In this version of the Friday Stat of the Week, let's take a quick look at Robert Griffin III. Not actually him, mind you, but rather the circumstances that surround him as he tries to reclaim his title of savior of the Washington Redskins.
Six — Six was the same number used for last week's entry in this series, but it was a different six. This week, six was the number of times RGIII was hit on his eight dropbacks.
RG3 dropped back to pass 8 times. He was hit on six of those plays, had another pass batted down. Mathematician: ONE clean pass play.— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) August 21, 2015
these numbers pic.twitter.com/r5c9uq27lB— Danny (@recordsANDradio) August 21, 2015
Griffin has taken some (figurative and literal) hits in the past for holding the ball too long, but it's hard to blame him much for what happened in his time on the field for Washington's 21-17 win against the Detroit Lions. That's not to say he made the best play to get out of trouble at all times; quite to the contrary, really, as he seemed overly willing to stay in the pocket — after years of criticism for being too willing to leave the pocket — and take some hits. But how is a quarterback supposed to "prove the haters wrong," or whatever the whippersnappers say these days, when he is taking shots like these two seconds after the snap?
Not exactly the best start to RGIII's evening. pic.twitter.com/BBIovPmisf— SB Nation (@SBNation) August 20, 2015
Update: Someone please help RGIII pic.twitter.com/46raiqN3t3— SB Nation (@SBNation) August 21, 2015
This is not his night pic.twitter.com/7LcQIkxLRn— SB Nation (@SBNation) August 21, 2015
So yes, Griffin could definitely have done a bit more to evade oncoming rushers on a few of those hits. However, he also did a great job of not taking unnecessary risks, something many young quarterbacks struggle with, and he followed through on his throws even when he knew he was going to be hit.
What it comes down to is the offensive line being a mess.
Trent Williams didn't play and Willie Smith (Willie. Smith.) started at left tackle. That bordered on an eighth amendment violation by Jay Gruden.
Smith was dreadful. He had no business being out there in the first place, but how is Willie Smith your best option to protect your starting quarterback's blind side? I would've liked to see Morgan Moses or Brandon Scherff get some reps there; the reasoning against that is they're both unproven and have little-to-no left tackle experience in an NFL game, but that reasoning becomes void when you see how terrible Smith was.
Has there ever been a more glaring sign that Scot McCloughan will need a few years to rebuild this roster? And with Gruden stating after the game that he thought Smith "played pretty good," has there ever been a more glaring sign that Jay Gruden is in over his head? (Quick side note about Willie Smith: In 2012, the one season he got substantial playing time, Pro Football Focus rated him the sixth-worst offensive tackle in the NFL; Tyler Polumbus was the fourth-worst that year, though he played nearly double the snaps Smith did.)
However, as easy as it would be to blame everything on him, not everything was Smith's fault. Scherff got absolutely manhandled by Tyrunn Walker on the one play (first clip above), but he's looked less than stellar throughout the preseason. Scherff will develop and this is by no means a slight against him — pass protection was a weakness for him in college, too, so this is an area the Redskins knew they'd have to work with him.
When everybody is healthy and on top of their game, this o-line is decent at best. At all other times, it's notably worse than that. Scherff and Moses should both improve throughout the season and Williams returning will be shore up the most important position on the line. And who knows, maybe Spencer Long or Arie Kouandjio will step his game up and become a serviceable starter in place of Shawn Lauvao, who is not a serviceable starter.
It was obvious that it would take McCloughan several years to turn a mostly terrible roster into a productive one, and he started by overhauling the defense. Injuries have ravaged the defense early on, so it's tough to say how much improvement there will be on that side of the ball. What's clear to see is that the offensive line should get a similar treatment next offseason, with only a few young players and Williams really worthy of a future roster spot.