Front Office Insider: Despite Gruden's criticisms, RG3's mechanics are sound, says QB guru
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's public critique of Robert Griffin III on Monday has cast doubt on whether the third-year quarterback has the mettle of a franchise cornerstone.
Griffin, who united a fan base and electrified the league during his 2012 rookie season, has posted a 3-13 record in games he has finished since sustaining ligament tears to his right knee. During that 16-game span, some have wondered whether Griffin's skillset has worn thin.
Gruden validated those concerns by saying Griffin's play in Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers "was not even close to being good enough to what we expect from the quarterback position."
Citing "fundamental flaws" regarding Griffin's footwork, reads, progressions and having the right frame of mind, Gruden divulged more information than most coaches would. From a pure throwing standpoint, though, Griffin completed 72 percent of his passes -- albeit most of them short-yardage completions. He also threw two interceptions.
Quarterback guru Terry Shea, who worked with Griffin during the draft process and most recently before this year's training camp, noticed some irregularities in Griffin's play against the Bucs but overall was hopeful in his assessment, saying he "came away satisfied with Griffin's accuracy, for the most part." After re-watching the game, Shea explained what he saw during a 30-minute telephone interview with FOXSports.com.
"In the beginning of the game, he had a wide base and I thought, 'Oh maybe he needs to correct this,' but as the game evolved I didn't see that consistently," Shea said. "Consequently, I didn't see an improper base with his feet. I didn't see him throwing off his back foot. I watched him throw with a nice, high release point.
"He completed four or five passes over the midline area of the formation. He was accurate with his throws over the middle even though they were 8- to 10-yard throws. I thought he didn't demonstrate a low elbow, and I didn't see the ball getting tipped at the line of scrimmage. I liked what I saw in a lot of ways with his mechanics."
Below are more comments from the discussion with Shea, regarding Griffin's last game:
Under pressure: "I saw him take six different sacks and I watched each sack over and over to see what led to the sack â not to mention the hits that he took. I would imagine he got hit in the pocket area about 10 different times during the course of the game," Shea said. "That wears you down to a point where all you think about is getting the ball out of your hand. You bypass the progressions and get the ball to an outlet receiver or a check down receiver. If you look at last eight throws, those are very reflective of a quarterback who has been beaten down during the course of the game.
Deep-ball accuracy: Gruden noted the overthrown deep balls Griffin targeted toward wide receiver DeSean Jackson. While Bucs quarterback Josh McCown was able to connect with rookie wide receiver Mike Evans, Griffin missed deep on a few occasions and that made a big difference in the outcome of the game.
"Both balls were overthrown, but that's a good sign," Shea said. "You don't want to see a quarterback underthrowing the deep ball because then you have a chance for a tipped ball or an interception. He put it right where he wanted to; it was just one or two strides beyond DeSean Jackson. He wasn't missing by a whole bunch. It would've jumpstarted the whole offense."
Red-zone woes: In the second quarter, Griffin had the Redskins on the Bucs' 10-yard line facing a second-and-goal. After he took back-to-back sacks, the Redskins were relegated to kicking a 47-yard field goal, which Kai Forbath missed.
"He could've gotten back to his red-zone quarterback principles and listened to his feet with the clock in his head and after two counts throw it away or get rid of it," Shea said. "He'll learn from that. Too bad he had to learn in the red zone."
Mobility: Two weeks after returning from a dislocated ankle, Griffin hasn't displayed the same burst he showed during his rookie season. In fact, that has been the case since he first sustained the knee injury in 2012.
"He has had so much success with his feet that I'm sure it's his security blanket, and he tends to probably draw from that more than other quarterbacks would," Shea said. "He's a threat to run, and he picked up a few third-down conversions in the game. I didn't see him bailing out of the pocket prematurely.
"He used to make everyone else look like they were running in quicksand, and I didn't see that in the Tampa Bay game. You'd have to surmise that his second gear or up-speed tempo isn't what it quite was in the past, but that doesn't mean it won't come back. I know he's still trying to play through a couple of major injuries, including the dislocated ankle. It's a lower half that has been through a traumatic setback. He may not appear to have the dynamic ability he once he had."
Final assessment: "From a quarterback standpoint, he did not demonstrate unusually unsound mechanics," Shea said. "There were a couple plays where he bounced around a little bit, and that's a product of what I call nervous feet. When you get sacked, quarterbacks take on that element and nervous feet show up.
