How Mike Shanahan Can Evolve the Redskins' Offense in RG3's Second Year
The success of Robert Griffin III was not as much of a surprise as it was simply impressive.
Critics of the quarterback were clear in their concerns with his durability and ability to translate from a spread offense to a "pro-style" one in the NFL. Those concerns were quickly erased, however, when Griffin took the field in Mike Shanahan's hybrid West Coast offense that featured plays from Baylor's offense. In Shanahan's offense, he lit up the league and stayed healthy for the most part.
Now the question is if he can sustain his success and take the Redskins offense to the next level.
That heavily depends on not just Griffin's arm, legs and health, but also on how open Shanahan is to expanding his offense. Griffin needs to do a better job of taking less hits that put his health in jeopardy. Two ways he can avoid them are by sliding and going out of bounds more. It's simple, but it works.
If you don't believe me, just ask Michael Vick how a refusal to slide when scrambling has affected his health.
What will be more interesting to see is how Shanahan evolves his offense. Will he throw more or less play-action passes? Will there be more deep throws for Griffin? What about an expanded zone read-option package?
When it comes to play-action passing, Griffin excelled in the area, averaging an astronomical 11.8 yards per attempt, according to Hogs Haven. He was able to threaten defenses vertically once he froze safeties with his outstanding play-action fakes. One great example of this was against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12.
It was early in the second quarter, and the Redskins were on their own 32-yard line. Griffin's back heel was on the 27-yard line, distancing him five yards from the line of scrimmage, while he stood in pistol set. The personnel grouping was "21," consisting of two backs and one tight end.
At the snap, Griffin caught the football and turned to his left, faking the handoff to running back Alfred Morris. He held the ball out in Morris' direction, forcing the safeties to make a flat-footed read.
Because the safeties were forced to make a flat-footed read, they held their ground opposed to backpedaling and protecting against the deep ball.
That allowed wide receiver Aldrick Robinson to run a post route behind the near safety, Danny McCray, and burn him for a touchdown.
The Redskins didn't attempt enough deep passes last season. Griffin only attempted 36 passes of more than 20 yards, a meager nine percent of his overall attempts (via Hogs Haven). That's the second-lowest percentage of all quarterbacks last season, only trailing Christian Ponder of the Minnesota Vikings.
It would be wise for the coaching staff to have Griffin throw more vertically for three reasons.
One is that he would stay in the pocket more, which helps his ability to stay healthy,
Two, it forces defenses to respect the deep ball more. The deeper the safeties are, the more room Morris has to run and the more opportunities for screen passes to be thrown. If Morris is given more room to run and is effective with it, it also opens up more play-action opportunities, which go hand-in-hand with Griffin's deep-ball attempts.
And three, it's a strength of Griffin's. He's very good at throwing the deep ball, as he throws with great velocity and accuracy.
Moreover, the Redskins also have to look to evolve their zone read-option package. Fortunately, they were one of the more advanced teams last season because of Griffin's familiarity with it from his college days.
They can still improve on it, however, by running a wider variety of concepts and throwing more vertically from it as illustrated against the Dallas Cowboys.
By concepts, I mean calling a greater variety of run plays, such as power and counter, from the pistol formation. The great thing about the pistol is that it gives the offense flexibility, as explained by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. (via Redskins.com)
I think what’s so good about the Pistol is just that you can do everything out of it. I think one thing about the NFL, if they know a play is coming – no matter what the play is, no matter who the players are – if they know it’s coming, defenses are going to stop it.
The thing that the Pistol gives you, it allows you to do all the zone read and everything, but it allows you to run the rest of your offense. There’s nothing you can’t do out of the Pistol.
Further, as I've written before, the power concept gets the running back going downhill and being led by a pulling guard from the backside of the play. It's a play that can be particularly dangerous for the Redskins because of how frequently they use the pistol formation.
The pistol enables the offense to establish a downhill running game (and everything else) easier because the running back doesn't have to run laterally prior to getting downhill like he would do when lined up offset in shotgun formation, for example.
In the case of a concept such as power, Morris would follow the pulling guard to the frontside of the play and then square his shoulders and aggressively attack downhill.
A strong and diverse Redskins running game also creates more play-action opportunities, which are significant because of the aforementioned reasons.
For defensive coordinators and defensive backs, an evolved offense that features Griffin throwing more play-action and vertical bombs is simply a nightmare.
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