost a fumble. All in all, has Griffin looked like the sensational rookie from a year ago? Of course not. He’s made some pretty poor reads, is trying to force passes and doesn’t seem as aggressive under center. However, fantasy owners should still feel strong about having him as their starting quarterback.
Sure, the title of this piece is “What’s Wrong With Robert Griffin III?”, but I’ll admit that while he is struggling, it’s the Redskins as a unit that are the disappointment. Through three games, they have allowed the most yards in NFL history during that span (1,464), according to ESPN Stats & Information, the playcalling hasn’t been suited for this offense, and like I said, the identity isn’t there. From a fantasy perspective, Griffin has clearly shown that despite being a bit off, he can still give you fantasy production. And I’m not trying to be greedy, but I think we can all agree that RG3 can do a lot more than this. He can sling the ball to any part of the field. He can break 60-yard runs at any time. He can take over games and play like the star he is. Fantasy owners may take the 21.7 fantasy points per contest, but whether or not they want to admit it, they were expecting more.
I think it’s only a matter of time before Griffin begins to settle in and return to his former self.
It’s still early, after all.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.