The Redskins are off to a slow start offensively. After leading the NFL in yards per play in 2012 they are currently sixth at 6.1 yards per snap. They are way off of their game when it comes to running the ball. They led the league in rushing yards last year and now they are 20th.
And although Robert Griffin III is posting some decent passing numbers, he is not the efficient, dynamic threat that he was last year. Although he is on pace to pass for 5,200 yards, he has already thrown four interceptions compared to five all of last year and his passer rating is down to 84.1 after he posted a rookie record 102.4 rating in 2012.
The team has been working against some pretty strong head winds. Griffin, of course, is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. In addition, defensive coordinators spent all summer trying to decipher the read option attack and Pistol formation that the Redskins, Seahawks, and 49ers ran so successfully and devising ways to stop it.
Griffin seems to be working his way back into form after the injury. How do you combat the defensive schemes? By running “other stuff”, according to Kyle Shanahan.
“The thing about last year was a lot of people weren’t ready for it at all, so it was easy at times,” the Redskins’ offensive coordinator said.
It’s no longer that easy.
“Yeah, anytime you get the attention that we did, that San Fran did, Seattle did last year, when you have something that was that successful, guys are too smart,” he said. “They’re going to work all offseason to find a way to stop it. And I think that when that happens you have to get better at the other stuff. I think we do have some other stuff, I think we are getting better at it.”
One of the issues the Redskins have had when it comes to incorporating “other stuff” into their offense is that game situations have dictated passing a lot more than they would like to. Last year they averaged 28 passes and 32 runs per game. In the first three games this season it’s 46 passes to 19 runs. That is what having only one offensive snap with the lead in a game will do.
Just like the defensive gurus were able to spend all spring and summer coming up with plans to stop the read option, Shanahan and other offensive minds with mobile quarterbacks were able to devise counter measures. The good thing for Shanahan is that the methods for stopping the offense are fairy limited.
“I don’t think it was any real big secret about what are they going to do,” said Shanahan. “There are certain ways you knew they’d stop it: Not just go get the quarterback; not allow him to run; make him hand it off every time; overload the defense, put everybody over there; take a safety out of the middle of the field and bring him down so you’re outnumbered. There are not too many options.”
Shanahan added plans to counter those defenses to the playbook; now, it’s a matter of getting those plays called and then performing when they are.
“When teams [commit to stopping the option], it leaves holes other places,” he said. “When you have holes other places, how automatic are you at executing those plays that attack that? I don’t think we have been in all of those areas. I think we’ve been a little hit or miss, and we’ve just got to continue to be better cleaning all that up.”
Running the “other stuff” is intended to compliment the read option plays, not replace them.
“It doesn’t mean that [the read option] doesn’t work, you’re just not shocking people like you were last year, and when teams are completely committed to stopping something, I don’t care what it is, they’re going to stop it,” Shanahan said.