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Need to Know: Plenty of variables in Redskins QB situation

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Need to Know: Plenty of variables in Redskins QB situation

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 230, four days before the Redskins host the Eagles.

Question of the day

There are a lot of variables in the quarterbacks situation, rendering any prediction on if a change would be made from a healthy Cousins to Griffin is at best a guess. But let’s see if we can plough through some of the factors that Jay Gruden would have to consider.

First, I’m not so sure it’s fair to say that Cousins is “playing poorly”. He is more in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories. Sure, he has throw four interceptions, more than Jay Gruden would like. But eight quarterbacks, a fourth of the starters in the league, have thrown four or more picks this year.

But for our purposes here where he stands in comparison to the rest of the league is not as important as where he stands on the team. Could Griffin protect the ball better? To isolate one game, Cousins has received a great deal of criticism for throwing those two interceptions against the Giants. But he was forced to throw 49 passes. Griffin has thrown 49 or more times in a game twice. He was picked off twice in one of them and once in the other.

The disappointing game in the Meadowlands was just one game. Let’s look at the Dolphins game, when things were going better than they were against New York. Cousins was intercepted twice in 31 pass attempts. Griffin has attempted between 30 and 32 passes five times in his career. He threw five interceptions in those games including a pair or two-interception games. So Griffin is capable of having a similarly disappointing outing if he throws a similar number of attempts.

Setting aside the turnovers and expanding the view to career numbers, Griffin is slightly more accurate than Cousins (career completion percentage 63.9 Griffin, 61.1 Cousins) and he has a somewhat higher average yards per attempt (Griffin 7.6, Cousins 7.3). But Griffin gets sacked far more often (Griffin 8.7% of dropbacks, Cousins 3.7%), negating any advantage that Griffin has when passing. When you factor in yards lost on sacks, the offense gains an average of 6.3 yards every time Griffin drops back to pass compared to 6.7 for Cousins.

So, at the moment, there really is no evidence that Griffin would necessarily produce better than Cousins if he was in at quarterback under the same circumstances. But, with a few more games like the one against the Giants, where Cousins not only had the interceptions but also missed open receivers (notably Jordan Reed twice in the end zone), Gruden could feel the need to make a QB switch.

But would the change be to Griffin? Let’s say the Redskins stumble to 1-5 under Cousins and are out of any realistic playoff contention. What would there be to gain by risking the $16 million option guarantee if Griffin was to get injured badly enough to be unable to pass a physical in March of next year?

I think that if the season is lost and a quarterback change is made, the player under center would be Colt McCoy. Not because he’s the second best quarterback on the team—he’s not, he’s third by a clear margin—but because the risk of using Griffin, given his high sack rate, is greater than the reward.

Have we necessarily seen the last of Griffin? No, there could be some scenarios where an injury while the Redskins are still in playoff contention could open the door for one more chance for RG3. And, as I noted at the top of the post here, there are a lot of variables in play and an organization that can be unpredictable in its action. So while logic says that the RG3 era is over in DC, the reality could be a different outcome.

Have a question you'd like me to answer? Hit me up on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN or at Facebook.com/RealRedskins.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:45; Jay Gruden, Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Falcons 11; Redskins @ Jets 18

In case you missed it

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Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

The Redskins will host Tim Hightower for a visit on Wednesday, ESPN's Mike Triplett reported. Bringing Hightower in at this point represents an impressive story far beyond a mundane free agent visit.  

If his career ended today, Tim Hightower's story would already be remarkable. Hightower - a DMV native that played his college ball at the University of Richmond - played for the Redskins in the 2011 season. That season, he tore his ACL, and was limited to five games.

While torn ACL's happen frequently in the NFL, what happened next for Hightower was anything but ordinary. He missed the next three seasons with an undiagnosed infection, before incredibly returning to the NFL in 2015 with the Saints. 

His last two years in New Orleans, Hightower has been a solid contributor behind starting RB Mark Ingram. He's rushed for more than 900 yards, gained another 330 yards through the air and hit the end zone nine times in 24 games for the Saints. 

