Editor’s note: This is the third part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Redskins matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at Oakland Coliseum.
Raiders DE Lamarr Houston vs. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
Tale of the tape:
Houston (99): 6-foot-3 300 pounds, fourth season, Texas
Griffin III (10): 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, second season, Baylor Tech
Robert Griffin III isn’t fully healthy. Game tape will tell you that. The Redskins quarterback suffered a catastrophic knee injury at last season’s end that required surgical reconstruction, which takes far more rehab than he gave it.
When he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in college, he spent 12 months on the shelf. After ripping three knee ligaments to shreds, Griffin III was out eight months.
“Game tape doesn’t lie. He’s a step slower,” Raiders middle linebacker Nick Roach said. “But that just means he’s gone from super-human speed to really, really fast. I wouldn’t sell him out. That guy can still play.”
Griffin III, version 2.0, is a pocket passer. The coaching staff is trying to limit his exposure running outside, which limits the read-option to handoffs up the middle. Griffin III insists that the injury hasn’t changed him much, although he’s avoiding big hits wherever possible.
“You go out there and play with no fear. That’s the best way to stay healthy,” Griffin III said. “You don’t step on the field and try to avoid things. The highlight-reel hits that can happen when you escape the pocket, I try to limit those, not only for myself, but for my team. They don’t need me to go out there and do that kind of stuff. I don’t take those kinds of hits anymore, like I had in the past. You still go out and make plays.”
Griffin III has made fewer plays outside the pocket. He’s running far less, and has struggling throwing under pressure. His quarterback rating drops 30 points under pressure, under which he completes just 43 percent of his passes. That offer huge contrast to last season, when he completed 53 percent of his passes under pressure and threw five touchdowns to just two interceptions.
That’s where defensive end Lamar Houston comes in. The Raiders’ pass rusher ranks among the NFL’s most efficient, with pressures generated at an astonishing rate. If Houston can get to Griffin on the regular, the Raiders can coax Griffin III into poor decisions.
“The key to slowing RG III, as it is with any quarterback, is pressure,” Roach said. “We need to get after him consistently if we want to slow that offense down.”
Despite an uneven start, Griffin III remains a force to be reckoned with. Houston does too, but he’s been a step away from having a few more sacks. Griffin III is hard to bring down, but flushing the pocket can be just as effective.
“RG III is quite a quarterback,” Roach said. “Even if he escapes, we have to tackle well to limit his effectiveness. It will be a challenge, but I think we’re up to it.”