The return of Robert Griffin III from an ugly knee injury late in the 2012 season has been a true roller coaster ride. The media hype, the rehab and the unfair comparisons to Adrian Peterson set the expectations unrealistically high for RGIII this season.
Washington's 2013 campaign is now hanging in the balance just as it was a year ago. In 2012, the Redskins stood at 3-6 after nine games, and heading into Week 11 this year, the Redskins are facing the same mountain to climb. The question is, can Robert Griffin III return to his electric 2012 form to bail out the Redskins - and his fantasy owners - one more time?
Much has been made of the Redskins change as an offensive unit due to the decrease in rushing attempts by Robert Griffin and the use of the pistol formation. But is it really performing as poorly as it did a season ago?
To compare the two offenses, we can look at numberFire's Adjusted Passing and Rushing Net Expected Points (Adj. PNEP vs. Adj. RNEP), which shows team efficiency fixed for strength of schedule. Through nine games in 2012, the Redskins Adj. PNEP stood at 21.93, ranking them 16th in the NFL. Through nine games in 2013, the Redskins Adj. PNEP has decreased to 8.33. The NFL appears to be a little less efficient passing the ball this year though, as this score puts them at the 17 spot in the league.
Really, the biggest reason for the difference in efficiency is due to the increase in RGIII interceptions, as he threw just three picks in his first nine games of 2012, and already has nine this year. From an NEP standpoint, that type of change can be drastic.
Though their passing efficiency seems to be trending upwards and on par with their 2012 numbers, the running game certainly isn't. Looking at numberFire's Adjusted RNEP, the Redskins have not been nearly as effective in 2013, currently sitting at 18.98. At the same point in the season last year, RGIII and the Skins had an Adjusted RNEP of 45.15. Even though there's an evident drop in production, the Redskins still rank as the third-best rushing offense in the NFL. The difference, however, is obvious: RGIII isn't running the ball as much, and quarterbacks often have higher rushing efficiency scores than traditional, early-down running backs.
Digging Into RGIII's Metrics
RGIII has slowly but surely returned to his pre-injury form midway through 2013. Looking back to 2012, he finished the season with a Passing NEP of 73.63 on 427 drop backs, which was good for 10th-best among all quarterbacks in the category.
This season, RGIII again ranks 10th in Passing NEP among quarterbacks. His current score is 39.29, which means he's adding about 4.37 points for the Redskins through the air each game. This pace would put him at 69.85 at the end of the year in Passing NEP, which is very close to the same efficiency score he had during his rookie season. This shouldn't be much of a surprise, as the team metrics reflect this.
But probably most importantly, since Week 6, RGIII has more than doubled his Passing NEP - 15.15 to 39.29 - showing that his increase in efficiency has occurred more recently. In other words, his arm is slowly getting better. This is even more impressive because, unlike last year, Griffin is posting high-volume numbers. He's averaging over 37 pass attempts per game, whereas last season this number was barely over 26. Being asked to do more, RGIII isn't any less effective.
His rushing effectiveness, like the team's, is a different story. Through nine games in 2013, RGIII has 301 rushing yards and zero ground scores, with his biggest performance (77 yards) coming Week 5 against the Cowboys. At the same point last season, he had 529 rushing yards and six touchdowns including a 138-yard rushing performance against the Vikings. RGIII's rushing NEP sits at 3.97, unbelievably worse than 19 quarterbacks, including both Chicago quarterbacks. As you may have guessed, Griffin ranked first in the NFL among all quarterbacks in 2012 with an insane 59.29 Rushing NEP on 115 rushing attempts. His 2012 season was the second-best we've seen since 2000.
Rest of Season Outlook
The numbers show that RGIII is continuing to improve in the Passing NEP category, and he's throwing the ball as well as he did a year ago. And although his rushing effectiveness isn't as solid as it was during his rookie season, RGIII is making up for his lack of rushing numbers with more passing volume, throwing 13 more times per game.
Things are certainly trending upwards for the Redskins passer. But I should warn you, Washington's upcoming schedule may be a little tougher than it appears at face value.
They do face the Eagles this week (27th ranked in adjusted pass defense), and they also get the Falcons, the worst pass defense in the league, in Week 15. But while the Cowboys and Giants look to be easy opponents, they rank better against the pass when you factor in their strength of schedule. In fact, RGIII posted just a moderate 13.5 fantasy points against Dallas earlier this season.
The upside and his rest of season outlook exists with his legs. RGIII's poor Rushing NEP should only improve down the stretch, and that will certainly add to his fantasy value. And as long as Washington's 24th-ranked defense keeps surrendering points, RGIII's volume of pass attempts should continue to be significantly higher than it was in 2013. Expect to see a potential top-five quarterback from here on out.