2009 Washington Redskins: Playbook Changes, Or A Lack Thereof

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2009 Washington Redskins: Playbook Changes, Or A Lack Thereof
The core of the Washington Redskins coaching staff remains intact from a season ago, so don’t expect any major changes to the team’s playbook.  Look for head coach Jim Zorn to build on last year’s early season success, while striving to improve upon an 8-8 record.

Guard Derrick Dockery replaces Pete Kendall on the line, but otherwise there are no changes to the first string offensive unit.  This group has had a year to develop and grow under Zorn’s guidance, and should be ready for the coach to open up more of his playbook.

The Redskins struggled over the second half of last season because teams began catching on to Washington’s tendencies and Zorn didn’t adjust.  He stuck with a vanilla version of the west coast offense that teams were able to beat by crowding the box to simultaneously take away the run game and the short pass plays that are a staple of such a system.

Zorn limited his play-calling and became too predictable towards the end of the year.  Campbell struggled to get the ball downfield to keep opposing D’s honest, and the Redskins stalled on many drives before they could really gain any momentum. 

With another year of experience and maturity on their side, and hopefully the contributions of healthy WR’s Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, the Skins should be able to execute more of the playbook.  Zorn has said he trusts Campbell, and he will need to start showing it by diversifying his calls and opening up the field for the offense to do work. 

Expect to see Thomas and/or Kelly work the middle of the field to preventing Santana Moss from being doubled.  This will allow Antwaan Randle El to make more plays out of the slot while Moss can take advantage of his speed on deep routes.  It all leads to a more wide open attack and more points on the scoreboard.

Statistically the Redskins were a top five defense last season, and I’m sure coordinator Greg Blache has heard the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  However, expect to see some changes to the defensive scheme this year because of the new personnel the Skins have added. 

One of the biggest concerns from last season was the team’s inability to generate a consistent pass rush.  The team sought to fix this problem by signing DT Albert Haynesworth and drafting DE/OLB Brian Orakpo.  With Haynesworth drawing double teams and clogging up the middle, and Orakpo harassing quarterbacks in the backfield, last year’s weakness could become this year’s strength.

Orakpo has already been taking snaps at both defensive end and outside linebacker.  Look for Blache to use him in much the same way LaVar Arrington was utilized during his early years, a hybrid that can find different paths to the quarterback from all angles on the field.

The overall defensive line upgrade from a year ago should allow the team to use less blitzes and focus more on coverage.  Don’t be surprised to see more nickel and dime packages that will conceal a linebacking group that is this unit’s weakness, and help out a secondary that has trouble holding onto the football.

No major changes will be made to the Redskins playbook in 2009.  Instead, look for the subtle changes, a tweak here and an adjustment there, that could be the difference between last year's .500 club and a possible playoff team come January.

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