Packers Must Attack Griffin III
In their season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers’ defensive scheme was obvious – don’t collapse the pocket, keep the ultra mobile Colin Kaepernick contained, and make him beat you with his arm instead of his legs.
If I’m defensive coordinator Dom Capers, I’m going with a different strategy when Green Bay opens at home Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
The Packers face another ayoung quarterback known for his incredible scrambling and read-option abilities, with this time being Robert Griffin III. While it appears containing instead of attacking might be the best option to defend Griffin (especially when you remember the night of Jan. 12), I see a couple different reasons why this week’s matchup is different.
First and foremost, Griffin is coming back from a major knee injury. Last Monday night was his first game action since tearing his ACL, and everyone could tell he wasn’t ready to be back out on the field amidst some of the biggest, fastest men in the world. He didn’t step through on his passes, and he looked very timid running the ball.
Griffin’s unwillingness and inability to run the ball were proven by several key statistics. He only recorded five rushing attempts, three of which were scrambles for 12 yards, an average of four yards per carry. The other two attempts resulted in 12 yards and six per carry. Last year he averaged 27.4 yards and 9.6 per carry on scrambles. His attempts that were not carries or kneel-downs last year resulted in 27.6 yards per game and 6.1 per carry.
Admittedly, only one game to go off of is not a large sample size at all. But I think it’s safe to say both Griffin and his head coach Mike Shanahan are hesitant to let him go all-out in the running game.
So, now that we know Griffin’s legs probably won’t hurt the Packers defense too much, the logical conclusion is to call off the conservative pocket containment strategy and send the pass-rushers at him. The Eagles had great success doing so Monday night. Philadelphia sacked Griffin three times and held him to an abysmal 26.3 QB rating when blitzing. When Griffin wasn’t blitzed, his rating soared to 116.2.
A quarterback picking apart a defense while sitting back with tons of time sounds awfully familiar to Packers fans. We all saw how putrid the safety depth is behind Morgan Burnett on Sunday. If his hamstring holds him out of action yet again, the need to pressure Griffin becomes that much more imperative.
The one drawback to this strategy would be the Redskins’ counter of running Alfred Morris up the middle. But he too struggled against Philadelphia, only rushing for 45 yards and a 3.8 average. And that was against a very poor Eagles defense.
The Packers proved last week they are a much improved defense against the running game. The trio of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly stacked up as a 1,000-pound wall against the best offensive line in the NFL to shut down Frank Gore to only 2.1 yards per carry. They’ll be fine handling the run.
Capers needs to set Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Neal and everyone else free to chase after Griffin. Make him prove he’s truly over his knee injury. Until he does, I’m not a believer.