The Washington Redskins won their fourth straight game to improve their record to 7-6, putting them firmly in the playoff discussion. Unfortunately the win cost the Redskins their star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who had to leave the game with a knee injury. Luckily x-rays and an MRI confirmed that there are no breaks or ligament tears, but it’s not yet known how the injury may effect his status going forward. That could leave the Washington Redskins with an interesting decision this Sunday, as they head on the road to face the Cleveland Browns. Do the Redskins play Griffin, despite him likely not 100% and potentially risking further injury, or do they sit him for a game in the hopes that he will be fully healthy (or far closer) for the final two divisional games?
Now we will know more in a day or two when Robert Griffin III attempts to test it in practice, but given how little information Mike Shanahan gives regarding injuries, it is likely we won’t fully know how the knee is until next Sunday. Even if it is just a mild sprain, it is clear it will effect Griffin on some level if he were able to play next week. Given how bad it looked, and how much pain Griffin was clearly in, it is safe to say Griffin won’t be running away from opponents next week. Also, with it being his plant leg, it is likely to reduce the accuracy on longer throws.
Most people would probably say that if Griffin is cleared to play next Sunday than he should play. That is a very reasonable thought, given that the Redskins are in the middle of a tough playoff fight, and every win matters. Given how important Griffin has been to this offense with his accuracy, intelligence, and athleticism, it may seem that playing without Griffin would concede the game. The problem with that is, with Griffin’s speed and mobility compromised (on at least some level), the Redskins wouldn’t be able to run their regular offense. The option plays, Zone Read, and rollouts would be pretty null-and-void, as Griffin would not be a counter threat to run. The Pistol formation, which has been highly successful for the Redskins this year, also would need to be completely scrapped, as it loses it’s advantages if the quarterback is immobile. The other major problem with Griffin’s mobility suffering, would be the offensive line blocking. The Redskins despite a relatively quick strike passing attack, has given up one of the higher sack rates in the league. And that is with Griffin’s exceptional escape-ability, which has saved more sacks than it’s cost the Redskins. If you can’t protect Griffin consistently, it’s nearly impossible to have him back there if he can’t run.
Now it is true that much of the playbook would need to be changed/tweaked with Kirk Cousins at the helm, but it wouldn’t have to be completely scrapped as with an immobile Griffin. Sure you might not really run the option, read option, or operate out of the Pistol much with Cousins, but they could try a couple scaled back plays with him. Roll out plays and buying time in the pocket wouldn’t be a problem for Cousins at all. While this game is really a “must win” game, if the Redskins were to lose a game in the final three weeks of the season, this would be the one for them to do so. Since it’s an out of conference game, it wouldn’t affect the Redskins playoff tie-breaking options as much as a loss to either the Eagles or Cowboys down the stretch. If sitting Griffin this week, means he’s as close to 100% as possible for those last two weeks, it could benefit the Redskins for the rest of the season.
Another factor the Washington Redskins have to consider is the possibility of further injury, by rushing him back in there. That right knee was already the one that Robert Griffin III had an ACL injury on in college, making it a bit risky to put him back out there. Even with a protective brace, Griffin would be more susceptible to an injury in that knee. Also, there could be an increased risk of another separate injury, either to that leg or the other one as Griffin would be forced to overcompensate for the injured knee.
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In the end it will depend on just what level of health Griffin is at, but if his speed in compromised (and the Catch 22 is you really wouldn’t want to test his speed or cutting ability in practice as you want the knee to rest) you have to consider sitting Griffin. It’s not worth it to risk either his long term health or the recovery process just to have him this Sunday in Cleveland. One possible middle point for the Redskins would be to have all three quarterbacks active. That way if the game starts getting out of hand, the Redskins could try to turn to Griffin, but would keep themselves from putting Griffin at risk unless they had no other choice.
What do you think the Redskins should do (assuming that he’s cleared to play), if Griffin’s running ability is limited?