It’s no surprise that Robert Griffin III isn’t running with the ball as much as he used to. But his team continues to make it look like he might run.
And defenses eventually will quit falling for it.
During Sunday’s loss to the Lions (the only game this year that didn’t see Washington fall into a deep hole early), Griffin started 12 plays with the read-option look, with Griffin putting the ball into the stomach of a tailback before either handing it off or keeping it.
Twice — the first time Griffin used the maneuver in each half — he ran to the right for minimal gains. Three times, he handed the ball off.
Seven other times, Griffin kept the ball and threw a pass. He connected on six of them, with a 29-yard gain being called back for a holding penalty. The seventh and final throw from the read-option look initially was ruled a 57-yard touchdown, but it was overturned when the referee determined that receiver Aldrick Robinson failed to control the ball when going to the ground.
So the read-option has become an effective device for setting up the pass, but it won’t stay that way if the threat of Griffin running isn’t there.
Sure, the possibility of a run from Alfred Morris will force linebackers and strong safeties to wait for a beat before dropping into coverage, but the absence of the run threat from Griffin simplifies the defensive predicament. Instead of Morris running or Griffin running or Griffin passing, defenses should simply disregard Griffin running — until he shows that he can and will run effectively.
So far, he hasn’t. At times, he has looked much slower than last year. Griffin was caught from behind multiple times by Lions defensive linemen, and the only old-school RGIII run came from a scramble that ended in an awkward face plant and a fumble.
This weekend, Griffin’s comfort level will be undermined by the huge dirt infield at the Black Hole, which could make him less likely to run and more likely to pass from the read-option look.
For the Raiders and for every future opponent, the smart move could be to assume he won’t run from the read-option, and to not worry about him gaining anything more than a few yards if he does.