There was a lot of speculation coming off the Monday night game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys that the Redskins might err on the side of caution and let Colt McCoy make another start before the team’s bye week following the game with the Vikings on Sunday in order to give Robert Griffin III two more weeks to heal from the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2 against Jacksonville that has sidelined him since.
But news leaked out Tuesday that Griffin will start Sunday and it appears all systems are go for RG3 to make his return to the lineup against the Vikings.
Vikings defensive lineman Linval Joseph has plenty of experience with Griffin. Joseph went up against Griffin twice a year when he was with the New York Giants. Some games went well, some went horribly. It’s the two faces of RG3. You never know what you’re going get and, when he’s on, he is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league.
“He’s a nightmare,” Joseph said. “He can throw the ball downfield very well. He’s very athletic, very fast, very smart. Those are things you have to prepare for. But, on a good note, he hasn’t been playing, so he’s trying to get back in the swing of things. That gives us another chance to be disruptive.”
The biggest problem Griffin represents is that he has sprinter’s speed for a quarterback. It may sound crazy, but sometimes the worst thing that can happen for a defense is the collapse the pocket in the middle because Griffin has excellent improvisation skills. If he escapes the initial pass rush, he is extremely dangerous in the open field.
“We just have to contain him,” Joseph said. “You’ve got to able to contain rush. Everybody has to be on the same page. If you push him up the middle and he’s able to get to the outside, he’s dangerous passing and running the ball.”
The key to containing RG3 is to keep him in the pocket. When asked to simply drop back and throw, Griffin can be a pedestrian quarterback. But when he has the luxury of moving around, he is doubly dangerous and it’s difficult to come up with a plan of attack to stop that.
The Vikings are looking to keep Griffin uncomfortable and trapped in the pocket. As the Vikings know all too well from Griffin’s rookie season when he was close to being sacked, escaped and ran 80 yards for a touchdown, the big plays are always possible but not something they can prepare for in practice when the pocket collapses.
“You can’t really scheme for that,” Joseph said. “You have to stick to your keys and stick to the game plan. You can’t see one thing and try to jump for it.”
The onus will be on defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffin not to allow him to have escape lanes. The front four has to work as a cohesive unit to keep RG3 under wraps because he has the ability to make a game-changing play every time he has his hands on the ball.
“He’s a special quarterback,” Griffen said. “He can run, so you have to treat him like an extra running back. We’ve just got to hit him. You’ve got to hit every quarterback you go up against. You’ve got to keep him in the pocket. He likes to hold on to the ball a little more than McCoy. We’ve just got to go back there, do our job, be in the right place at the right time and we can win this game.”
The rust factor will be something that will also be an unknown. Griffin is in a new offensive system and hasn’t played since Sept. 14 – a long time has passed since then and his Nov. 2 return. Joseph believes the Vikings defense will have to get after him early in the game and keep him second-guessing himself because, if he finds his comfort zone, his return to the lineup could be impressive.
“For a guy who hasn’t played since Week 2, you want to get on him fast,” Joseph said. “You want to put pressure on him. You don’t want him to feel comfortable. We know what he can do when he’s comfortable, so hopefully we can stay on top of him.”
Earlier in the week, there was speculation that Griffin might be held out one more game as a way of protecting his long-term future. Last year, he was rushed back too soon from a significant injury and didn’t seem like the same quarterback who looked to have the “it factor” as rookie in 2012 when he led the Redskins to the playoffs.
So which RG3 are the Vikings going to see Sunday? As Joseph sees it, it’s anyone’s guess because the Vikings simply aren’t sure if he will need time to shake off the rust or if he will be lights-out from the outset.
“That’s the key,” Joseph said. “I really don’t know. We all don’t know. Hopefully, he will be rusty, but you just never know what will happen. He could come out and be better than he was from (Week 1). He’s had five weeks to get back strong and mentally learn the game. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Joseph knows RG3 can be a ‘nightmare’
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