Where did the Redskins' deep ball go?

Where did the Redskins' deep ball go?
November 2, 2013, 10:00 am
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Offense tries to stay balanced, but not focused on stats

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Where has the Washington Redskins’ deep passing game gone?

We are nearly halfway through the season and the Redskins have completed just one pass that could be called a “bomb”—a pass play of over 40 yards where the ball traveled most of the distance through the air.

That came two weeks ago against the Bears when Robert Griffin III launched one to Aldrick Robinson, who caught the ball in the end zone after the safety bumped into him and fell down and Charles Tillman just missed tipping it away. That play originated on the Bears 45 yard line and the ball traveled about 55 yards in the air.

The Redskins have just one more pass play that covered 40 or more yards this season. In Green Bay, Griffin threw a bubble screen to Pierre Garçon, who scooted downfield for 44 yards. Nice play but not a “long pass”.

Kyle Shanahan was asked about the lack of success in the deep passing game on Thursday.

“It depends on coverages you get,” he said. “Versus Chicago, we had a few passes down the field – that one to Aldrick [Robinson] down there. But last year, it’s funny, our yards per attempt and stuff were a lot higher but they weren’t deeper routes. It’s a five-step plant-and-throw route that we hit going against mainly single-safety looks, a little quick play-pass over the top of linebackers, that’s not a very deep throw. It’s really caught at about 13 yards, but we usually averaged about 24 yards per catch on it.”

Shanahan alludes to the myth that is floating around out there that the Redskins completed a lot of deep passes in 2012, when they led the league in yards per play and were second in the NFL in yards per pass attempt.

In 2012 the Redskins had eight pass plays that gained 40 yards or more. But half of those were shorter passes with most of the yardage coming on the running after the catch.

Of the other four, the true bombs, two came in the same game. Against the Eagles at FedEx Field in Week 11, Robinson got behind the coverage and hauled in Griffin’s long pass for 49 yards and a second-quarter touchdown. Then in the third period Santana Moss was really open but Griffin heaved the ball into double coverage anyway and Moss came out with the ball and fought his way over the goal line.

One of the other bombs came five days later on Thanksgiving in Dallas, when Griffin and Robinson hooked up on virtually the same play they had against the Eagles, this time for 68 yards and a TD. The other successful deep pass came in Week 2 when Leonard Hankerson blew past Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins and gathered in Griffin’s pass, a ball that landed right on target after traveling 62 yards in the air.

The fact that they had limited success throwing deep last year doesn’t mean that Shanahan doesn’t want to do it more this year.

“We go deep when we need to go deep,” he said. “And when those coverages are presented, you’ve got to get them out of stuff – they’re daring you to do it, and you’ve got to take that challenge and it’s usually the difference in winning and losing. And if you come up with those plays, I think you’ve got a good chance to win. If they’re daring you to go deep and you can’t go deep, it’s tough to go short also. And it makes it a long day.”