Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Football Laundromat: Washington Redskins Edition

Hello, readers. TC Fleming here. This is the area on Bob's Blog where I normally make an effort at explaining at least some element of the opposing team's offense. After nearly a season of doing this, I think I've already hit on quite a bit of what the Redskins do.

Mike Shanahan does some pretty distinct stuff for the most part. Watching the Redskins, they run a tremendously high percentage of their offense from under center with a running back, a fullback and two receivers. Unless they're in a clear passing situation, you're going to see a ton of them being lined up like this.

As far as the plays they run, it's a lot of zone running, and it's a good amount of bootleg passing. Zone running is pretty ubiquitous these days, but it's been What Mike Shanahan Does for his entire career, even back before it was big. Being one of the first on the zone running scene is one of the ways one coaxes an 1,100-yard season out of Olandis Gary. Or a 1,400-yard season out of Mike Anderson. Things like that.

And if I could go off on a little bit of a tangent, I think it's the zone run going from odd province of the Broncos and people who directly knew Shanahan or Alex Gibbs to the most-called running play in the league that accounts somewhat for the downfall of Mike Shanahan (to the extent he's had a downfall, it's hard to win Super Bowls, guys. He made the playoffs a lot, and was no worse than .500 in his last two Broncos seasons before going onto this no-depth, questionable-talent-level Redskins team). And it's not even so much that the league has become used to seeing the play and knows how to defend it. It's a little bit that, but it's more that they run a system that utilizes players with certain kinds of skills, namely linemen who are more quick than big (though still plenty big, to be sure) and running backs who can be committed to the one-cut running style. The Broncos under Shanahan were a team looking for a type of player that other teams simply didn't need. It's not that they picked players that other teams missed on. Those teams didn't miss on these small-er, quick linemen and one-cut runningbacks, they wouldn't have had any use for them. But now that zone running is as commonplace as it is, every team has great use for those players. Plenty of teams (ie the Cowboys) still prioritize size and strength in their linemen, but it's less than the late 90's. So Shanahan no longer has his pick of his kind of guys, and it makes success that much harder to attain.

Also big in Shanahan's system is the mobile quarterback. As is harped on in the post I'm about to link to, a lot of what Shanahan does is have the quarterback fake to the running back and roll out with the ball himself. On those plays, the quarterback has to be adept at throwing on the run while also presenting the defense with the threat that he'll just take off and keep the ball himself. So the trade for McNabb makes a lot of sense. Good, mobile quarterbacks on the NFL level are a special bunch who are not easily acquired, and to run his system the way he wants to Shanahan had to find the the best one available.

Okay, so here are the two previous posts. In this post about the Giants, I get into zone running and link to an article that explains it even further. The first two disgrammed plays are the ones relevant to the Redskins. You're going to see those plays a bunch this weekend.

And in this post about the Texans--whose coach, Gary Kubiak, was Shanahan's offensive coordinator for many, many years in Denver--I get into the bootleg pass that's a big compliment to the zone run game.

So yeah. Between those two concepts, that's a lot of the ideas that go into what the Redskins seek to do on offense. Hopefully this all contributes some to your enjoyment of the game Sunday.

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