Is RG3 Ready for Week 1 Against the Eagles?

Is RG3 Ready for Week 1 Against the Eagles?

Two situations spring to mind when I think about Robert Griffin III under center for the Washington Redskins just eight months removed from a torn ACL, not to mention without attempting so much as a single pass in a preseason game this summer.

First, I think of Donovan McNabb in 2007, less than one year after his torn ACL. It was not Five’s finest season, particularly the first few weeks while he was shaking off the rust. McNabb posted passer ratings of 60.7, 74.5, and 61.0 in three of his first four games back – all losses – and the Eagles wound up finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs.

Next I think of Michael Vick in 2012, when he more or less missed the entire preseason with injuries. Vick attempted all of seven passes between two exhibition games, and when the regular season arrived, it showed. He completed 51.8% of his passes and threw four interceptions while narrowly escaping Cleveland with a 17-16 win, a sign of things to come as it turned out.

Although it would seem there are multiple forces at work against Griffin, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan reiterated on Monday that Griffin will be the starting quarterback for the season opener against the Eagles next week. Having seen signal callers in similar situations before, I have to wonder whether the second-year player will be ready for live action.

For what it’s worth, his head coach and teammates sound impressed by what they’ve seen from Griffin. Shanahan claims he wouldn’t put his 23-year-old franchise quarterback on the field if they weren’t confident he was able to do everything they asked. According to the guys inside the huddle, like Villanova product Darrel Young, it’s the same RG3.

 “You guys [the media] aren’t out there [at practice], but let me just tell you this: He looks damn good,” fullback Darrel Young said. “The way he’s moving around, making plays . . . he’s full go with everything.”

If he is truly as good as new, that’s great news for Griffin and for football fans. After watching Adrian Peterson run wild over the NFL less than a year removed from the same type of injury, it certainly looked like players can come back faster than ever.

Even if it’s not a question of physical limitations for Griffin though, what about the lack of a preseason? Griffin only began practicing 11-on-11 against the Redskins defense a few weeks ago, but even had he been going against them all training camp, they can’t simulate a live pass rush that’s coming to get the quarterback, or what it will be like the first time he takes a hit.

Vick has come to understand the importance of getting some work in during the preseason since last year's disastrous opening-day performance. In Reuben Frank’s story for CSN, the four-time Pro Bowler talks about how much more prepared he is for this season over last.

“Honestly? Yeah, I think it did affect me, a lot,” Vick said, referring to last year's preseason. “It takes a while to get adjusted, and yeah, I’ve been in the game a long time and I’m a veteran and I know what it feels like to be in the game, but sometimes there’s really no way of simulating that -- the game-type atmosphere.

To be fair, Griffin may already be a more well-rounded player in year two in the NFL than Vick ever was, but does that mean he’ll be ready to hit the ground running on September 9? That’s a little difficult to take on faith based on the historical and anecdotal evidence. Even Peterson didn’t really hit his stride until a month into the season, and there’s a lot less going on for a running back.

Granted, Griffin is a rare breed, but will he be as ready as possible for Monday night when the lights go on? It seems like a stretch.

>> RG3 determined to be even better [WaPo]
>> Can improved preseason be key to Vick's success? [CSN]

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

A day after going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts, Odubel Herrera is leading off for the Phillies in their series opener Friday night against the Reds (see game notes).

It's the first time Herrera is leading off since last Aug. 19, a span of 84 games.

Cesar Hernandez gets the night off, with Andres Blanco batting second and playing second.

Maikel Franco is back in the six-hole after going 1 for 5 with two strikeouts in the cleanup spot Thursday. Tommy Joseph bats fourth and Michael Saunders fifth.

Cameron Rupp, who walked three times in Thursday's win over the Rockies, catches Aaron Nola and bats seventh.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Andres Blanco, 2B
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Aaron Nola, P

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies (16-29) vs. Reds (22-24)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Following their first win in a week, the Phillies open a new series this weekend against a beatable team in the Cincinnati Reds, who are 3-9 in their last 12 games and 1-7 in their last eight road games.

Let's have ourselves a look-see:

1. Nola's turn
Aaron Nola is on the mound tonight for his second start since a month-long DL stint. He was extremely impressive his last time out, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in Pittsburgh.

Nola's fastball reached as high as 95.5 mph against the Pirates, which is notable because he threw only two pitches faster than 94 mph all of last season. His velocity was up before the lower back strain and it's a great sign that the elbow injury which ended his 2016 season is truly in the past.

