The Washington Redskins are using the threat of Robert Griffin III and his familiarity with the option offense to create big plays in the running game. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3, the Redskins used the triple option on two critical third-quarter drives to help pull the scores level at 24 apiece.
Two plays in particular stood out as fine examples of how well the Redskins have adopted elements of the option offense and are using them to fool defenses. The first play comes with the Redskins trailing 24-10. All screenshots courtesy of CBSSports.
In the screenshot below, the Redskins align with tight end Fred Davis next to the left tackle and have Griffin in a short shotgun, or pistol, position. Tailback Evan Royster lines up to the side of Griffin, while wide receiver Brandon Banks aligns directly behind the quarterback.
The Bengals are in nickel, with safety Nate Clements joining the linebackers. Griffin now has essentially three options from this look, if he declines a downfield pass. He can either hand off directly to Royster, fake a handoff and run himself or fake to Royster and pitch to Banks.
At the snap, Griffin makes a quick handoff to Royster and immediately rolls out of the pocket the other way. Banks then follows behind him, shown in the screenshot below.
The Bengals have to respect the threat Griffin offers as a runner, and his movement freezes the defensive end, shown in the first highlighted portion. The second highlighted portion shows Clements spying Banks, in case Griffin still has the ball and opts for his third option, the pitch.
All of this action and deception creates a gaping hole through middle of Cincinnati's defense. With one side of the front waiting to react to Griffin or Banks, Royster can attack the open middle. The Redskins offensive linemen are also free to do what they do best, and that's quickly get to the second level, shown in the screenshot below.
The first highlighted portion shows center Will Montgomery moving up to block linebacker Vincent Rey (57). The second highlighted portion shows right tackle Tyler Polumbus slide forward to redirect Rey Maualuga (58).
The result of the play is an easy nine-yard gain for the Redskins. Nine yards straight up the middle is good business against any defense.
The next example shows the Redskins following through on the threat of Banks by having Griffin execute the pitch. In the screenshot below, the Redskins are in a similar alignment as before, but the running back and tight end have switched sides.
This time, Griffin fakes the handoff to Alfred Morris at the snap, shown in the screenshot below.
This action freezes linebacker Dan Skuta (51), shown in the highlighted portion. It also sends defensive end Michael Johnson (93), crashing down in response to what he believes is an inside run.
As the play develops, the Bengals' defensive front shrinks in response to the inside handoff. This creates outside leverage and running room for Banks to exploit, shown in the screenshot below.
Johnson gets trapped inside, allowing left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (78), to move out and trap the strong-side linebacker. Meanwhile, Maualuga gets drawn to Morris, shown in the highlighted portion.
Griffin's roll-out has drawn the attention of Skuta and Clements, and his pitch is perfectly timed. Banks now has the space to maximize his speed and completes a gain of more than 20 yards.
This type of scheming has been at the heart of the Redskins' second-ranked ground game. It takes advantage of what helped make Griffin successful in college and utilizes his threat as a runner.
Mike and Kyle Shanahan deserve credit for making these plays such a big part of the game plan and forcing defenses to account for this type of action each week.