Vikings' back seven faces RG3 balancing act

The Vikings have been preparing all week for the different threats QB Robert Griffin III poses. Will he run the option, scramble for yardage or use his arm? The defenders talked about their approach.

Most of the discussion surrounding the Washington Redskins this weekend will be centered on Robert Griffin III, their dynamic rookie quarterback. While the Vikings claim that they won't change what they do, their words tell a different story.

"He's a very good quarterback," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "You've got to treat him like a running back. He can get the ball, bring it down and run at any time. We just contain him, stay to our assignments and just trust one another."

Griffin creates problems for all three levels of the defense. His ability to extend plays will test defensive backs in coverage. If he can keep a play alive for an extra couple of seconds, it can be the difference between a sack and a long completion.

"Any time you face a mobile quarterback, you know you have to plaster receivers and continue to fight," cornerback Josh Robinson said. "It takes more than the three seconds (on a typical pass play) and you have to continue to fight and keep your man from getting open."

The Vikings have done their best in practice to try to replicate the things that Griffin can do. That job has fallen on backup QB Joe Webb, who has been designated to play the role of Griffin for the Vikings defense to get some practice trying to contain.

"I will do my best job to try to simulate RG3 and try to get our defense ready," Webb said. "He's a great player. He has great throwing skills and great running skills. He's just a great player. I love watching his game."

What makes Griffin so dangerous to a defense is that he is not only an electrifying runner, but an incredibly gifted passer with the ability to deliver long passes to the sidelines with deadly accuracy. He's much more than just a running threat and the Vikings were preparing for what he can do with his arm as well as his feet.

"He is definitely a dual threat," linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. "He can stand back in the pocket and make every throw that a quarterback is asked to make. Any time a quarterback can do all those things, you know you're going to have your hands full. You've got to be right."

Some teams have taken the approach of putting a spy on Griffin – designating a player (typically a linebacker) to mirror his movements on the other side of the line so as to take away his ability to scramble for big yardage. The Vikings have no intention of using that tactic.

"That's not how we play our defense," Chad Greenway said. "Some teams use a spy on him, but we see that as changing what we do for one player. He's a dangerous threat when he gets in the open, but our focus is going to be to keep him in the pocket with pressure and not take a guy out of the defense expecting that he might run. That doesn't work – at least it doesn't work for us."

Safety Harrison Smith agreed. As the likely eighth man in the box on running plays, he said the coaching staff has been drilling players not to be overly concerned with Griffin's running ability. If they get too concerned over that aspect of his game, he can make the big plays that can change a game for the worse.

"If you let it get to you and think, ‘He might take off running, I have to get down there,' that's where you make your mistakes," Smith said. "You just have got to stay in coverage, know what your job is and execute your job. When you start trying to do other people's job is when you can come down and they'll hit you with a bomb over your head."

After suffering a concussion last week against Atlanta, the hope is that the Redskins will quit asking Griffin to run option plays. He's simply too valuable to risk further injury. However, the Vikings are ready, willing and able to bring the hammer down on Griffin if he does decide to run. For a defense building a reputation of being physical and aggressive, they're talking tough. Their plan is to bring the heat on RG3 all day and, if he decides to run, he will have to learn that there is a price to pay for doing so.

"I'm pretty sure that, with our defense, somebody is going to come free," Brinkley said. "Somebody is going to have the opportunity to hit him. They're running the option. He has to be ready to get hit. That's one of the perks (for us) of running the option."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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