"He was working in the pocket and sliding in the pocket. You have to drill into him hard that he needs to settle his feet when he throws. He has a tendency to throw and his back foot is still moving. During the season, it's tough to correct that because you're busy game planning that you drift further away from fundamentals.
"Before I watched the game, I saw the score and thought I'm going to watch a trainwreck, and I didn't see a trainwreck. I saw a quarterback who evolved during the course of the game."
WHY CAN'T THESE COLTS RUN?
Expect the Indianapolis Colts' woes on the ground to continue during the home stretch of the season. The fractured fibula running back Ahmad Bradshaw sustained in last week's loss to the New England Patriots will likely sideline him for the remainder of the season. That puts the running game onus on Trent Richardson, who hasn't lived up to his billing as a No. 3 overall pick.
"[Bradshaw] is a much better runner than Trent [Richardson]," one AFC scout told FOXSports.com. "They were expecting a resurgence from Richardson, but it hasn't been there. What will hurt them the most is Bradshaw has been a weapon out of the backfield in the passing game.
"Also, the problem isn't necessarily talent with them, it's their mentality to run. They get out of sync because they pass so much. It's never a good formula when you can't stop the run and run the ball."
The identity shift in what was once a run-first, pro-style offense has never been more apparent. Luck leads the league in passing attempts and is on pace to finish just behind Matthew Stafford's record for most passing attempts in a season (727, 2012). That said, the importance of a running game can't be overstated.
"You do have to be able to run the ball," Andrew Luck said earlier this week, via The Indianapolis Star. "I don't think anybody's losing sleep or worrying about if Trent and (Dan Herron) can handle the role. I think they're going to do a great job and really surprise a lot of people."
CAN CHRIS BORLAND SHOULDER THE LOAD?
The knock on San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Chris Borland coming out of the University of Wisconsin was his size (5-11, 247) and injury history. That combination allowed him to fall to the third round. As one Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel report stated last April, Borland was knocked off at least one team's draft board because his left shoulder required additional surgery. Last week, Borland â who Badgers coaches had to warn to not leave his feet so often on diving tackles -- donned a non-contact jersey in practice and appeared on the injury report with a shoulder.
"[Chris] is a fiery guy, smart and instinctive," an AFC scout told FOXSports.com. "He has a small frame, but he's solid. Multiple shoulder surgeries at that position and size are always a concern with the types of players they collide with each play. Unfortunately, there's always a high possibility of that reoccurring."
Over the past three games, Borland has racked up 48 tackles, and in last Sunday's win against the New York Giants he became the first 49ers linebacker with two interceptions in one game since Ken Norton Jr. in 1995. Keep an eye on Borland's status moving forward.
LOOKING FOR A SAFETY SHELTER?
Before this year's trade deadline, the St. Louis Rams forked over a package of draft picks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to acquire Mark Barron. Though Barron has produced during his short time in St. Louis, Sunday's starting duo of Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald caught the attention of one NFC pro personnel man.
"That's a great young safety duo they have in St. Louis," he said. "T.J. has a gift for covering tight ends, and he has definitely gotten better. [Rodney] McLeod isn't afraid to come up and hit you. You have to give (coordinator) Gregg Williams some credit for their emergence."
IS TODD GURLEY'S DRAFT STOCK ACL-PROOF?
There's variety of opinions on how Georgia running back Todd Gurley's torn ACL will affect his draft stock.
Gurley, who was regarded as a first-round talent, could plummet to the third round next May, in the opinion of one NFC scout, if he chooses to forgo his college eligibility. After talking with four different scouts and two personnel men this week, the overall sentiment is a team will likely take a flyer on him in the second round and place him on the non-football injury list, which will allow him the proper time to heal.
One scout noted that the Oakland Raiders selected D.J. Hayden, the best cornerback in the 2013 NFL Draft, 12th overall despite his having suffered a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart, during his senior season. Another scout directed my attention to cornerback Aaron Colvin, who tore his ACL during last year's Senior Bowl. Colvin was selected by the Jaguars in the fourth round and is working toward a full recovery.
Wherever Gurley ends up playing, it's an unfortunate injury to a superstar talent.
"For a quarterback or linemen with an ACL it's one thing, but for a running back it's your livelihood," an NFC scout told FOXSports.com. "Your whole job is cutting and planting. If it's an isolated tear, he may be all right. Maybe he's Adrian Peterson reincarnated."