Last March and April when we were all scrutinizing Robert Griffin III’s 40-yard dash time and perhaps even coming to the conclusion that he may not be as confident as, say, Ryan Tannehill due to the latter’s model wife — because that’s a thing which is actually used to measure such intangibles which cannot be measured –there was an easy, sometimes lazy comparison which percolated, and would never die.
Robert Griffin III was Michael Vick, we all said. That’s because every quarterback who can run and be evasive with his legs was once injected with the Michael Vick gene at birth, something team scientists have been brewing and perfecting for years. Cam Newton is also Vick, and so is every even moderately mobile quarterback who has a good run once every week or two, and therefore they looked like Vick on said play.
In short, we are all Michael Vick if we’ve ever sprinted with a football.
However, as tiresome as it was and still is, with Griffin the comparison seems a little more appropriate, or at least much more so than it is with Newton, who has a vastly different body type. Both Griffin and Vick have actual cannons embedded in their throwing arms, they’re both really, really
ridiculously good looking fast, and they have very similar builds. Griffin is 6’2″ and 217 pounds, while Vick is 6’0″ and 215 pounds.
And it’s that latter similarity which is causing some legitimate concern around Griffin as he continues to get crushed. But unlike Vick — who’s been sacked nine times through three games, five of which came last week — the hits Griffin is sustaining aren’t a product of his status as the victim behind a weak offensive line. No, Griffin is being exposed to his repeated whackings as part of the Redskins’ option offense, and his vulnerability in that system is becoming a growing worry for his fantasy owners.
Griffin has quickly ascended to become a prized fantasy commodity. In Yahoo leagues his 89 points puts him in first among quarterbacks, and he’s significantly ahead of elite names like Tom Brady (58 points) and Aaron Rodgers (49). He’s also leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards, which certainly isn’t a surprising development, but the gap between first and second is much wider than expected. Griffin has 209 rushing yards (a pace of 69.6 per game), while Vick and Cam Newton trail with 81 apiece.
That’s where the problem arises, as RG3′s greatest strength and the Redskins’ eagerness to heavily utilize the unique tool he brings to their offense could be his undoing.
Through three games Griffin leads the league in rushing attempts by a quarterback with 32, which gives him a decent lead over the two who are predictably behind him: Newton at 24, and Vick at 21. But then there’s a massive drop to Russell Wilson — who’s also very mobile but is used differently — at just 15. Actually, that gap is more than just massive, and it’s likely unsustainable. As the D.C. Sports Bog noted earlier this week, Griffin has 33 percent more carries than any other QB in the league, and over 140 percent more than any QB not named Vick or Newton.
The result, of course, has been both success, but also physical chaos and Sunday afternoons spent staring at a pleasant blue sky. Take Week 3, for example, a game when the Redskins scored 21 second-half points and lost only narrowly to Cincinnati after trailing 24-10 at halftime, and they did it by reverting to what works, and running the option. It may have resulted in a comeback, but it also exposed Griffin, and led to six sacks.
Sacks are never the true measure of pressure, though, because they only account for how often a quarterback is tackled while he’s holding the ball. The true gauge of the danger is how many times Griffin has gone to the ground due to contact, and that number is at 54 already, according to Rich Campbell of the Washington Times. His pace is then set at 18 per game, although Campbell also notes that he was significantly ahead of that average against the Bengals, going down 28 times with contact, and 11 of those hits came on designed runs.
That’s a troubling contact rate for a quarterback who’s looking like he’s much more Vick than Vick in one very important area, and the only one that matters to you: his ability to win you money/bragging rights/alcoholic beverages. What’s even more concerning is that, inherently like any rookie, Griffin is learning, and specifically learning how to properly execute the option at the pro level. With this acquired skill, learning ends in pain, and often very unnecessary pain according to ‘Skins head coach Mike Shanahan.
From CSN Washington:
“If you’re going to carry out your options at this level, they are going to smack you pretty good,” Shanahan said. “There were probably seven or eight hits in that game that he didn’t have to take at all. He’s going to get better and better at that. One thing we want to make sure of, is that he stays healthy. That’s one thing about the option, you have a chance, really, not to take a lot of hits. We looked at that film and we’ll see how it goes.”
We have no idea if Griffin will break, but the risk of breakage and his vulnerability are dramatically increasing with the amount of exposure he’s receiving in the Redskins’ offense, and his lack of experience dealing with that exposure. It all leads to a helpless feeling, especially for those in keeper leagues who are hoping Griffin emulates Vick’s rushing, but not his string-bone level brittleness after the Eagles quarterback left two preseason games with different injuries.
Stay hopeful, bros, but soon that brittleness could become reality, with owning Griffin then coming with the same risk/reward balance that Vick ownership offers and taunts you with.