The Washington Redskins and their rookie pin-up quarterback Robert Griffin III have finally grasped the four-leaf clover that has been swirling over the team since the beginning of the season when they discovered how good running back Alfred Morris is. Now that they have it, it's starting to look like they won't let go of it.
With all luck they continue to receive, it's easy to believe that this is the beginning of an NFL fairytale bound to end with more than RGIII on the wall. That fairytale should continue this week with their next opponent, the Baltimore Ravens.
According to the Baltimore Sun, it has been uncovered that left outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has a torn biceps, but is listed as questionable. Yes, Suggs is just one piece, but the Ravens defense is already without Ray Lewis due to a torn triceps, and they rank 25th in the NFL in total defense. Furthermore, the pro bowl linebacker/defensive end is a critical piece in stopping the damage that Griffin III is going to cause come Sunday. Why?
Two words: edge speed.
Forget about his historical numbers, accolades and notoriety. The most important thing Suggs offers when it comes to this week's match-up against the rookie phenom is his ability to seal off the edge with his speed at the snap of the ball. It's something that has been so key this season in keeping Griffin immobile and in the pocket. Below is an illustration of this from the Redskins Week 9 match up against the Panthers.
What you see is the path that defensive ends Charles Johnson and Frank Alexander will take to disallow Griffin III to break contain on either side of the field. Johnson is the visible pass rusher who will use his speed to get around the offensive tackle and to Griffin III. Alexander will try and do the same thing but will also hold contain if Johnson gets to him faster.
As you can see here both Johnson and Alexander have the offensive tackles angled perfectly, and Griffin III has a long ways to go if he wants to roll out of the pocket. They will continue to push on that same angle without making any kind of moves inside, which would allow Griffin III the running lane he is waiting for.
At this point this play is winding down and Griffin III has to make a decision, especially with Johnson just a yard away from bringing him down. Griffin III doesn't throw the ball away, and instead takes the sack upon stepping up in to the very small pocket that the defensive tackles collapse very quickly.
Did you notice where Johnson ended up though? He was two or three yards behind Griffin III before making his attempt at a tackle. This type of technique is so key in limiting the rookie quarterback's ability to utilize his legs outside the pocket.
Ultimately, this is where Suggs would complete the Ravens equation in not getting gashed too much by the Redskins playmaking star signal caller. Without him the defense is left with a raw rookie with some mobility and a few average inside pass rushers. Griffin III is a definite start this week because of this alone. Don't be surprised if he runs for 100+ yards either.
D.C.P.R. -- Dallas Clark Playoff Rising
I've always believed that the beauty of fantasy football is that, much like the NFL, you just never know what is going to happen as the season winds down and the playoffs start. Injuries start to pile up, players start to wear down, and defenses start to lose their wheels.
Now enter Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Dallas Clark. If you haven't noticed yet Clark is quickly becoming the fantasy playoff darling, but it's for good reason. Not only has Clark found the end zone in three of the past four weeks, but the Buccaneers have the Eagles and Saints on the schedule next --- two teams that have allowed their fair share of points in the back end of their secondary.
I've already shown you examples in past weeks of how the Saints defense can be minced. It's time to take a look at the Eagles secondary that has been taking a beating as of late, and how the safeties in particular continue to struggle to maintain assignments down the middle of the field.
On this play tight end Jason Witten is going to be the target to watch. The Dallas Cowboys are lined up in a Single-back two tight end set with wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant bunched to the left side of the formation and James Hanna lined up wide right.
To the naked eye Austin and Bryant appear to be the primary targets, as they are lined up on the side of the field with more room to run clean routes. They ultimately are the decoys though, and will suck the defense in to a coverage that won't be able to stop this play from hitting big down the field. Meanwhile, Hanna and running back Demarco Murray will run wide routes to both sides of the field, which forces both outside linebackers to immediate move laterally towards each sideline.
Now, Bryant runs a slant from the outside to the short middle part of the field, keeping the middle linebacker from dropping back in coverage. Austin will run a fade route in the slot, which keeps free safety Kurt Coleman (not pictured) to the bottom left side of the field. This coupled with the above mentioned movements of Hanna and Murray creates a huge zone for Witten to exploit, with just strong safety Nate Allen (circled green) to get past.
In the end, Allen doesn't stay square to the play, and instead moves towards Hanna and Witten‘s fake out route. Tony Romo's throwing lane opens up and he finishes off the play with an easy 36 yard completion to his big tight end, who runs a sluggo right down the middle of the field.
W.T.W.F. -- What To Watch For
- Jets head coach Rex Ryan has decided to stick with Mark Sanchez as his starting quarterback. However, don't expect Sanchez to drop bombs on the Jacksonville Jaguars' secondary. Do expect a heavy dose of Shonn Greene running the football though. The Jaguars defense ranks next to last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 144.0. This could be the best week to start Greene.
- The Aaron Rodgers Sunday Night Special. Not only is the Lions' defensive line banged up (Corey Williams, Nick Fairley, and Lawrence Jackson are all questionable), which will make it easier for the Packers make-shift offensive line to protect their franchise player, but their secondary is a train wreck.
- Reggie Bush will catch quite a few passes against the San Francisco 49ers defense, and on outside linebacker Aldon Smith‘s side of the field no less. Why? Because that's the only and best way the Dolphins will be able to counter the blitz attack Smith and the rest of the defense will bring. Tannehill will have to get rid of the ball in the flat rather quickly, and Bush is their best weapon after the catch.
Thanks for reading!
Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for Fantasysharks.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA).