Defending RG III becomes a predicament

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
3:15
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions had no real approximation during practice this week for what they will see Sunday. They know this. No matter how much Kellen Moore tries as a scout team quarterback, he doesn’t have the speed, skill and arm strength combination of Robert Griffin III.

Griffin hasn’t run a lot this season. The Lions, of course, think Griffin will run often Sunday.

“You have to expect him to run,” linebacker Ashlee Palmer said. “You know what I mean. Regardless of knee injury or not, he’s a running quarterback, and they like to get him on the edge.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsThrough the first couple of weeks, the Redskins have taken Robert Griffin III's legs out of the offense.
“He brings that element to the game where he can run by people.”

At least he did last season, when Griffin rushed for 815 yards.

This is the predicament for teams preparing for Griffin. There is the anticipation of his rushing ability after his rookie season, in which he also threw for 3,200 yards, a dual-threat blur who carried what he accomplished at Baylor into the NFL.

This season has been different.

Washington has trailed in games, altering part of its game plan. Then there is the health of Griffin, one of the biggest questions in the preseason and the first two weeks of the year.

Griffin insists there is no longer a knee issue. The statistics offer a different story, and this is what makes the preparation difficult.

He has nine carries for 25 yards over the first two weeks of the season -- displaying a lack of rushing production. His potential, how he ran and frustrated teams last season, is another matter entirely.

The reason for the lack of running depends. It could be the injury. It could be what opposing defenses are trying to take away. It could be the blowouts.

“I think it just hasn’t presented itself,” Griffin said. “Once again, we hurt ourselves by getting behind so early, and that doesn’t help. We want to get into a little bit more of our game plan, and that’s what we’re planning to do this week.”

Hence the preparation quandary.

“I really don’t care what he does, as long as we beat him,” Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. “He’s one heck of an athlete. I’ve never seen a guy throw the ball the way he does right now. He throws it out his left [hand] to his left and his front foot is almost 15 degrees behind him.

“That arm he has makes up for it. I saw him make some great plays. He hasn’t run as much, and they are getting a lot of pressure to run him. I believe he’s going to do whatever it takes to try and beat us.”

While the run might become more of a featured portion of Washington’s offense, even the way the Redskins have passed this year has changed.

When Griffin has thrown this season, it usually hasn’t been a deep ball. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Griffin has attempted only seven passes in which the ball has traveled in the air more than 20 yards, completing one of those passes. Most of his work has been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, as he has thrown over 62 percent of his passes that distance. Last season, he threw a far fewer percentage of passes in that range.

Whether he runs more, throws deep or keeps doing what he has been doing, there is one thing that can be guaranteed for Detroit. Whatever happens Sunday, Griffin will be a factor.

"He’s a great quarterback, dual threat, can do anything," cornerback Darius Slay said. "Capable of moving the ball in any direction.

"So basically preparing for him is going to be a great opportunity."

Just what, exactly, the Lions are preparing for is the question.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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