Washington Redskins vs. Oakland Raiders: Breaking Down Washington's Game Plan

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Washington Redskins vs. Oakland Raiders: Breaking Down Washington's Game Plan
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Attacking the Oakland Raiders with a heavy diet of zone runs and play-action passes has to be the game plan for the Washington Redskins in Week 4.

Granted, that is staple stuff in head coach Mike Shanahan's offense. But getting back to the basics of their system is the best way for Shanahan's team to correct its 0-3 start.

It is also the smartest way to protect a woeful defense that needs to spend most of this game watching from the sidelines. When coordinator Jim Haslett's group are on the field, they must be wary of the Raiders' offensive creativity.

 

Beware of Oakland's Trick Plays

The Raiders have more than a few gadget concepts in their offense. They could catch the Redskins cold if Haslett has not adequately prepared his defense.

One sub-package to be wary of is the Wildcat. Oakland running back Darren McFadden played the offense at the collegiate level with Arkansas and the Raiders are not afraid to use it.

They did against the Denver Broncos in Week 3. The Raiders put McFadden behind the center in a shotgun look, with quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2), split out as a wide receiver.

The Raiders in their Wildcat sub-package.

On this particular play, speedy wideout Jacoby Ford would motion down from the slot and take a pitch from McFadden on the run.

Jacoby Ford gets ready to take the pitch, with two tight ends set to seal the edge.

The Raiders would use two tight ends to seal an edge for Ford to attack. Fullback Marcel Reece (45) blocked the back-side defender.

The fullback blocks the back side, while Ford uses his speed to attack the corner.

Ford only gained four yards on this play, but it is a creative way to get the ball in his hands and let him use his speed. The Redskins have to be prepared for this look.

The Raiders also trust McFadden to throw the ball. Against the Broncos, they set up a classic halfback option.

McFadden aligned deep in the backfield behind Pryor, while Reece aligned in the slot. The Raiders would again use two tight ends to seal the edge.

The Raiders set up a halfback option, with McFadden aiming for his fullback Reece.

They would also deploy two pulling linemen, the center and right tackle. This would create a convoy, as if they were leading McFadden on a toss play.

What the Raiders really wanted to do was release Reece through the crowd on a swing route to the end zone.

Reece would leave the slot and swing past the blocking to the end zone.

McFadden took the toss and the Broncos swept that way, playing the run. With his blockers in front of him, McFadden had the time and space to stop and set himself for a surprise throw.

With blockers in front giving him time, McFadden surprised the Broncos with a pass.

He was able to loft a nice pass to Reece, who had escaped through the crowd. The play resulted in a 16-yard touchdown.

McFadden fooled the Denver defense and fired an accurate pass into the end zone.

McFadden threw successfully in college, and in their eagerness to improve against the run, the Redskins cannot ignore his threat as a passer.

Of course, as much as Washington must be mindful of McFadden, they will also be keeping a close eye on the health status of Pryor.

There have been conflicting reports regarding the status of the dual-threat quarterback for this Sunday. Pryor suffered a concussion in the latter stages of the clash with the Broncos.

If he does play, the Redskins should be aware of his ability to be a playmaker from read-option looks. Against the Broncos, the Raiders planned to get the defense shifting one way and have Pryor run in the other direction.

They positioned him in the pistol, with tight end Jeron Mastrud alongside him and McFadden behind. Oakland added an extra lineman, Matt McCants (73), on the right side and planned to shift that way.

The Raiders set up a read-option, with Pryor keying the defensive end.

The Broncos naturally believed the Raiders would run behind this overloaded side. So when Pryor faked a handoff to McFadden, the defense went that way.

Pryor faked a handoff and waited for the defensive end to react.

Pryor then read the action of rush end Shaun Phillips (90). If he went inside to stop McFadden, Pryor would keep it and run. His escape would be set up by Mastrud leading the way.

