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Did the no-huddle save the Redskins' season?

morris-vs-raiders.png

Did the no-huddle save the Redskins' season?

With an 0-4 record staring them in the Washington Redskins in the face, Kyle Shanahan decided it was time to try something different.

The 0-3 Redskins trailed the Raiders 14-0 late in the first quarter. At that point the offense had mustered just one first down in three possessions. Washington had the ball at its own 20.

Shanahan figured it was time to pull out something they have had in their arsenal since training camp. After talking to head coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III, Kyle called for the offense to go in no-huddle mode.

“It's something that we talked each week that there's a possibility we could go with it,” Kyle Shanahan said yesterday. “We knew that we wanted to, we were struggling a little bit at the beginning, not converting those third downs and staying on the field and we thought it would be a good time to try it.”

Things started out with Griffin making a play-action fake to Alfred Morris and zipping a 15-yard pass down the middle to Leonard Hankerson. They immediately lined up, snapped the ball 19 seconds after Hankerson was tackled, and Griffin handed to Morris, who picked up eight off right tackle. Twenty seconds later Morris picked up the first down by going up the middle for three.

The quick pace continued:

  • 16 seconds later, play action-bootleg right pass to Hankerson for 15 yards.
  • 19 seconds, Morris off the left side for nine yards
  • 22 seconds, Morris to the right for eight yards
  • 17 seconds, play action-bootleg left pass to Niles Paul for 16 yards
  • 38 seconds, pass to Pierre Garçon for two yards to set up second and goal at the four.

On that last play, they went no huddle but it appeared that Griffin was changing the play at the line, not an easy thing to do in the “Black Hole” end of the Raiders’ stadium.

That play ended the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Griffin was called for intentional grounding, a penalty that cost 14 yards and the Redskins ended up settling for a field goal.

In the six no-huddle plays starting with the second play of the drive and ending with the pass to Paul, they averaged just shy of 19 seconds in between snaps. They gained 59 yards. There were no third-down conversions because they didn’t face a third down until after the grounding penalty.

They ran the hurry-up here and there after that, including a stretch during their 2-minute drill near the end of the first half. They cranked it up again for a few plays in the third quarter and it appeared to jump-start their game-winning drive.

Starting at their own 42 with 6:51 left in the third, Paul made a diving catch of a four-yard pass in the flat. The Redskins made some substitutions, taking Paul out and putting in another receiver but still got off the next snap in 20 seconds. Morris picked up a couple of yards but the Redskins accepted an offside penalty, negating the play. Even with the time needed to enforce and announce the penalty, they still got off the snap 32 seconds after the previous play had ended.

Morris spun out of some trouble at the line and made his way up the sideline for 13 yards. They lined up quickly, Griffin again appeared to call and audible, and the ball was snapped after 33 seconds. The Raiders’ Mike Jenkins was shaken up on the play so the Redskins could not hurry back up to the line. Then Griffin threw back across the field deep to Davis and play again was stopped as the officials briefly huddled to decide to pick up a pass interference flag because the ball was uncatchable.

They went back to the huddle after that. Four plays later, Griffin threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon to give the Redskins their first second-half lead of the season.

“They weren't ready for it, something we hadn't done before so I'm sure they didn't have a big plan against it,” said Shanahan. “I'm not exactly sure, I think we had about 19 hurry up plays and it really got our run game going I thought.”

The part about getting the running game going seems to be accurate, particularly when talking about Morris. Before leaving with a rib injury late in the third quarter Morris carried 16 times for 71 yards. During just the two hurry-up sequences outlined here he carried five times for 41 yards. Doing the math, that’s 8.2 yards a carry in the no huddle and 2.7 yards per carry the rest of the game.

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Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

RICHMOND - Looking at the contracts for the two most important people associated with the Washington Redskins, a clear discrepancy arises. The head coach, Jay Gruden, is under contract until 2020. The quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is only under contract for 2017. 

Some speculation suggested that, given the diverging deals, at some point Gruden might look to develop another passer that's locked in with the Redskins for the long-term. Backup QB Colt McCoy is under contract for the next two seasons, and second-year passer Nate Sudfeld is under team control through the 2019 season. 

Gruden made clear that isn't the case. Crystal clear. 

"We're focused on Kirk," the head coach said. "He's our starter and he's going to get all the starter reps. Period."

Cousins should obviously be the focus. In the past two seasons he's twice broken the Washington single season passing yards record, and his rise has coincided with the Redskins first back to back winning seasons in 20 years. 

As for practice reps, Cousins will get the vast majority. McCoy will get work, and Sudfeld too, but this Redskins team is focused on winning this season. 2018 contracts are not on the coach's mind in July of 2017, nor should they be. 

"Colt [McCoy] will take advantage of his reps, I'm sure he will. And Nate [Sudfeld] will get a few sprinkled in there. We're trying to develop Nate also for the future. But, this is Kirk's team right now, and it's our job to get him ready for Philadelphia and really surround him and make him feel good about the people around him. Trying to get him used to [Josh] Doctson, get him used to [Terrelle] Pryor, we have some new weapons around him, so it's a matter of getting him ready. But Kirk will get all of them."

With a rebuilt defense and plenty of options offensively, the Redskins should compete for a playoff spot this year. Is there a scenario where the team sputters and spirals into a lost season? Maybe. And in that hypothetical scenario, perhaps at some point it makes sense to see what another passer can do. It's a long shot. 

For Redskins fans, know that Cousins is the unequivocal starter. Period. 

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Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

RICHMOND—The Redskins will be without Jordan Reed in training camp for an unknown period of time. Although his toe injury does not appear to be serious, others will have to fill the gap until he is able to return. And the Redskins just so happen to have one of the deepest tight end groups in the NFL and they added another one with NFL playing experience on Thursday.

Jay Gruden said that the Redskins needed to sign E.J. Bibbs, who has one NFL catch in his career, because Vernon Davis, the backup tight end, has “a little bit of a tweaked hamstring.” Davis, who caught 44 passes for 583 yards last year, seemed to me moving fine in practice after Gruden spoke to the media but he could need some reps off on occasion so they brought in Bibbs to fill in the gap. There is no point in pushing the 33-year-old Davis if it’s not necessary.

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The Redskins have even more options at tight end. Niles Paul is back and he appears to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last eight games in 2016. Paul is going into his seventh season and while he is mostly relied on for special teams play he does have a 500-yard season on his resume (2014).

During offseason practices fifth-round rookie Jeremy Sprinkle looked like he had a lot to learn as he goes from a run-based offense at Arkansas to the Redskins’ sophisticated pass-first scheme. He will need to find his comfort level before he takes any snaps in Reed’s place.

The forgotten veteran is Derek Carrier, who now appears to be fully healthy after he missed the first half of last season with a knee injury he suffered late in 2015. He had just two receptions for 10 yards last year in limited playing time on offense.

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Joining Bibbs in the long shot category is Manasseh Garner, a first-year player out of Pitt. While neither player seems to have a shot at the 53-man roster, the Redskins could carry one of the tight ends on the practice squad.

Depth is a good thing to have and the Redskins have done a good job assembling a backup plan at tight end. But you just can’t replace Reed, one of the best few tight ends in the NFL, without a significant drop off in production. The Redskins will let the backups compete and learn in training camp and will keep Reed either on the sideline or doing very light work until he is fully ready to go (and then some).

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.