In Pittsburgh, Nola (2-1, 3.52) threw 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes. He got 11 outs on the first three pitches of at-bats. 

He's faced the Reds twice in his career and dominated them both times, allowing two earned runs in 14 innings with one walk and 17 strikeouts.

Current Reds have gone 7 fo 39 (.179) against him with just two extra-base hits. Joey Votto is 0 for 5.

2. What to do with Odubel
Pete Mackanin has an interesting decision to make this weekend with slumping Odubel Herrera, who on Thursday became the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in a game.

Herrera is down to .226 on the season with a .275 on-base percentage. In May, he's hit .194 with one walk and 28 strikeouts.

Mackanin could bench Herrera like he did with Maikel Franco for two games earlier this week. It would send a message to the player that poor at-bats and wild swings have consequences. And, quite frankly, sitting Herrera for a day or two might give the Phillies a better chance to win.

The issue, of course, is that there's a thin line between giving a player a chance to clear his head and ridding him of opportunities to get back on track.

Plus, the Phillies don't have great options in replacing Herrera in the lineup. They have a four-man bench at the moment and the only options would be putting Ty Kelly or Brock Stassi in left field and moving Aaron Altherr to center.

(Update: Mackanin is taking the opposite approach with Herrera, leading him off Friday night.)

Herrera just has not been himself this season and it's troubling. At this point last season, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. He's been an undisciplined hitter in 2017 and when you have two of them in the middle of the lineup in Herrera and Franco, it makes things really easy on pitchers at times.

Herrera started the year hot, hitting in his first eight games. Since then, he's hit .203/.239/.324 in 155 plate appearances with six walks and 42 K's.

3. Tommy time
Tommy Joseph has been one of the very best hitters in baseball this month, batting .329/.400/.671 with six doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games.

He's 148 games and 499 plate appearances into his major-league career and has hit .257 with 23 doubles, 28 homers, 69 RBIs and an .804 OPS. That's about 10 points higher than the league average OPS from first basemen over that span.

Had Joseph's April slump continued into May, prospect Rhys Hoskins might have already been called up. But Joseph has done enough so far to hold off Hoskins, who appears to have more upside because of his combination of power and plate selection.

Controlling the strike zone is the next step for Joseph. He has a .311 OBP so far with 33 walks and 112 strikeouts as a Phillie.

But over the last two seasons, he's been one of the few Phils who's taken advantage of this ballpark. Joseph's hit .276 with an .844 OPS at Citizens Bank Park compared to .240 with a .769 OPS on the road.

4. Scouting the Reds
The Phillies face 29-year-old Reds right-hander Tim Adleman (2-2, 6.19).

You look at the ERA and think, OK, maybe the Phillies' bats will wake up tonight. But keep in mind that the Rockies' four starting pitchers this week entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA and the Phillies scored three runs against them in 27 innings.

There's nothing special about the 6-foot-5 Adleman. He throws his fastball and sinker in the 88 to 91 mph range with a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. His opponents have hit .300 against his fastball and have eight extra-base hits with a .290 batting average against his changeup.

In six starts this season, Adleman's yet to go deeper than six innings. The Phils faced him last season and scored three runs in five innings. Cesar Hernandez went 2 for 2 with a walk and Franco went 1 for 3 with a double.

As for Cincinnati's offense, Votto is obviously the hitter you worry about most. He's hit .299/.422/.591 this season with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 38 RBIs, 35 walks and 24 strikeouts. A typical Votto season.

Shortstop Zack Cozart has been surprisingly hot these first two months, hitting .340 with 20 extra-base hits, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts. It's most surprising to see him walking this much because he never has. He's 15 walks away from matching his career high.

Leftfielder Adam Duvall has killed the Phillies over the last two seasons. He went 5 for 11 with two doubles and a homer in the season-opening series in Cincy and went 8 for 18 with four doubles against them last season.

5. This and that
• Over the last seven games, the Phillies' bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 22⅔ innings.

• Howie Kendrick started at third base for Lehigh Valley during his rehab assignment Thursday. He was hit by two pitches and removed from the game.  

• Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. He's 8 for 8 in save chances this season with a 0.73 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He's struck out 28 and allowed just one home run in 24⅔ innings. His ability to go multiple innings is what makes him stand out — he's Andrew Miller-like in that regard. Iglesias has pitched more than one inning in 7 of his 19 appearances.