Football Friday Film Study: Newton and RGIII Are Different Animals


Football Friday Film Study is a weekly piece dissecting the Washington Redskins’ upcoming opponent’s main strength.

They are both Heisman trophy winners, highly athletic, and started their NFL careers making big plays through the air and on the ground. It is justifiable for people to compare Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton. But in actuality, their playing styles are vastly different and they both utilize their athletic abilities different ways. Obviously, there is a significant size differential between Newton and Griffin. With his big frame, Cam Newton has a tendency to stick his nose in congested areas on the field. He is agile, yet physical and can run defenders over on the football field.

Griffin is a bit different – he has world class speed, but he ‘runs to throw’  more often than Newton. Sometimes Newton misses opportunities because he’s quick to tuck the ball and run. Other times, Newton struggles using his big body and athleticism to step up in the pocket and make throws. They are two different animals and here’s why:

  • This is a screenshot from the 4th quarter of the Carolina Panthers’ week 4 match-up against the Atlanta Falcons. Circled in red is a scrambling Cam Newton and in yellow are three throwing options Newton could have made either between his initial drop-back and him moving out the pocket. This was a high – low read, that he didn’t wait to unfold – his receiver on the top deep route abused the Falcons’ corner after using a double move. Newton had enough time to step up in the pocket and make that throw down the field, but instead he scrambled out the pocket. Newton’s athleticism allowed him to escape pressure, however, he had receivers open that he could have thrown to…


  •   Here’s a clearer screenshot – this is a situation that Robert Griffin III would have likely thrown the ball to one of the open receivers. Cam Newton decided to keep the football and gain 11 yards on this play. Of course, an 11 yard gain is a positive play. But Newton also missed an opportunity to make a bigger play.


  • Here’s a screenshot with showing Griffin’s left guard getting beat on an inside rush. Instead of taking the open space and running for about a 10 yard gain, he steeped up in the pocket – eluded pressure, and threw the ball to his receiver Joshua Morgan for a 15 yard gain. Newton is more likely to run for 10 yards than to throw for 15 yards on this play.


  • Here’s a screenshot from Carolina’s week 7 match-up against the Dallas Cowboys. Newton missed a few throwing opportunities on this play – his receiver on the top separated nicely from the Cowboys’ DB, and he had enough room to make a throw to the receiver inside the numbers. Instead, Newton ran for a gain of 7 instead of attempting to make a throw for a larger gain. His eyes were look towards the sideline the entire time he scrambled out the pocket. Griffin is more likely to keep his eyes down the field, reset and throw the ball in this situation. We saw proof of that in Washington’s week 7 match-up against the New York Giants -
  • There are not many quarterbacks that can make this throw. In fact, you would be hard pressed to name a quarterback that would even attempt to make this throw. Robert Griffin III is in open space against arguably the most athletic defensive linemen in all of football – Jason Pierre Paul, and still completes a crucial 4th down throw against the Giants. Griffin’s eyes never glanced to the sideline – he was determined to distribute the football to one of his receivers.


The willingness to throw while on the move is one of many attributes that sets Robert Griffin III apart from Cam Newton, and many other “running Qbs.”

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