Robert Griffin III And the Eagles’ Plan To Stop Him

How Jim Schwartz's unit is preparing for the Browns' new quarterback.

Robert Griffin III. (USA Today Sports)

Robert Griffin III. (USA Today Sports)

Robert Griffin III is back. Wait, no he’s not.

As the Eagles’ defense prepares to face the Browns’ new starting quarterback, players and coaches have varying evaluations of how close Griffin III is to returning to the success he had in Washington to start his career.

“You see some plays on tape that kind of say, ‘Hey, he is back.’ He’s in that position,” Doug Pederson said. “You’re seeing him protecting himself now. You’re seeing him get out of bounds. You’re seeing him slide. You’re seeing him do the things a quarterback in the National Football League needs to do. So you can see the maturity there and that’s something that is showing up on tape.”

Said Jim Schwartz: “It’s hard to read too much into the preseason, positive or negative. A lot of guys take different approaches in preseason. Coaches take different approaches in the preseason. The proof is going to be the regular season and we’re not to the first game yet, so that story really hasn’t been written yet, to tell you the truth.”

Disagreement also pervades among the players, but one idea universally accepted in the locker room is there are two things to focus on when game planning for Griffin III: his running ability and his deep ball. Jordan Hicks, who played Griffin III in college when the quarterback was at Baylor and he was at Texas, says he now sees the same guy on film he saw several years ago.

Nolan Carroll added that it can be tricky defending Griffin III because although you want to prevent him from scrambling, you don’t want him to have too much time in the pocket to throw the ball deep down the field.

“Just make him stay in the pocket. Don’t let him use his feet too much. When you have a guy like that, you want to contain him. You don’t want him to use his feet to extend the drive, especially on third down,” Carroll said. “But his deep ball is great. He looks like he’s not even throwing it; he’s just flicking it 55 or 60 yards down the field.”

Gap discipline will be critical to stopping Griffin III from beating the Birds on the ground, Hicks said, while Fletcher Cox offered a succinct solution of his own: “Hit him early, hit him often. I think we’ll do a good job of that.” On passing downs, the Eagles may use a quarterback spy and they’ll certainly keep their eyes glued to him in zone coverage, but on running downs, they’ll take a more aggressive approach of getting after Griffin III.

Schwartz’s unit expects the Browns to rely heavily on the zone-read.

“The defensive end and the linebacker, they have to defeat the dive and the quarterback to that side,” Bradham said. “Either the defensive end is going to crash or the tackle blocks out and he stays out and takes the quarterback and the linebacker is on the dive. It’s pretty much just playing off of the end and the linebacker on that side and reading the offense.”