3 & out: RG3 battered, Gruden shouldn't be

Three takeaways from the Redskins' 21-17 over the Lions including the decision to keep QB Robert Griffin III in the game and the offense's clear identity.

LANDOVER -- Three thoughts following the Washington Redskins 21-17 win over the Detroit Lions Thursday night.

* Robert Griffin III wasn't the only one facing criticism over the last week. Sure, Jay Gruden wasn't put through the media spin cycle like his starting quarterback, but plenty of fans and analysts, me included, were frustrated that Griffin played so little in the preseason opener at Cleveland. If we're going to say losing valuable practice time due to fighting is wasteful, then in-game snaps are precious.

In Thursday's win, the coach stuck with his starting quarterback for four drives, including the first one of the second quarter.

As far as Griffin's health, it was one too many. Playing behind an offensive line that labored without starting left tackle Trent Williams, RG3 suffered a concussion and a shoulder stinger after taking the last of numerous hits.

No wonder the decision to stay with his starting quarterback led to some raised eyebrows and loud criticism of the coach postgame.

We won't be doing that here.

No doubt, Griffin took a beating. That's one of the possibilities when playing football.

No doubt, at times his blockers didn't do their job. Credit RG3 for hanging in the pocket as often as he did.

Now an uncertain timetable exists. Gruden said postgame he "would imagine, depending how long" Griffin is out, "he's still going to be our starter."

Williams, who suffered a right foot sprain during practice, watched from the sideline as Griffin was hit on six of eight dropbacks.

"It definitely makes you cringe, "Williams said of watching all the blows Griffin endured.

However, are we ignoring the fact that Griffin's primary deficiency is holding onto the ball too long? Are we forgetting that RG3 took sacks at a historic pace last season?

Did the offensive line let him down? They certainly were overmatched.

In the context of whether to play or sit Griffin, I'm not sure it matters.

The bottom line is Griffin needs reps, period. Nobody took the other side of this argument over the last week. The first team offense still hasn't generated a touchdown. Yes, Pierre Garcon dropped a sure score against the Browns. No such obvious mistake this week.

“We weren’t doing that well on offense," Gruden said when asked about keeping Griffin in for a fourth possession. "I wanted to get something going on offense. A lot of quarterbacks play into the second quarter in a pre-season game.

"Football is a tough sport. We wanted to get something going offensively. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”

Playing without Williams weakens the line, but the other starters were in the game. (By the way, Williams told me postgame he would have played if a regular season game.) Also, the Lions played without starters, including Haloti Ngata.

Rookie right guard Brandon Scherff struggled at times. Ideally, he and right tackle Morgan Moses fix their woes and turn into Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby by Week 1. If not, then Griffin must deal with facing a pass rush. Improving on his ability to handle such pressure won't happen watching.

While acknowledging he needed to watch film for a full evaluation, Gruden said Griffin was "startled" when a Detroit defender bull-rushed Scherff during the opening drive. The QB is hit regardless on the play, but perhaps he still could have made a play.

Unless Griffin's concussion or shoulder pain occurred earlier in the game, there was no on-field reason for sitting him. He needed the work and the offense needed more reps with him if the team insists he starts over Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.

If that's Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck or Carson Palmer getting slammed repeatedly, they're exit comes sooner. We're talking about proven commodities. At this point, Griffin is not that. He might think he's Washington's best QB. The true reality is that the answer isn't so obvious, especially after another game where the offense looked crisper under backups Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins. Yes, they faced backup defenses, but also played behind the backup OL.

If playing behind this starting offensive line spooked Griffin, then the Redskins might have a bigger problem than a spotty offensive line: A spooked starting quarterback.

* Adam Hayward reportedly suffered an ACL injury. Gruden hinted as much, but did not confirm. On the depth chart, Hayward is an inside linebacker, but the veteran's real value comes on special teams, the unit he captains. Washington already lost tight end Niles Paul, another positive special teams presence. Adding Hayward to the list would be "a big blow for special teams and leadership," Gruden said. Final roster decisions often come down to which players can help in the return and coverage aspects of the game. That might go triple for this season.

* The Redskins rushed for 179 yards on 40 carries. That's a healthy 4.5 yards per carry clip. Yes, let's not the caveat of this being the preseason. For that matter, backup Matt Jones (8-44), Chris Thompson (5-37) and Trey Williams (10-52) generated the bulk of their work against Detroit's second and third string defenders. The point here is that running the ball will become Washington's identity this season. Alfred Morris (3-10) is the established option. By the looks of things, there are versatile options behind him, led by the power-packed Jones. Thompson adds a shifty, breakaway element. Same for Williams, who is likely on the roster bubble. Versatile fullback Darrel Young helps the cause.

