Can defenses stop the Redskins' read option?

Can defenses stop the Redskins' read option?
September 5, 2013, 11:45 am
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Skins offense excited for RG3's return

Tandler - Tarik

By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler

Countdown to kickoff question 5: Can defenses stop the Redskins’ read option?

Robert Griffin III is back. So is Brian Orakpo. In all, the Redskins retained 21 of the 22 starters who led them to the NFC East title in 2012. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any potential pitfalls as the new season approaches – because there are. Over the next week, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will identify and examine seven areas of concern going forward.

One of the consistent storylines of the offseason was NFL coaching staffs going back to school. Defensive gurus headed to campuses to huddle with college coaches to try to get some tips on how to stop the read option offense. We got a lot of brave talk about the option just being “the flavor of the month” and how offenses were going to have to stop using it because quarterbacks were going to get hurt. From everything we have been able to gather, the option will remain a staple of the Redskins’ offensive game plan. Do NFL defensive brain trusts really have the secret sauce to stifle the Redskins’ option attack?  

Tandler: No offense is impossible to stop I suppose but it will take more to slow down the read option than taking Defense 101 on a college campus. We won’t really know until the games start but I suspect that the Redskins’ option attack will continue to be effective. Kyle Shanahan certainly has a clipboard full of countermeasures for whatever defenses might come up with. But the key, of course, is Robert Griffin III. Ultimately the talent of the quarterback will trump any X’s and O’s adjustments the defense might make. RG3’s top-notch passing ability and speed will force the defense to keep thinking and guessing and as long as defenders are doing that and not reacting, the advantage goes to the offense.

El-Bashir: Like Rich, I read all of the brave talk from defensive coaches about how they planned to “do their due diligence” and looked forward to “eliminating” the read option, as Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said. But defensive gurus had four months to figure it out last season, yet RG3 and the Redskins’ offense got better in the second half of the season, averaging 30 points per game and going 7-0. Furthermore, do these gurus believe the Redskins didn’t bother to make any adjustments this offseason to ensure they stay a step (or two) ahead? At the risk of sounding homerish, I’d put my money on RG3 and Kyle Shanahan. Much of what made the Redskins’ innovative offense so effective last season was RG3’s high football I.Q. and freakish athleticism. So even if defensive coordinators do figure out how to slow the zone read option, RG3 and the Redskins will be just fine. “The thing that’s awesome about having a guy like [RG3] is Robert’s capable of being great at anything,” Kyle Shanahan said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s dropping back, pass plays, bootlegs, zone read options, it really doesn’t matter.” Sure, that’s a coach pumping up his guy. But if you watched last year’s games, you also know it’s true.

Countdown to Kickoff