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Did the no-huddle save the Redskins' season?

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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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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Offensive line

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Offensive line

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts on Thursday. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

This series started on defense and you can see all those posts here. On offense we’ve put the wide receivers, running backs and tight ends under the microscope. Today the focus turns to the offensive line.

2016 final game starters: (left to right) Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses

Due to some injuries and a four-game Williams suspension, this group started only seven games together.

Departures: C John Sullivan (UFA), C Kory Lichtensteiger (retired)

Sullivan signed after some early season injuries and he started one game. He was a good security blanket for Jay Gruden, who liked having an experienced backup for the middle of the line.

Lichtensteiger missed a combined 24 games in 2015-2016. He may not have been back even he had not decided to retire.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

Projected 2017 starters: (left to right) Williams, Lauvao, Long, Scherff, Moses

The one spot in any doubt is left guard. Lauvao is in the final year of his contract with a $4 million salary. Jay Gruden has expressed confidence in him but a guard drafted in the first few rounds this week could change all of that.

Moses and Long are in the final seasons of their contracts so they may need a succession plan in place at their positions.

2017 reserves: G: Arie Kouandjio, Ronald Patrick; T Ty Nsekhe, Isaiah Williams, Vinston Painter, John Kling, Kevin Bowen

The glaring hole here is at center. With Sullivan and Lichtensteiger gone they don’t have anyone for the middle of the line if Spencer Long is out. They could try to find one in the draft but it’s possible that they will be on the lookout for a veteran on the waiver wire between now and Week 1.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often  

Nsekhe is one of the best backup tackles in the league and the Redskins will be happy to have him even if he doesn’t play a single snap. Painter was on the roster for 13 games and he played just 10 snaps on offense.

Kouandjio is the only solid backup at guard and he could push for Lauvao’s starting job. If he wins the job and the team doesn’t want to pay Lauvao $4 million to be a backup, the Redskins will need a couple of guards for depth. Look for one or two to come their way in Rounds 3-5 this week.

Where can the offensive line find improvement?

The left guard spot was the weak link on the chain last year. Lauvao was charged with 32 QB hurries, by far the most on the team. Whether it’s Lauvao becoming fully healthy (a 2015 ankle injury limited him for the offseason program last year) or Kouandjio or another starter from the draft, the position has to be better in 2017.

Another factor that will help is Trent Williams being available for 16 games. Yes, Nsekhe is a very good backup. But in four starts Nsekhe allowed a sack plus 13 pressures. Williams started 12 games and allowed two sacks and 14 pressures. They are paying Williams $11.25 million this year for a reason.

Locks and bubble players

Trent Williams, Long, Scherff, Moses and Nsekhe are locks. Lauvao and Kouandjio are close but the draft could have an impact on them.

Out of the bubble players it would seem that Painter has the best shot of sticking simply because he was in the program last year. Bowe and Kling are huge and they are long shots who will draw interest if they can use their size.

The chances of any of the bubble players will be affected by the draft. There could be some fun competitions down the depth chart in training camp.

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.

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NFL Draft Countdown: 5 questions for Redskins Director of College Scouting Scott Campbell

NFL Draft Countdown: 5 questions for Redskins Director of College Scouting Scott Campbell

Redskins Director of College Scouting Scott Campbell will speak to the media on Monday, and there are plenty of questions as Washington prepares for the draft on Thursday.

Some of the most important topics will not be about what college players the 'Skins will target, but rather the state of the front office since the ouster of former general manager Scot McCloughan. That said, Campbell plays a huge role in draft decisions, and it will be quite interesting to inquire on strategy. 

Below are five questions for Campbell:

  1. What now - With McCloughan gone, what, if any, changes have happened in the front office? Does Campbell have more control or input on player selection? 
  2. Final say - Again, with McCloughan gone, who makes the final call on players? Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden made very clear during NFL League Meetings a few weeks back that a composite of Redskins officials work to establish a grade for each draft prospect. The team then drafts based on those grades. But eventually, the team will be forced to deviate from the draft board or make a decision on two players with similar grades. Who makes the final call?
  3. Need or talent - Redskins fans tend to grow frustrated at the suggestion of taking the best player available in the NFL Draft, but that is also the methodology the franchise has employed. That system delivered first-round picks of a guard in 2015 and a receiver in 2016; neither position had great need. Washington most needs help on its defensive line, and the defensive side of the ball overall.
  4. Sweet 17 - The entire draft is an opportunity for the 'Skins to add talent, but no pick carries as much potential as the 17th overall. The speculation is wild about what player might land with the Burgundy and Gold, and the rumors will only build this week. Is a running back in play? Haason Reddick? Could off-field concerns drop Reuben Foster to 17? 
  5. Another arm - Washington has Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld under contract in 2017. After that, however, Cousins could be gone. Will the 'Skins look to add another passer, perhaps on Friday or Saturday in the later rounds? If they do, it's unlikely the team will carry four QBs this fall, so a decision could accompany that pick.
  6. Trading places - Might a trade be in the works? Last year the Skins made a number of trades over the course of the three-day draft, and it's likely more deals get worked out this week in Philadelphia. Does that mean a mega-trade that includes Cousins? Probably not. But it would not be a surprise if the franchise traded down in the first round, like they did in 2016. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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