Now it is important to note that this is a small sample size, and no definitive conclusions can be made at this time. What this article attempts to show is that there are some warning signs that the passing offense is concern, and one that is growing.
Now on the surface I know people will say this is crazy to even mention this. The Redskins of course lead the NFL in points and Robert Griffin is top 10 in completion percentage, yards per attempt and quarterback rating. Griffin also has four touchdown passes to just one interception (quite the welcomed change). On the flip side though the Redskins have seen their numbers drop each week. Griffin's completion percentage was 73.1% week 1, 69.0% week 2, and 61.8% week 3. His yards per attempt, 12.31, 7.10, 6.50. Not surprisingly the level of pressure Griffin has faced as increased in each of those games (note: Griffin was sacked 2 times versus the Saints and only once against the Rams, but St. Louis put more pressure on Griffin) Also the Redskins sack percentage of 9.8% is 5th worst in the league. Unfortunately the negatives go deeper than that.
Robert Griffin has 747 passing yards, but the team only has 671 total passing yards given the loss yardage on sacks. And while Griffin has over 200 yards passing each of the last two weeks, once the sacks are figured in both games are under the 200 yard mark. Each of the last two weeks Griffin and the Redskins passing attack also 'padded' their stats a little bit against soft coverages.
Now over the course of a season every quarterback 'pads' their stats a little with some favorable coverages against prevent defenses or dump the ball short on 3rd and long without much of a chance of picking up a first down. In Washington the last two years we've seen Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, and even John Beck pick up big chunks of yardage in these situations. This is not a knock on Robert Griffin, because for the most part he was making the right reads. On third and long situations picking up some yards can help in the field position battle. Also it is of course better to pick up a few yards (and hope that somehow the guy gets free) than taking a sack or throwing a risky throw into coverage. And when going against prevent defenses if you have time it is better to take what the defense gives you and hope for a big play opportunity later, than try to force it down field where they are waiting for you. The problem is how it skews the stats and makes the Redskins passing game look a lot better than it really is.
Against the Rams for instance, on four third down and long plays Griffin completed four passes for 27 yards, without picking up a first on any of them, forcing the punt. Now that doesn't sound like a lot of course, but when you only complete 20 passes for 206 yards, four completions for 27 yards comes into perspective.
Things were even worse in the Bengals game on Sunday. Now in fairness Griffin was without his top wide receiver Pierre Garcon and offensive lineman Trent Williams. But the Bengals had losses as well, both of their top corners were out, and their top pass rusher (Carlos Dunlap) was returning from injury and played in only about 65% of the defensive snaps. Even if the losses by the Redskins were more significant it doesn't excuse the passing game.
Griffin ended the game going 21-34 for 221 passing yards and 1 TD. Due to the six sacks allowed though, the Redskins final passing number was 168, and their net yards per attempt were 4.2, which is extremely low. As bad as the 168 and 4.2 look at the end of the game, it is a lot better than the halftime numbers of 6 net passing yards, and 0.43 (yes that decimal point is in the right place) net yards per attempt. Of course the Griffin had actually thrown 36 yards on 5-10 passing, but four sacks brought the net yardage down. In fact until the final 7 minutes of the game Griffin's numbers were still looking very questionable.
For the first 53 minutes of the game Griffin was 10-19 for 93 yards which is just a 52.6% completion rate, and just 4.89 yards per attempt. Adding in the five sacks for 38 yards lost, the net passing yards were 55 (roughly a yard a minute!), and the net yards per attempt were 2.29.
On the final two drives though Griffin and the Redskins passing attack came to life going 11-15 for 128 yards. And of those four incomplete passes one was the spiked ball (I've yet to understand why the NFL counts this as an incomplete pass) and the other was the hail mary. While those numbers were very impressive for much of those drives the Bengals didn't blitz and played back more, conceding some underneath passes for Griffin to complete. The fact is the Bengals found a way to contain Griffin's passing game for most of the game, and in the future teams are more likely to stick to more standard coverage and pass rushing rather than going into prevent mode.
The Redskins have to find a way to get their passing attack to be more successful, if they want to win football games. More performances like on Sunday, can't be acceptable if the Redskins want to improve on their win total from last season. Now this is by no means laying the blame at Griffin's feet. He's just one part of the equation (and obviously has been immensely effective for the Redskins running game), as the offensive line, receivers and Redskins coaches all are partly to blame. What this does go to show is that the Redskins passing game is trending (pretty quickly at that) in the wrong direction, and one player can't do it alone.
Where the Redskins pass offense goes from here will be an interesting question to watch. They face one of the league's worst units with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 32nd in yards allowed (mainly due to Eli Manning), but then come back home to play a pair of teams (Atlanta and Minnesota) who have been pretty strong against the pass.These next three games will be crucial though, because the Redskins will need to work their kinks out before they start on their divisional schedule.
What do you think? Is it a blip on the radar this season? Or does seeing the numbers scare you?