Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Even with 88 of the league's brightest stars ready to take the field Sunday in Honolulu, I can't help but think about one of the players who wasn't invited to this year's Pro Bowl.
His name is Robert Griffin III.
You'd be reminded of Griffin too if you walked by a cardboard cutout of his likeness on a daily basis. Same goes for Tony Romo, whose Fathead I walk past every time I make a trip to the copier. Such is life at The Sports Network.
But we'll leave Romo out of this. We already know how his story ends. Dallas will always lose to some NFC East opponent on the last day of the season and finish 8-8. It's nature's way.
As for Griffin III, there are two schools of thought. Glass half-full people say that his lackluster 2013 campaign was a product of poor coaching and a knee not being 100 percent. The Debbie Downers of the world (you know who you are) would counter by saying 2013 is a sign of things to come and that Washington made a big mistake by drafting Griffin as early as they did in 2012 (No. 2 overall).
I guess you guys caught me on a good day. Or maybe seeing Cardboard Griffin so often has made me feel like he's part of The Sports Network family. Either way, I'm expecting big things from RG3 in 2014. Here are 10 reasons you should too.
1. He'll be fully healthy
Adrian Peterson poisoned our minds. Because he won the MVP award mere months after shredding his knee to smithereens, we automatically assumed Griffin would do the same.
That's preposterous. Knee injuries, particularly torn ACLs, can sometimes take more than a year to heal. For Derrick Rose, it was a year and a half.
Peterson was the exception, not the norm. Griffin, now a little over a year removed from his ACL surgery, will be well-rested heading into the 2014 campaign, especially after sitting out the final three games of 2013.
Fantasy owners would be better off pretending this season never happened, because truthfully, Griffin shouldn't have played.
2. The defense can only improve
Washington's defense was downright despicable this season.
A poor defense can affect a quarterback in a number of different ways. When you're always losing, which was the case with Washington this year, it limits the amount of plays you can run. For example, running the ball when you're down two touchdowns probably isn't the most efficient way to go about your business.
Throwing out half the playbook is never a good thing for a QB, especially one who relies on running plays to set up play action and stretch the field like Griffin III.
Worst of all, this pass-first approach makes play-calling EXTREMELY predictable. If you don't believe me, look no further than Griffin's 12 interceptions. With Washington's defense allowing the second-most points in the league (29.9 ppg), things can only get better ... right?
3. Pierre is a stud
Over the years, many of Matthew Stafford's deficiencies have been masked by Calvin Johnson's ability to catch almost anything in sight. Though Pierre Garcon isn't quite on Megatron's level yet, he's certainly on his way to super-stardom. He was just the third player in NFL history to record at least five catches in all 16 games. Garcon should be someone Griffin can rely on for years to come.
4. Ever hear of the sophomore slump?
The sophomore slump isn't exactly a new phenomenon. Cam Newton watched his touchdown total drop as a sophomore in 2012, going from 35 total as a rookie to just 27, while Alfred Morris rushed for 338 fewer yards in 2013 than he did as a rookie the previous season. Trent Richardson (387 less yards, eight fewer touchdowns) and Doug Martin (998 less yards, 10 fewer touchdowns) witnessed a similar decline as second-year players. Newton, a Pro Bowler this season, bounced back in his third year and so will RG3.
5. Jay Gruden knows what he's doing
First off, he's a Gruden. That has to count for something, right?
And besides that, Gruden famously turned Andy Dalton into a fantasy stud while serving as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden isn't far removed from playing under center himself (he played quarterback in the Arena League as recently as 2003), so he can probably relate to what Griffin is going through.
I think turning over the coaching reigns to Gruden was a wise move and one of the few smart decisions Dan Snyder has made in his tumultuous tenure as team owner.
6. Losing can humble you
You really think Griffin is sitting at home feeling sorry for himself right now? No way. He's probably working out like a fiend and studying film until his eyes can't open anymore. Griffin has always played with a chip on his shoulder, and I'm sure his less than stellar performance in 2013 will motivate him to come back better than ever.
Look out, World. You've been warned.
7. He was RIDICULOUS as a rookie
Yeah, Griffin was so-so in 2013. But did you see him the year before that?
It was wild, man. Twenty-seven total touchdowns, a rookie quarterback record 815 rushing yards, a 102.4 QB rating ... do you want me to keep going?
Griffin was sensational in 2012, and he probably would have been this year too if not for that bum knee holding him back. I really don't think the knee will be an issue next season.
8. Keep an eye out for Jordan Reed
Maybe it's because I always root for guys from my home state (What up, Connecticut?) but I'm a real believer in this guy. Before he went down with a concussion, Reed had been on pace for 887 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The 887 yards would have been third-most among tight ends.
That's pretty impressive for a rookie. Griffin can only benefit from having a strong red zone presence like Reed at his disposal.
9. The dude is only 23!
Okay, he'll be 24 next month, but you get what I'm trying to say. Peyton Manning was 27 when he won his first MVP. Griffin still has plenty of time to reach his potential.
If Griffin's still going through the motions at 26 or 27, I think we can all move on. But until then, I'm willing to give the guy a chance. He did win a Heisman Trophy after all.
10. Look at that pitiful division he plays in
Six games against arguably the NFL's worst division? Yes, please.
Dallas and Philadelphia both surrendered more than 285 passing yards per game in 2013 while the Giants endured a stretch of five games in a row allowing at least 30 points. If Griffin can't torch these sorry defenses, he doesn't belong in the NFL.
I think there's a good chance you'll be seeing Griffin in Hawaii next year. As for me, well I'll be seeing him everyday. Isn't that right, Cardboard Griffin?
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