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Griffin says offense 'close' but 'close doesn't do it'

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Griffin says offense 'close' but 'close doesn't do it'

The Robert Griffin III of 2012 was back for some of the game on Sunday night in Dallas. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there consistently enough or for long enough to keep the Washington Redskins from falling to the Cowboys 31-16 and dropping to 1-4 on the season.

The Redskins now trail the Cowboys and Eagles, both 3-3, in the NFC East. Griffin said that the team would keep fighting.

“There’s no quit in this team, period,” he said. “You’ll never see us go out there an quit. I tell it to the guys every single time we’re out there, ‘If you don’t want to be out here to win, don’t come.’”

Maybe it would have helped if Griffin could have played special teams. The Redskins allowed an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return that set up a 15-yard touchdown drive. Dwayne Harris made both of the killer returns. That kept the Cowboys in control of the game at a time when their offense was struggling.

Griffin started off well. On the Redskins’ first possession he completed four of five passes for 42 yards and ran twice for 22 yards. He was confident throwing the ball and cutting upfield on his running attempts. However, in what would become a familiar theme for the night, the drive stalled and the Redskins had to settle for a field goal.

But after that first drive Griffin was up and down. He finished the night with 19 completions on 39 attempts, a completion percentage of 48.7. In his 19 previous career games he had completed fewer than half of his passes just once (vs. Steelers last year). Griffin threw for 246 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

“We’re close on offense but close doesn’t do it in this league,” said Griffin.

As noted, Griffin did look much better running the ball. He ran nine times for 77 yards and on top of that he drew two 15-yard penalties when he was hit late scampering out of bounds.

In the Redskins’ first four games, Griffin ran for a total of 72 yards. In 2012 he ran for 820 yards (an average of 55 yards in his 15 games).

“I just think we had the opportunity [to run] and I took advantage of it,” said Griffin.

“You could see that he moved better, you could see that some of that speed was back,” said Mike Shanahan. “He made some big plays running the football.”

Despite the special teams problems, the Redskins and Griffin still had a chance to take the lead after Alfred Morris scampered 45 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter to pull Washington within five at 21-16. The much-maligned Redskins defense, which played pretty well all night, forced a three and out.

A 17-yard pass from Griffin to Leonard Hankerson got the Redskins into Dallas territory. Griffin ran for five yards to set up a first and 10 at the 30. But after a run for a loss of one and two incompletions, Kai Forbath missed a 49-yard field goal and that was the beginning of the end.

The Dallas offense came alive and drove to a field goal to put the home team up by eight.

Then, on second and 19 from the Washington 11, Griffin went back to pass. He looked through his progression but backup defensive end Kyle Wilber came up behind him and knocked the ball out of his hands. Wilber recovered the fumble at the three and Joseph Randle put the game out of reach with a one-yard touchdown run.

Griffin held the ball for a long time, too long according to Shanahan. “Once you get back there you have to get rid of that ball very quickly,” he said.

“I went through my reads, the pocket collapsed, got hit,” said Griffin. I tried to hold onto the ball and they just got it.”

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How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

The Redskins ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories in 2016, and the first and second round selections in the 2017 Draft should help to address that.

A huge part of the Washington defensive problems stemmed from an inability to get off the field on third downs, and Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should immediately provide a pass rush boost. In 2016, the duo combined for 18.5 sacks, 8.5 coming from Anderson and another 10 from Allen, two huge pieces for the excellent Alabama defense.

On the pro level, Anderson may actually be in position for more sacks as he's likely to play outside linebacker in the Redskins 3-4 scheme. Allen will be more of an interior presence, a natural fit for the 'Skins defensive end spot in the 3-4.

That doesn't mean the two won't compete to hit quarterbacks. 

Asked Saturday if there would be a bet between the two college teammates about who gets more sacks their rookie season, Anderson quickly responded, "definitely."

Though he was surprised by the bet, Allen wasn't going to back down from the challenge. (Full video above)

"I guess there is now, I didn't know about it 'til now," Allen said. 

As for the stakes of the bet, Allen said the pair of rookies will figure that out behind closed doors. 

"His bank account is a little longer than mine so we will have to figure something else out," Anderson said.

What's clear from hanging out with both players is their familiarity with one another will help both players transition to the NFL. Allen and Anderson said they had an emotional response when they learned they would continue to play together in Washington. 

"There's very few players that have better film or resume than this guy right here," Allen said of Anderson. 

Anderson, as the Redskins press group has quickly learned, has a certain way with words. Honest and funny, but to the point.

"I'm excited to have one of my dogs with me here," he said of Allen. 

The Redskins ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks in 2016, but will lose Trent Murphy for four games to start the year. Sacks are just one metric to measure defensive success, though an easily quantifiable and fun metric for fans.

Where Washington has to improve is on 3rd downs. In 2016, they allowed a confounding 97 third down conversions, good for 31st in the league. There's only 32 teams. What's worse? The 'Skins gave nine fourth down conversions too.

Regardless of sack totals, Allen and Anderson were brought to Washington to help this defense get off the field. Coming from the Crimson Tide, the two rookies seem up for the challenge. 

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?