A diminished-skills Robert Griffin III? Lance Briggs isn’t having any of it.
Griffin went under the knife after tearing right-knee ligaments in the playoffs after a spectacular rookie season in which he finished fourth in in passer rating and struck fear in the NFL defenses with his legs as well as his arm.
This year his passing is off significantly, with an increased percentage of interceptions and decreased completion percentage. In a mix of read-options, scrambles and designed runs, Griffin ran an average of eight times per game last season. Through five games this year, that workload is down to 5.4.
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Griffin had six rushing touchdowns in the first six games of his rookie season. He has zero through five games this year. Griffin averaged 54.3 rushing yards per game in 2012; that is down to nearly half that (29.8) so far in 2013.
What’s worrying the Bears, however, is what happened amid Washington’s Oct. 13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Griffin had been averaging just four yards on 4.5 rushing attempts per game, but ran nine times for 77 yards (8.6 ypc.) against Dallas.
“Did you watch [Washington’s] last game?” Briggs said. “I don’t know, that second half, that burst was there, that burst looked pretty good.
“Don’t be deceived, don’t be deceived at all. He’s playing better and better each week. Watching him in that second half against Dallas, I saw him pull away from some guys running the ball, so, he’s ready.”
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Whether the Bears, or specifically rookie middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic making his first start, are ready is really the question. Mobile quarterbacks were not unusually difficult for the Bears when Briggs and Brian Urlacher were younger and possessed of the speed to “spy” a Daunte Culpepper or Brett Favre to defend against the mobility.
But Washington hammered the Cowboys for 216 rushing yards on top of 217 passing yards, with Alfred Morris pounding for five yards per carry to engage the Dallas defense and Griffin breaking loose for 77 yards on his nine runs.
Washington is amassing 399.2 yards per game, fifth in the NFL and 30 yards per game more than the Bears. If Griffin is impaired, the Bears aren’t counting on it.
“They have a lot of the similar concepts as a season ago, [but] we’ll be prepared to see some un-scouted looks,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “They do a good job of running their offense. They do what they do. They do it a high level. They are very effective with it, running the ball, throwing the ball, play action and the drop back.”