Redskins need to protect RGIII (More so than normal)

Redskins Personnel Washington Commanders

Barring some unforeseen set back Robert Griffin III is set to start this Sunday versus the Vikings in Minnesota. Griffin is returning from a dislocated ankle injury he suffered week two versus the Jaguars, and this is the first week he’s been able to get regular work in practice. Griffin has been medically cleared to play this week, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods in terms of risk for further injury. Which is why the Redskins number one goal this week has to be finding ways of protecting RGIII from a very talented Vikings pass rush.

Last year the Vikings defense may have been somewhat of a joke around the league, but first year HC Mike Zimmer has turned them around in one season and has them ranked 12th in points allowed and 8th in yards allowed. Zimmer’s key for their success lies within the Vikings pass rush. Minnesota ranks tied for 2nd in sacks and 2nd overall in sack percentage. They generate a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback, forcing negative plays to make up for a relatively weak secondary. The Vikings pressure primarily comes from six guys, three on the interior and three on the exterior. On the inside defensive tackles Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson have combined for 10.5 sacks and nearly 30 pressures. On the outside Everson Griffin, Brian Robinson and 1st round rookie Anthony Barr have combined for another 12.5 sacks and about 55 additional pressures.

Of the six guys Griffin is the most dangerous of the bunch with 8 sacks already this season and 20 pressures. He does most of his work from the right hand side and will be facing Trent Williams who has been hobbled all year due to injuries. Given the injuries Trent is not playing at the same level he did a year ago. If Trent can’t lock down Everson Griffin 1-on-1, he’s going to cause headaches for RGIII and will likely get multiple sacks/pressures. Anthony Barr’s 3 sacks and 11 pressures don’t look like much on the surface, but given the fact that he’s only rushed the QB 83 times this season those numbers are a little bit more impressive. Barr spends much of the game as a stand-up linebacker so he only gets 10-15 pass rush snaps a game. He’s made the most of those and he’ll probably get some opportunities versus Tom Compton who hasn’t exactly shown he’s locked down the RT position.

On the inside the Vikings rotate three defensive linemen who have some ability to get after the quarterback, and that is a problem for the Redskins. Inside pressure has been an issue for this team as center Kory Lichtensteiger and guards Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester have struggled against talented interior linemen. Historically RGIII has not fared well when faced with interior pressure and that isn’t likely to change with him on a bad ankle. Joseph and Floyd represent a very talented pair of tackles who complement each other extremely well. Joseph is the bigger more physical tackle, capable of taking on double teams and still getting penetration. Floyd is the more classic 3 tech tackle who will shoot the gap and win with size and quickness. Both have shown the ability to exploit mis-matches and will be a handful for the Redskins interior linemen. Back-up defensive tackle Tom Johnson has been quite a find for Minnesota this year. He’s been considered just an average back-up before this year, but he’s found a home in Zimmer’s defense and has shown himself to be a talented pass rusher in the interior with 5 sacks already this season.

The Redskins haven’t built an offensive line that was capable of protecting Robert Griffin III on a consistent basis when he was fully healthy, and able to scramble away from pressure. Now their task is going to be much harder, because Griffin likely won’t have the same running ability he had pre-injury. Though the running ability may be somewhat compromised, it’s tough to know if Griffin will compensate by getting rid of the ball quicker. That is not his natural style and it could be tough to change that mid-year like this, so the Redskins have to find away to get him more time in the pocket. One solution for the Redskins could be using backs and tight ends more as blockers in this game than they normally would. That could mean that there are really only three men in the route, but the Redskins have to trust their pass catchers to win their battles and get open. Normally the Redskins would probably call a lot of bootlegs and rollouts to combat pressure, particularly up the middle, but I don’t know if the Redskins want Griffin to run anymore than he has to in this game. Instead the Redskins should utilize more play action and quick screens and slants to force the ball out of Griffin’s hands before the pass rush can get up the field.

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