In Washington, Hightower would join a backfield of Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown and Matt Jones. It will be interesting to see if Washington adds any other backs through the draft in April as well. 

Born in Waldorf, Hightower went to high school in Alexandria before playing college ball at Richmond. Playing with the 'Skins in 2011, Hightower quickly became a fan favorite, especially with his local ties. 

The Redskins run game has not been particularly strong for a few seasons, and questions remain if the current stable of runners will be enough to improve. Hightower doesn't necesarily equal a significant talent boost, but perhaps coaches and front office staff are looking at the group.

Be aware, however, this could be nothing more than a visit. Triplett reported it remains possible Hightower returns to the Saints. He also visited the 49ers last week, and new San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was running the 'Skins offense in 2011 when the team originally acquired Hightower.

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Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 36 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Isaiah Ford

Wide receiver
Virginia Tech

Height: 6-1
Weight: 194
40-yard dash: 4.61

Projected draft round: 3-4

What they’re saying

Ford looks the part of a speed merchant with a tight-skinned, athletic frame, including long limbs. He glides off the line of scrimmage, accelerating fluidly to force defenders to respect his ability to go deep and shows very good balance to sink his hips, as well as burst out of his breaks to create separation. Ford shows the initial quickness and lateral agility to avoid defenders in press coverage, occasionally mixing in a hesitation move to get opponents off-balance. He is willing to run across the middle and cut back inside on quick screens, showing the toughness to absorb big hits and still hang on to the ball. Ford was asked to play outside as well as in the slot

Rob Rang, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: The top of the Redskins’ depth chart at wide receiver looks good with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor. But depth is a concern, especially with Doctson’s durability a question mark. On top of that, Pryor is there on a one-year contract so there must be some succession planning at the position.

Ford was a very productive receiver at Virginia Tech, the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He has the knack for making the sensational catch and he isn’t afraid to go across the middle.

At 6-1 he has the height that seems to be the trend on the Redskins’ wide receiver corps lately. Ford could be a good mid-round pick for the team to develop in 2017 and be ready to be a full contributor in 2018.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs. Pitt

Ford is not afraid to run slants over the middle and is willing to cut back to the center of the field after catching bubble screens.

His run blocking ranged from unimpressive to bad with the caveat that it’s hard to evaluate on the TV camera angles. This is an area that can be improved with NFL coaching. Adding a few pounds to his 194-lb. frame could help, too. It also sometimes appears that he could use more bulk to help him use his height when fighting for a ball.

The good and the bad of Ford was on display in the span of a few minutes during the Pitt game. He made a spectacular catch on a tipped ball that bounced off of both him and the defensive back (view here) while they were on the ground. Ford had the awareness to scoop the ball off the chest of the defender and secure it to make the catch. A little while later he was in a great position to made a catch for a first down but he bobbled the ball as he was falling out of bounds (view here) and the pass was incomplete.

In the games I reviewed Ford showed a good knack to make back shoulder catches, something the Redskins don’t seem to like to try. But the ability is there if they draft him and want to try it.

Potential issues: Ford looks skinny, almost fragile, at 194 pounds. If he does add weight he needs to do so without losing much speed. He ran a 4.61 in the 40 at the combine. Against college defensive backs he looks fast enough but that will be a different story in the NFL.

Bottom line: The Redskins can’t go into the season with a very green Maurice Harris and a very pedestrian Ryan Grant as their backup wide receivers. They need a player who can provide depth in 2017 and be able to step up to have a legitimate shot at starting in 2018.

There will be several prospects in the third- and fourth- round range who could be the guy. If the Redskins think that Ford can add a few pounds without sacrificing speed and brush up on his run blocking a bit, they could take a serious look at him.

In his own words:

On how the coaching change from Frank Beamer to Justin Fuente helped him:

I think it simplified everything for us. It limited the amount of routes that I ran - slants, outs, fades and posts; my first two years, I was running digs, post curls, comebacks, things like that - that was fine. I'm comfortable doing both. The route-running was never a problem for me because I feel that's what I do best. Being able to play primarily 'X' last year, winning those 50-50 balls and running those routes, it helped me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.