It's Defensive Coaching 101: Young quarterbacks should be blitzed, blitzed and blitzed some more.
Robert Griffin III forced defensive coordinators to change their lesson plans last season.
With his combination of athleticism and intelligence, practically nobody blitzed Griffin last season. According to STATS, Griffin threw just 71 passes against the blitz last season. By contrast, Aaron Rodgers threw 139 passes while blitzed. In terms of pass attempts per start, Rodgers threw the second-fewest passes against the blitz last season.
Think about that. Griffin threw half as many passes against the blitz as the next quarterback in the league on a per-game basis.
"I think anytime you're playing a mobile quarterback, you've got to be smart about what you do," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Friday. "You want to get as much pressure on him as you can. But the more you start getting vertical and the more people you blitz, the more seams there are. The key is being able to catch a guy like this if he pulls it down and takes off running."
It's no wonder nobody blitzed Griffin last season. Since STATS began tracking passer rating against the blitz in 1993, no quarterback posted a better figure than Griffin's 142.9 last season. Peyton Manning was next with 136.8 in 2004 and Rodgers was third with 131.4 during his record-setting 2011.
En route to winning Rookie of the Year honors, Griffin completed 69.0 percent of his passes against the blitz. He led the league by a mile with 10.6 yards per attempt; Alex Smith was a distant second at 8.9 yards per attempt while blitzed. He threw nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Only Tom Brady's 15 touchdowns and no interceptions was better.
So, it would stand to reason that Capers would play conservatively on Sunday. But that's not Capers' way. San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, a similar style of quarterback, threw 12 passes while being blitzed last week. He completed eight of those for 97 yards (8.1 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns and was sacked twice.
"I think it just depends on the team," Griffin said during a conference call on Wednesday. "It depends on the personality of the D-coordinator and what they want to do that week. I have to prepare my mind mentally for whatever happens. Some teams are going to come out and do the same things they did on film. They'll change a little bit. Some teams will come out and do totally different things. That's just how it is as a quarterback. Teams are going to play you different every week. You just have to be ready for it. See what you see on film and whenever they throw a wrinkle at you, be able to adjust."
Interestingly, the Eagles went on the attack on Monday night. Of Griffin's 49 pass attempts, he was blitzed on 26 of them. Griffin struggled, completing 13 passes for 121 yards (4.7 per attempt) with no touchdowns and one interception.
With Griffin rounding back into form and perhaps not quite back to full speed after last year's knee injury, Capers might be at liberty to attack more than he might have otherwise.
"I think every quarterback, whether they're young or a veteran or whatever, if they get comfortable, these quarterbacks are too good nowadays," Capers said. "When they get in a rhythm and they get comfortable, they're going to make it awful hard on you. Yeah, you'd like to be able to give them different things, make them have to read and react on the run as opposed to being able to come up and know what you're going to do. I think that's an advantage for them if that's the case."
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