We know about the quarterback concerns, but running the ball helps take the pressure off the passers. We know about the offensive line fears, especially with the youthful right side, but this group looks better run blocking than pass protecting. We know about the tight end injuries. Using offensive tackle Tom Compton in that spot, as they did against the Lions, takes away a potential target. It also adds a sixth offensive lineman; Compton lined up to the right of tackle Morgan Moses and helped open a hole on Morris's 10-yard run.

Suggesting that the Redskins can run their way to the playoffs is overly simplistic. With their concerns elsewhere offensively, keeping it simple makes plenty of sense right now. That means running the ball early and often. With Morris, Jones, Thompson and perhaps Williams, the Redskins appear to have the options needed for such a plan.


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories

\r\n\r\n

This is what Griffin wants to see (Grant) but it's too late. This is his problem with anticipation. pic.twitter.com/NLf53ju3i1

— Paul Conner (@P_Hazard) August 21, 2015
\r\n\r\n

Unless Griffin's concussion or shoulder pain occurred earlier in the game, there was no on-field reason for sitting him. He needed the work and the offense needed more reps with him if the team insists he starts over Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. \r\n

If that's Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck or Carson Palmer getting slammed repeatedly, they're exit comes sooner. We're talking about proven commodities. At this point, Griffin is not that. He might think he's Washington's best QB. The true reality is that the answer isn't so obvious, especially after another game where the offense looked crisper under backups Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins. Yes, they faced backup defenses, but also played behind the backup OL.\r\n\r\n

If playing behind this starting offensive line spooked Griffin, then the Redskins might have a bigger problem than a spotty offensive line: A spooked starting quarterback.\r\n\r\n

* Adam Hayward reportedly suffered an ACL injury. Gruden hinted as much, but did not confirm. On the depth chart, Hayward is an inside linebacker, but the veteran's real value comes on special teams, the unit he captains. Washington already lost tight end Niles Paul, another positive special teams presence. Adding Hayward to the list would be \"a big blow for special teams and leadership,\" Gruden said. Final roster decisions often come down to which players can help in the return and coverage aspects of the game. That might go triple for this season. \r\n

* The Redskins rushed for 179 yards on 40 carries. That's a healthy 4.5 yards per carry clip. Yes, let's not the caveat of this being the preseason. For that matter, backup Matt Jones (8-44), Chris Thompson (5-37) and Trey Williams (10-52) generated the bulk of their work against Detroit's second and third string defenders. The point here is that running the ball will become Washington's identity this season. Alfred Morris (3-10) is the established option. By the looks of things, there are versatile options behind him, led by the power-packed Jones. Thompson adds a shifty, breakaway element. Same for Williams, who is likely on the roster bubble. Versatile fullback Darrel Young helps the cause.

\r\n\r\n

We know about the quarterback concerns, but running the ball helps take the pressure off the passers. We know about the offensive line fears, especially with the youthful right side, but this group looks better run blocking than pass protecting. We know about the tight end injuries. Using offensive tackle Tom Compton in that spot, as they did against the Lions, takes away a potential target. It also adds a sixth offensive lineman; Compton lined up to the right of tackle Morgan Moses and helped open a hole on Morris's 10-yard run.

\r\n\r\n

Suggesting that the Redskins can run their way to the playoffs is overly simplistic. With their concerns elsewhere offensively, keeping it simple makes plenty of sense right now. That means running the ball early and often. With Morris, Jones, Thompson and perhaps Williams, the Redskins appear to have the options needed for such a plan.

\r\n","mobileBody":"

LANDOVER -- Three thoughts following the Washington Redskins 21-17 win over the Detroit Lions Thursday night.

* Robert Griffin III wasn't the only one facing criticism over the last week. Sure, Jay Gruden wasn't put through the media spin cycle like his starting quarterback, but plenty of fans and analysts, me included, were frustrated that Griffin played so little in the preseason opener at Cleveland. If we're going to say losing valuable practice time due to fighting is wasteful, then in-game snaps are precious.

In Thursday's win, the coach stuck with his starting quarterback for four drives, including the first one of the second quarter.

As far as Griffin's health, it was one too many. Playing behind an offensive line that labored without starting left tackle Trent Williams, RG3 suffered a concussion and a shoulder stinger after taking the last of numerous hits.

No wonder the decision to stay with his starting quarterback led to some raised eyebrows and loud criticism of the coach postgame.

We won't be doing that here.

No doubt, Griffin took a beating. That's one of the possibilities when playing football.

No doubt, at times his blockers didn't do their job. Credit RG3 for hanging in the pocket as often as he did.

