…but this imitation comes with limitation.
News out of the Baltimore Ravens’ practice facility is that practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon is playing the part of Robert Griffin III for the scout team in practice. The former Pittsburgh Steeler and Oregon Duck ran the option during his time in the great northwest, before settling into more traditional offenses in the AFC North.
He brings comparable size (listed at 6-3, 200 pounds) to Griffin III (6-2, 217 pounds) and also wears the No. 10 jersey. And that’s roughly where the similarities end.
Dixon was a one-time Heisman candidate before an ACL injury derailed his senior year, landing him fifth in the voting behind Tim Tebow, Darren McFadden, former Redskin Colt Brennan and Chase Daniel. For his collegiate career, Dixon completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 5,129 yards, 38 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and a collegiate passer rating of 137.9.
After sitting out of the NFL Scouting Combine with injury, Dixon was taken in the fifth round of the draft (156th overall), and started three games in the last five years.
On the other hand, Griffin III parlayed an electric senior year into a a Heisman victory over a talented field. For his collegiate career, Griffin III completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 10,366 yards, 78 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and 12,620 yards from scrimmage. Not only are his collegiate numbers better in every statistical category, but so are his measurables.
Once upon a time, Griffin III was an Olympic-quality track star, who runs a 4.3 40-yard dash in the open field. The best that Dixon was ever able to manage was mid-4.5 speed, which is fast, but not comparable. If the Ravens’ defense hopes to learn from Dixon’s speed in the read option offense, this bodes well for the significantly faster Griffin III.
Dixon is an athletic playmaker, but is not known for having touch or accuracy on his deep ball. Meanwhile, Griffin III leads the NFL in passes of longer than 10 yards. The Redskins have scored four-of-five passing touchdowns in the last two weeks off play action or the read option fake, consistently catching the opposing defenses off guard. This success is difficult to replicate in practice, especially as wrinkles continue to be introduced to the playbook each week.
Ultimately, there is no player in the NFL with the combination of size, speed and arm strength that Griffin III brings to the table. He is the fourth-most accurate quarterback in the NFL and is already the all-time leader in rookie rushing yards for a quarterback, smashing Cam Newton’s record with four games to play.
The Ravens have never faced a quarterback with Griffin III’s skill set, so putting Dixon in that role gives them a tangible frame of reference to practice off of. However, given Griffin III’s ability to read the defense and adapt, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t help.