That is precisely what happened. As Phillips crashed down inside, Pryor sped around the corner and gained 23 yards.

When the end went for the inside run, Pryor kept the ball and fled around the corner for 23 yards.

Had Phillips continued his outside rush, Pryor would have given the ball to McFadden on the inside draw.

This was textbook option stuff, but noting the Redskins haven't seen before. Their own offense has run it enough times and the defense has practiced against it.

Still, if Pryor is on the field, Haslett's defense must be ready for the read-option. Like the Wildcat, successfully countering the read-option demands good fundamentals from the defense.

Getting the basics right has been a major issue for Haslett's unit so far. But whether dealing with McFadden behind center or Pryor from the pistol, Washington's defense must play sound assignment football.

One more note on Pryor. If he does play, then pressure is the key. Teams have found success so far this season blitzing dual-threat passers, and ESPN's Paul Gutierrez has an interesting note on how Pryor deals with pressure:

A week after getting pressured 12 times in 31 drop-backs by Jacksonville, Pryor was blitzed just five times in 32 drop-backs by Denver, per Pro Football Focus. The thinking being that teams want Pryor in the pocket, rather than running wild. Pryor responded with his most accurate passing day as a pro.

 

Let The Run Lead the Way and Create Big Gains for the Pass

Quarterback Robert Griffin III was allowed to throw 50 passes in Week 3. But he should barely exceed half that number in Oakland.

There were signs last week against the Detroit Lions, however brief, that Washington's feared ground game is getting back to its best.

One of the most effective ways the Redskins were creating big gains for the run was by using wide receiver Joshua Morgan as an extra blocker.

On this play, Morgan motioned down to the tight end side of the formation. He lined up behind the front, between right tackle Tyler Polumbus and tight end Jordan Reed.

Morgan motioned behind the line as an extra blocker.

The Lions were showing a 4-2-5 nickel set and Morgan would block safety Glover Quin (27), who was in the box as a hybrid linebacker.

Morgan (15), would block the safety, allowing a double-team on the inside.

Reed would kick out and block the defensive end, allowing Polumbus to double the defensive tackle with guard Chris Chester. By using Morgan, the Redskins created a four-on-three advantage on the edge.

That would allow running back Alfred Morris to sweep to the outside. Only cornerback Chris Houston could deny a big gain and the Redskins banked on Morris beating him.

Only cornerback Chris Houston was free to make the tackle and Morris easily beat him.

He promptly did just that and scored on a 30-yard scamper.

This kind of running sets up the play-action game, and Morgan also proved useful here. The Redskins again used him to create a run-heavy front.

Morgan motioned back and again joined the tight end side of the formation.

Morgan again motioned to the tight end side.

This time he was on the end of the line, outside Reed. The plan was to have Morgan run a vertical route and occupy the safety, while Reed would swing out to the flat.

Morgan would run vertical to occupy safety support, while Reed released to the flat.

Griffin began things with an expert play fake to Morris. Reed also continued to sell the idea of a run by beginning to block the defensive end.

Reed sells run by blocking the defensive end, while Griffin fakes to Morris.

The fake to Morris drew the attention of every member of the Detroit front seven.

The Lions front seven all played the inside run.

Once Griffin kept the ball and rolled out, Reed had already escaped to the flat. With Morgan clearing his path up the field, Reed made a simple catch and produced a 12-yard gain.

With Morgan running off the deep safety and the front playing run, Reed was wide open underneath.

The Redskins have become masters at this kind of play-action deception. They can use it to torment an Oakland defense that will be eager to correct its own woes stopping the run.

The formula for Washington's first win of the season should be kept simple. Run to undermine the Raiders' 18th-ranked rush defense and set up play action.

Dominate the clock, forcing Oakland into a pass-first mode and blitz whomever is under center.

It is a basic but complementary dynamic that could key a big road win for Washington.

 

All screen shots courtesy of ESPN, Fox Sports and NFL.com Gamepass.

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