Now an uncertain timetable exists. Gruden said postgame he \"would imagine, depending how long\" Griffin is out, \"he's still going to be our starter.\"

Williams, who suffered a right foot sprain during practice, watched from the sideline as Griffin was hit on six of eight dropbacks.

\"It definitely makes you cringe, \"Williams said of watching all the blows Griffin endured.

However, are we ignoring the fact that Griffin's primary deficiency is holding onto the ball too long? Are we forgetting that RG3 took sacks at a historic pace last season?

Did the offensive line let him down? They certainly were overmatched.

In the context of whether to play or sit Griffin, I'm not sure it matters.

The bottom line is Griffin needs reps, period. Nobody took the other side of this argument over the last week. The first team offense still hasn't generated a touchdown. Yes, Pierre Garcon dropped a sure score against the Browns. No such obvious mistake this week.

“We weren’t doing that well on offense,\" Gruden said when asked about keeping Griffin in for a fourth possession. \"I wanted to get something going on offense. A lot of quarterbacks play into the second quarter in a pre-season game.

\"Football is a tough sport. We wanted to get something going offensively. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”

Playing without Williams weakens the line, but the other starters were in the game. (By the way, Williams told me postgame he would have played if a regular season game.) Also, the Lions played without starters, including Haloti Ngata.

Rookie right guard Brandon Scherff struggled at times. Ideally, he and right tackle Morgan Moses fix their woes and turn into Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby by Week 1. If not, then Griffin must deal with facing a pass rush. Improving on his ability to handle such pressure won't happen watching.

While acknowledging he needed to watch film for a full evaluation, Gruden said Griffin was \"startled\" when a Detroit defender bull-rushed Scherff during the opening drive. The QB is hit regardless on the play, but perhaps he still could have made a play.

Starting to watch the tape now. Yes, Scherff was beaten like a drum on 1st sack (not shocking at all) but Rob had Grant open out of break.

— Chris Russell (@Russellmania621) August 21, 2015

This is what Griffin wants to see (Grant) but it's too late. This is his problem with anticipation. pic.twitter.com/NLf53ju3i1

— Paul Conner (@P_Hazard) August 21, 2015

Unless Griffin's concussion or shoulder pain occurred earlier in the game, there was no on-field reason for sitting him. He needed the work and the offense needed more reps with him if the team insists he starts over Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.

If that's Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck or Carson Palmer getting slammed repeatedly, they're exit comes sooner. We're talking about proven commodities. At this point, Griffin is not that. He might think he's Washington's best QB. The true reality is that the answer isn't so obvious, especially after another game where the offense looked crisper under backups Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins. Yes, they faced backup defenses, but also played behind the backup OL.

If playing behind this starting offensive line spooked Griffin, then the Redskins might have a bigger problem than a spotty offensive line: A spooked starting quarterback.

* Adam Hayward reportedly suffered an ACL injury. Gruden hinted as much, but did not confirm. On the depth chart, Hayward is an inside linebacker, but the veteran's real value comes on special teams, the unit he captains. Washington already lost tight end Niles Paul, another positive special teams presence. Adding Hayward to the list would be \"a big blow for special teams and leadership,\" Gruden said. Final roster decisions often come down to which players can help in the return and coverage aspects of the game. That might go triple for this season.

* The Redskins rushed for 179 yards on 40 carries. That's a healthy 4.5 yards per carry clip. Yes, let's not the caveat of this being the preseason. For that matter, backup Matt Jones (8-44), Chris Thompson (5-37) and Trey Williams (10-52) generated the bulk of their work against Detroit's second and third string defenders. The point here is that running the ball will become Washington's identity this season. Alfred Morris (3-10) is the established option. By the looks of things, there are versatile options behind him, led by the power-packed Jones. Thompson adds a shifty, breakaway element. Same for Williams, who is likely on the roster bubble. Versatile fullback Darrel Young helps the cause.

We know about the quarterback concerns, but running the ball helps take the pressure off the passers. We know about the offensive line fears, especially with the youthful right side, but this group looks better run blocking than pass protecting. We know about the tight end injuries. Using offensive tackle Tom Compton in that spot, as they did against the Lions, takes away a potential target. It also adds a sixth offensive lineman; Compton lined up to the right of tackle Morgan Moses and helped open a hole on Morris's 10-yard run.

Suggesting that the Redskins can run their way to the playoffs is overly simplistic. With their concerns elsewhere offensively, keeping it simple makes plenty of sense right now. That means running the ball early and often. With Morris, Jones, Thompson and perhaps Williams, the Redskins appear to have the options needed for such a plan.

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