Five Plays and the Draft – Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl.

Following on from the Luck piece posted earlier today, it’s now time to shift the focus to Robert Griffin III. While I personally believe that Luck is a cast-iron certainty to be selected by the Colts at #1, there’s no harm in examining Robert Griffin III to see if he matches up at all with Luck at the QB position. Griffin has drawn the attention of NFL teams to the extent that Washington traded three first round picks and a second rounder to have the honour of selecting whichever QB the Colts do not. At this point in time, it looks to be Griffin, so is he worth it?

Also – I selected Luck’s plays from a variety of games, whereas in this piece it’s solely focused on Griffin’s performance in the Alamo Bowl. I have watched other Griffin games, so my evaluation isn’t solely based on this matchup, but the sheer insanity of this football game deserves to be aired, and there are so many plays to highlight Griffin’s strengths and weaknesses that I can’t resist.

Let us begin.

 

Play #1 -14:35 in the 1st Quarter.

As is usual, the Bears line up in their read option attack, with a 3WR 1TE 1RB formation.

Given their proximity to the end zone, you’d usually expect a run. Griffin however possesses unique capabilities in terms of escaping pressure and taking advantage of open space in front of him, so the Washington defense cannot blitz excessively.

Griffin fakes the read option, which does enough in the short-term to give him some breathing space when he pulls the ball back.

He immediately rolls hard to the right and takes advantage of his quickness and agility to give himself further room. He’s distinctly average in terms of sensing pressure, but in this case it has little bearing.

He’s eventually engaged by a Washington DB who comes up to blitz, and he releases the ball immediately prior to being hit.

The ball ends up complete 30 yards downfield. What the? Seeing as the TV Camera failed to highlight the sheer arm strength and placement of the ball, let’s have another look.

You can see here the quandary Griffin is in – he himself is surrounded by two defenders, while his main target downfield has a man lurking in shallow zone with man coverage going over the top.

Nonetheless, he has the confidence to release the ball while under duress and from a very shaky base.

He somehow generates enough force to throw the ball 30 yards downfield and to a point where only his man can catch it. It’s a truly remarkable throw, and it shows the cannon that this guy possesses.

Play #2 – 0:59 in the 1st Quarter.

Now it’s time to show another attribute which makes him the consensus #2 QB on the board.

The Bears again line up in a spread-option formation from the shotgun, and it’s important to emphasise Griffin’s limitations in terms of versatility. He’s always played in this system and seems uncomfortable playing under center. It’s also largely a one-read offense, which raises questions about the complex systems in the NFL and whether he’ll be able to suitably adapt.

Griffin fakes the zone read (get used to it) which isn’t very successful in preventing the blitz.

He finds himself immediately pressured from a variety of directions, not least from his immediate right.

He manages to wriggle away from the pressure, only to find another defender on top of him attempting to tackle. From here in, it’s utter madness.

Two other defenders pile on to him, and through sheer will and a mean stiff-arm, he manages to wriggle out of a three man gang tackle.

Once he’s wriggled free, he shows his Olympic speed and turns on the jets.

Within a matter of seconds he finds himself in the open field cutting a direction to the endzone. Special props to the great blocking on the outside from the receiver, who I’m afraid I can’t identify at this point.

He sprints and dives for the endzone, and finds himself absolutely crushed in the process. It’s truly a stunning play, though the cautionary note at the end of it would be regarding the potential for injury when playing in such a fashion – something which will no doubt be an issue in the NFL.

I’d just like to further illustrate the burst and surprising strength from Griffin here. Stiff-arming three guys isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do, but he does it.

And the wreckage he leaves behind is at least amusing to me, but it puts an exclamation point on the attribute of speed. Great stuff again.

Play #3 – 4:09 in the 2nd Quarter.

I think it’s time to cool people down. Those last two plays were absolutely stunning, and so it’s time to examine a couple of areas of Griffin’s game that could do with work or cause me concern.

As usual, the spread option is the formation of choice, and Griffin is going to fake the handoff.

..Which he does, before pulling the ball back.

