Despite the fact that Russell Wilson has been just as deserving as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck for this season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, most debates for the award revolve around the top two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Most arguments for Luck say that he has single-handedly improved the Colts from the 2-14 record they sported last year, he’s being asked to do more in Indianapolis’ offense and he has worse offensive weapons around him. While all three points are flawed, the third needs to be debunked.
Both the Redskins and Colts lack elite offensive weapons all around their offenses, but it’s undeniable that the Colts have the best target on either team. Reggie Wayne is not only a future Hall of Famer, but he’s also having one of the best seasons of his career. Wayne is not only the most talented offensive player on either team, but he’s also a safety blanket for his rookie quarterback. Griffin doesn’t have that luxury.
At running back, the Colts started the season with Donald Brown, Vick Ballard and Delone Carter manning the backfield. Ballard, a fifth-round rookie, has been the bell cow for the Colts so far, carrying the ball 164 times for 667 yards, one touchdown and 4.1 yards per carry. Brown chipped in with 108 carries for 417 yards, and Carter has 32 carries for 122 yards so far. None of those backs will make any All-Pro ballots this year, but Ballard has been a nice surprise for a first-year player.
Despite all the indecision this summer over who would get the lion’s share of carries for the Redskins, Alfred Morris has been the team’s every-down back. He has 280 carries for 1,322 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s been a wonderful surprise for a sixth-round pick, but let’s look at those numbers a little closer.
Morris has 247 carries with Griffin under center and 33 carries with backup Kirk Cousins. Morris has run for 1,222 yards with 4.9 yards per carry with Griffin and 100 yards for 3.0 yards per carry under Cousins. Morris has seven carries of more than 20 yards, including two for 39 yards with Griffin. His season-long with Cousins was an 11-yard gain against the Browns.
The Redskins’ running game, including their offensive line, looks much better because Griffin is on the field, not based on their talent. Without Griffin, even though it’s a small sample size, they can’t get anything going. The run game looks so good because of the threat that Griffin offers. With so many read-option looks, opposing defenses get caught off-guard because Griffin can dictate when to hand the ball off and when to take it himself. That will always leave a bigger hole in the middle of the defense because of Griffin’s ability to cut outside. The Redskins are still running a zone-blocking scheme, but there’s simply less players in the middle to block.
Morris looks like a candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year as well, but it’s all because of how talented and dangerous his quarterback is. Morris was a sixth-round pick for a reason, and with Cousins handing off to him, he’s showing why.
At wide receiver, it’s not even close between the Colts and Redskins. Luck gets to throw to Wayne every Sunday, while Griffin is stuck with an aging Santana Moss as his No. 1 option. Had Pierre Garcon been healthy for more than eight games this season, this could have been closer, but Garcon is an overrated player anyway.
Beyond those three players, the Colts have Donnie Avery and rookies T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill. The Redskins have Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson. Hilton and Brazill are the most explosive of those players, but they’re also the most inconsistent.
A lot of people may point to the number of dropped passes the Colts have this season, but Griffin’s drop percentage is actually higher, according to Pro Football Focus. Griffin’s drop percentage is 8.5 while Luck’s is 7.3. Neither player is being helped out by his receivers, but once again, at least Luck has Wayne as a safety blanket.
At tight end, the Colts’ quarterback gets to throw to two very talented rookies in Dwayne Allen and Luck’s Stanford teammate, Coby Fleener. Griffin has had Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul. Davis is the best player of that whole group, but he only played seven games this season.
Washington’s offensive line is slightly better, but only because Indianapolis’ is so poor. Trent Williams is the Redskins’ best offensive lineman by far, while Anthony Castonzo is the Colts’ best. Colts right guard Mike McGlynn has been awful, but so has Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus. Both quarterbacks have been extremely impressive for how much pressure their lines have given up.
It’s laughable that someone could argue that the offense surrounding Griffin has been better than Luck’s based merely on Wayne. Some may point to Morris as being much better than anyone the Colts have to offer, but when you look at his numbers without Griffin, that’s not true. While it’s tough to say that any running back could excel with Griffin, it may be true. The rookie opens up so many holes between the tackles.
It’s fair to argue that Griffin has missed more games, or that Luck is forced to make tougher throws, but when arguing Griffin versus Luck for rookie of the year honors, don’t discredit Griffin for his offensive weapons. His teammates aren’t more talented — he just makes them look that way.
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