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Defense: First Look At RGIII

Posted Nov 13, 2012

He is the savior in Washington, a versatile threat who runs a multiple-option offense and who, quite frankly, scares the beejeebers out of a defense. Robert Griffin III is the real deal and a huge headache for the Eagles on Sunday ...

The rush to success for the Quarterback Class of 2012 includes RGIII, who has turned Washington upside down with his game on and off the field. Robert Griffin III, the new breed of quarterback in the NFL.

He isn't just a running quarterback, although the offense revolves around his mobility and his multiplicity. You're going to see all kinds of funky formations on Sunday at Fed Ex Field as the Redskins look to get Griffin to the edge and up the field with his legs.

But what makes RGIII so dangerous is his added ability as a passer, as a pocket presence. He has a rocket for an arm, poise in the pocket, vision and touch. Griffin isn't a running quarterback. He's a quarterback who can run, and that is awfully difficult to deal with.

In nine games, Griffin has 8 touchdown passes and only 3 interceptions. He's completed 68 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 93.9. The added dimension of running is evident -- Griffin has 529 yards and 6 scores on the ground.

It has been a long time since the Eagles faced a quarterback with such a variety of skills. Michael Vick, maybe, back when he was with the Falcons? How many of these quarterbacks grace the NFL, anyway? It's ironic that the Eagles face two of them in consecutive games, with Carolina's Cam Newton in Philadelphia two Mondays after the game at the Redskins.

An Eagles defense that has been much improved the last couple of weeks has its hands full on Sunday. Washington also has rookie running back Alfred Morris, who has been sensational, some solid receivers and tight ends that are always productive.

But the focus is on Griffin. To contain him, the Eagles must be at their disciplined best. Can the line worry about getting up the field and beating the linemen to the punch when they know that Griffin can run right past them and gain 30 yards in the blink of an eye? The defense has to read the play fakes and the bootlegs and the roll outs and all of the misdirection that Griffin's game brings.

I wonder how the general philosophy of such an aggressive-minded defense meshes with the speed and explosiveness of a quarterback like Griffin. If the Eagles can alter things a bit and maybe show some moments where they mush rush -- lay back and deny Griffin the option of scrambling -- they can take their chances against Griffin in the pocket. Certainly, the option of spying Griffin exists, but is there anyone on the Eagles defense who can run with a quarterback who has 4.4 speed?

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has his hands full, and he knows it. He has to figure out a way to harass Griffin and at the same time not sacrifice coverage down the field. Washington's strong running game only complicates the challenge.

Washington's offense has had its ups and downs this year, and Bowles would do well to borrow from some of the teams that have had success against the Redskins. Carolina limited Washington to 13 points a couple of weeks ago in a Panthers win, sacking Griffin four times and allowing only 5.5 yards per pass attempt. The week before, Pittsburgh beat Washington 27-12 and took away Griffin's run options -- he gained only 8 yards on 6 rushing attempts, and was just as ineffective throwing the ball. Griffin completed only 16 of 34 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown.

So, there is a blueprint for success against Griffin and the Redskins offense. A mix of blitzing and "contain" defense seems to work. Taking the running game away from Griffin is a definite plus. Forcing Washington to drive the length of the field is huge, too, so the offense must move the football and the special teams must win the field-position battle against the Redskins.

We really haven't played against a lot of the "mobile," multiple quarterbacks over the years. There haven't been a whole lot who have found success, and some of the most prominent who have -- Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Vick -- have been Eagles.

For the Eagles to be successful on Sunday they must be disciplined and they must be aggressive. They must be patient and they must take chances. They certainly have to be sound in their fundamentals and understand that Griffin is going to keep plays alive with his legs and if he's scrambling around, buying time, it's probably a good thing to stay in coverage down the field, because Griffin has the arm to burn a defense from anywhere on the field.

It's time to take a look at Washington's franchise player. The Redskins haven't had one in a long, long time. Now, they do. And the Eagles have to find a way to win the tangle with a player who challenges a defense as much as any player in the NFL.

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