I’ve chosen the play to highlight Griffin’s lack of aptitude in terms of sensing pressure in the pocket. As it is, he looks downfield for the invariable deep routes being run on the outside. He clearly doesn’t see much.

At this point he has had several seconds to release the ball to a receiver, so he should either be tucking and running or throwing the ball away. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a clue about the DE pressuring his blind side.

He gets absolutely smashed by the DE, and his poor awareness and lack of adequate grip on the ball result in a fumble.

The Washington linebacker dives on the ball, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty big play, given the time on the clock and the prospective field position.

You simply can’t take hits like this in the NFL and expect to survive for any amount of time. And if you do take such hits, you cannot surrender the ball so easily. If you seek to compare Luck and Griffin, this is one area in which Luck is clearly more capable and comfortable, and is one of the primary reasons why Luck is viewed as a clearly superior prospect.

Play #4 – 1:24 in the 2nd Quarter.

As if to reinforce the point, I’ve got another play which highlights Griffin’s tendency to dwell in the pocket with the ball, as well as issues revolving around pocket awareness and the like.

In this case, Griffin lines up in an empty backfield with receivers aplenty.

He has options downfield, but instead of a checkdown he seeks to go for the big play, and in this case it will cost him. He fake pumps as if to give himself something to do, but it buys him no time or space on the back end.

He takes far too long with the ball, and at this point he should either release or tuck and run with it.

He initially has little idea as to the pressure to his right, but eventually he can’t miss the DE and elects to take off to escape.

He initially begins running 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage with immediate pressure, though his ability to escape again comes to the fore and he makes a break for the LOS.

He somehow makes it back to the line before being brought down. I like the play because it shows how reliant athletic QBs can be on said athleticism. Unfortunately for them, this is a tendency which very rarely translates to the NFL, where every single player is a great athlete and is capable of the 9 yard sack. Perhaps Griffin is a suitably transcendental athlete, but it still shows an overreliance on his physical tools.

Play #5 – 8:28 in the 3rd Quarter.

For the final play I’ve chosen one that I feel encapsulates the improvised nature of Griffin’s game while showing the importance of his physical tools in terms of the psychological effect on opposing defense. It’s a 2 point conversion, which given the score is fairly crucial in keeping Baylor in the game.

He again lines up in an empty backfield with a variety of different receiving options, though the one you’ll want to watch is in red, off screen.

Griffin takes the snap and immediately ducks down. This gives the impression to the Washington defenders that it’s going to be a run through the clutter, and it has the double effect of removing Griffin from the line of sight.

In essence, it’s a play fake to himself. He then halts near the line of scrimmage (with very good pass protection, I might add), jumps into the air, and elects to float a delightful little pass over the top of the defense.

The placement is absolutely superb, and all this while he’s actually jumping. As a truly terrible passer of the football, I can appreciate the touch and finesse required to make this happen, and all in the biggest game of his career.

It further points to his athleticism and willingness to improvise. Overall, his performance in this game was absolutely fantastic.

Conclusions:

Is Griffin a potential rival to Luck in the #1 pick stakes? I don’t believe so. Andrew Luck is superior in every area of quarterback play aside from static arm strength and running with the football. I want my QB to throw the football first and foremost, so in that sense Luck is the clear winner.

That said, Griffin is an absolutely unique prospect who seems to possess the intangibles and skills necessary to lead an NFL franchise. Characterisations of him as an archetypal black QB in the mould of Vick couldn’t be further from the truth – he’s clearly a passer first, a runner second. I do have concerns about the simplistic nature of the Baylor offense and his lack of awareness in the pocket, though his unique athleticism may well mitigate the latter for a good while at least. He seems like a great kid, and was a deserved winner of the Heisman this last year.

Will the Washington trade turn out to be a success? Truthfully, I don’t really know. It’s going to depend on the willingness of the Shanahans in terms of adapting to the talent they have, and further requires appropriate pieces to be added on offense. What I will say is that in such a QB-driven league, such assertive moves don’t necessarily draw my ire. If he reaches his ceiling, Robert Griffin III is going to be an absolutely fantastic QB.

Let me know what you think.

Go Colts.

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