IRVING, Texas – The presence of rookie sensation Robert Griffin III won’t reduce the confidence of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Ryan once again wasn’t bashful about discussing the Cowboys’ chances on Thanksgiving Day against the Redskins, despite 11 players either limited or not practicing Wednesday.
“We’re not complaining,” Ryan said. “We’re happy to be playing in this game. The whole country’s watching and they want to see America’s team win, and we’re going to.”
He clarified afterward that he wasn’t trying to guarantee a win Thanksgiving Day against the Redskins; he just knows what he wants to do in regards to slowing down the rookie quarterback.
Ryan said speeding the game up for Griffin and playing a smash-mouth style against an offensive attack that features a variety of collegiate-style plays and formations will be critical. Griffin’s ability to run the option and elude tacklers can make life tough on an unprepared defense, especially one that likes to blitz.
The Cowboys haven’t brought down the quarterback much this season, ranking 21st in the league with 20 sacks. Ryan said sack totals aren’t a way to determine a defense’s prowess, as many of the teams with high sack totals are also allowing 500 yards per game.
“You’ve got to be smart,” Ryan said about blitzing. “You’ve got to pick your spots, or those go for 76 yards like they did against Minnesota. We don’t like to play that way. We like to limit the big plays, get after them. The big thing is we’ve got to hit these guys hard. We have big, big football players out there on defense.”
Head coach Jason Garrett said earlier in the week that Griffin is most comparable to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who led his offense to just 14 points when the Cowboys went to Carolina earlier this year.
Ryan said the experience gained against mobile quarterbacks like Newton and Michael Vick can help in situations where Griffin drops back to pass, but the rest of the offense is different from anything the Cowboys have seen thus far. Ryan credited Redskins coach Mike Shanahan as being “one of the best in the business,” and now he has a quarterback who rarely gets rattled and an offense predicated to Griffin’s unique abilities.
“They’ve got triple option and all this other crap, too,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot here. We’ve got our hands full, there’s no question. But we’re looking forward to this challenge and hopefully will dictate to this offense what’s going to be done and not the other way around.”
The defensive coaches may need to revert back to their college roots to stop Griffin this week. Ryan, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive line coach Brian Baker all have experience coaching at the college level.
“Eberflus is coming off eight years of coordinating in college,” Ryan said. “Brian Baker was a coordinator there. I was. So we’ve got a lot of things to go on. We all met together and we came up with a good plan. Most importantly, we have great players and they’re going to have to play their butt off.”