IRVING, Texas – Robert Griffin III’s knee problems didn’t exist last year in his reunion to his hometown state. In fact, there were very few problems at all for the Redskins’ quarterback against the Cowboys.
A healthy Griffin passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 29 of the team’s 149 rushing yards in his one game in Arlington last season. Now, after a speedy return to football from major knee surgery, questions continue to circulate on whether or not he’s actually recovered and feeling like himself again.
“I can only answer that question so many different ways,” Griffin said. “But the simple answer is, ‘Yes.’”
Griffin dominated the Cowboys in his two games against them last season, particularly when he was able to get out of the pocket. The read option seemed impossible to stop with Griffin and running back Alfred Morris running it to perfection.
Morris was responsible for 200 of the Redskins’ 274 rushing yards against the Cowboys in the season finale last year in Washington. But Griffin, who was hobbled by the knee at that point, still rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown in that playoff-clinching win.
“It’s a real challenge,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “They’re very good on offense, and he’s a big part of it. More than anything else, they want to run the football. They’ve been very successful running the football over the last couple years. We’ve got to make sure we defend that.”
The rushing element put the Cowboys off balance throughout those two games last year. The Redskins haven’t been able to replicate that yet this year.
Griffin’s accumulated just 72 rushing yards on 18 carries through four games in 2013. He’s lacked the same type of explosiveness running the ball, but the Cowboys believe he’s still capable of getting outside the pocket and making plays.
Garrett said the Redskins still utilize the pistol and the read option well. Most of Griffin’s damage this year, though, has come through the air. He’s averaging 300.5 passing yards per game.
“He’s certainly coming off of that knee injury, there’s no question about that,” Garrett said. “He’s wearing that brace. You do see him throw the ball from the pocket, but again, he’s made plays on the move. He’s a dangerous football player, there’s no question about that.”
Griffin is ninth in passing yards per game this year, yet he’s still averaging 26 fewer passing yards per game than what the Cowboys are allowing. That stat can be attributed to what Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning accomplished against the Cowboys earlier this year.
With Griffin’s ability to tuck and run, the Redskins’ quarterback offers a bit of a different look than any of those quarterbacks who’ve successfully traversed the Cowboys’ defensive backfield.
“It’s a different type of challenge,” said defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. “It’s a whole different deal.”
The Redskins aren’t running at the same rate they did last year, but that’s mostly because they’ve trailed early in games and resorted to the pass. Cornerback
“He looks the same to me. He’s still throwing the ball well,” Scandrick said. “They’ve got an explosive quarterback, a very good, downhill, hard runner, and they’ve got a good group of receivers.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he thinks Griffin is healing well and looks much better than he did at the beginning of the season. He’s starting to see the same comfort level Griffin demonstrated last year, and the early bye week the Redskins are coming off of only gives the quarterback more time to heal.
Griffin described the early portion of this season as “a very trying time.” The second-year quarterback is used to success and leading his team to victory with his arm and his legs. Sitting at 1-3 certainly isn’t what he envisioned, but a Cowboys loss and an Eagles loss this week would put the Redskins atop the division.
He said it’s time for the Redskins to start to impose their will on defenses, rather than waiting to see what the defense is going to do. It will be the first look Griffin’s had against the Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense this weekend.
“The start of the season didn’t go the way we wanted to, but we got the win before the bye, and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing,” Griffin said. “We know we can still go out and win this division. We’ve got to take it one week at a time, and it starts with the Cowboys.”