Even though their offense was one of the better attacks in the NFL last year, the Redskins are going to change their offense in 2013.
The only question is, how much?
Joe Gibbs once said that he would change about 40 percent of his offense from year to year even when it was working well. If you’re not advancing you’re going backwards as defenses will react to what you do and spend all offseason trying to stop it.
The Redskins might have an additional reason to adjust their offense, which led the league in rushing and yards per play and was fourth in scoring. In the Washington Post, Jason Reed reported that the Redskins’ upper management believes that Robert Griffin III “wasn’t happy about being exposed often on designed running plays.”
Griffin ran 120 times for 815 yards as a rookie last year. Since the merger only four quarterbacks have carried the ball more often. Not all of the runs were by design, of course. The improvised runs resulted in some of his most spectacular plays (the 76-yard TD run against the Vikings) and some of his lowest moments (a concussion against the Falcons, the knee injury against the Ravens).
Reed points out that while Griffin is most frequently compared to Michael Vick, RG3 prefers to be compared to Aaron Rodgers who is athletic like Griffin and very close to RG3 in height and weight. In each of Rodgers’ five seasons as a starter he has carried between 54 and 64 times for between 200 and 350 yards. Virtually all of his runs come when a play breaks down,;rarely does he do a designed run that is not a quarterback sneak. Rodgers, who last month signed a contract that made him the highest paid player in the game, is more of a classic pocket passer.
The issue with the Redskins evolving into a similar passing attack, Reed notes, is that their offensive line is suspect when it comes to pass protection. “It’s true that Griffin, in a more conventional offense, wouldn’t have to run as much by design—he’d have to run for safety.”
But Rodgers does not exactly have the 1991 Hogs in front of him, either. He was sacked a league-leading 51 times last year (Griffin was sacked 30 times). That didn’t stop Rodgers for throwing for nearly 4300 yards and 39 touchdowns. Despite the leaky protection Rodgers has remained mostly healthy. Since taking over as the starter in 2008 he has played in 87 of the 89 regular- and post-season games the Packers have played.
The other part of the attack is that league-leading rushing game and it is clear to anyone who watched the Redskins last year that the threat of Griffin running helped clear the way for Alfred Morris to gain over 1600 yards on the ground. If Griffin runs less will Morris still be effective?
The key to effectively retooling the offense is finding the happy medium. Griffin has to run enough to keep the threat alive but not so much that he is taking a pounding to the extent it might shorten his season—and his career. He needs to stay in the pocket long enough to deliver the ball to an open receiver but not so long that the lines ability to protect him is not too severely tested.
Kyle and Mike Shanahan had their work cut out for them last year when they had to design an offense for Griffin last year. What they came up with was innovative, fun to watch and, most importantly effective. The will have to go back to work and at least keep it effective.