If a team is going to prepare for Robert Griffin III, ideally they do it in Week 1 when they have a full offseason to prepare or they face the Washington Redskins after their bye week, so they coaching staff has a full two weeks to prepare for the onslaught that is coming.
The Vikings have four days.
Often times, preparing for an opponent can include several similar themes. Say, for example, the Vikings were facing the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys in back-to-back games, many of the same components of a defensive game plan would be in place. Neither of their quarterbacks are scramblers and both teams like to deliver the ball in the intermediate to deep passing zone. The scheme would be different, but many aspects would be the same.
But the difference between the Cowboys and the Redskins? It's like the difference between summer and winter.
"It's completely different," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "To prepare for option football on a short week, it's completely different. They (the Redskins) ran for 209 yards a few days ago. (There's) not much comparison for these styles of offenses."
At the center of that preparation is Robert Griffin III. The Vikings played Washington last October and Griffin showed why he is one of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the NFL. He was a killer with his arm and his legs, completing 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown and ran 13 times for 138 yards and two TDs, including a back-breaking 77-yard touchdown run that sealed the 38-26 win for the Redskins.
The Vikings haven't forgotten that game and Jared Allen knows that he and fellow defensive end Brian Robison will be critical to the success or lack of success the Vikings have in their second matchup with RG3.
"We've got to be good," Allen said. "Anytime you play the option, everyone's got to play their responsibility. It's one of those things where you can't try to do too much. If you have to tackle the dive, tackle the dive. If you can read it and you can help on another play, great. But you have to be responsibility sound."
The problems that Griffin presents are dissimilar to just about any other quarterback in the league. He may be the fastest player on the field Thursday night, and considering every snap the Redskins take starts with the ball in his hands, he can do damage – whether it's running the ball, pretending he's running the ball, handing it off to Alfred Morris or Roy Helu or throwing to an impressive cadre of receivers. The Redskins have multiple options, but it starts with RG3 and Allen knows the Vikings need to go after him hard to prevent him from being able to mix and match his play-calling and dictate the pace of the game.
"He's a fast dude, he's mobile," Allen said. "They've got great play-action, so it's going to be important for us to be successful on first and second down. That's where we were able to do a better job last week, as far as our third-down percentage getting better. We were much more successful on first and second down and forcing them into third-and-long. We've got to do that this week. They have a great running game. It's fantastic. The play-action game is tough off of it. We've got our hands full this week. You've just got to go out there, play hard and assignment-sound and see what happens."
Early in the season, there were questions as to whether RG3 was the same player coming off of knee surgery for a torn ACL and MCL like Adrian Peterson had suffered the year before. Much like Peterson, the verdict wasn't in after four games. In those games, he ran just 18 times for 72 yards. In the last four games, he has rushed 31 times for 185. The old explosiveness is back and that hasn't been lost on the Vikings.
"I saw him running all over against Chicago on film," Allen said. "You've got to force him into situations where they can't have their playbook open, where you're in second- and third-and-short trying to decipher read-option versus play-action. That's going to be a long day for us. You've got to get him into situations where you force him into being one-dimensional and we have a chance to be successful."
The Redskins were cautious in unleashing Griffin, just as the Vikings took their time in letting A.P. cut loose. If you watch film of the Redskins against the Packers or Lions, you see a much different QB than the one who carved up Dallas and Chicago. Like the Vikings, the Redskins didn't open up the playbook early, but all that has changed.
"They had been (conservative) earlier, but now you can see they've gone back to what they did a season ago and had success," Frazier said. "That's in large part due to the quarterback seeming to be more confident in what he's doing and the coaches calling plays they ran a year ago. It seems they're becoming that offense again."
The first time the Vikings saw RG3, it was a showcase statement game for the rookie QB. In his second year, he's hoping the sequel will be just as dynamic. The Vikings will be hard-pressed to stymie a quarterback who is hitting his stride at about the same point in the season when Peterson started making believers out of skeptics.
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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