Are the Redskins preparing to change the way they run the ball?
All NFL teams utilize some zone blocking running plays but only a handful use zone as their primary scheme. The Redskins have been one of those teams ever since Mike Shanahan arrived in 2010. We are getting some indications that change may be coming.
Jay Gruden’s Bengals were set up for power blocking. No starter on their end of season depth chart weighed less than 310 pounds. Two of them weighed in at 335. That’s a line that can run zone plays—something the Bengals did regularly—but is built for power.
When I asked Gruden if he preferred the zone or power as his base scheme his answer indicated a bit of everything. But note that he says what the team does well in the past and then quickly inserts what he “likes”.
I think they’re in the top 10 the last couple years, so they have a system in place that’s very good. They’re an outside zone blocking team that can do inside zone. I like the power plays. I like the gap blocking plays. So there’s a little bit of everything. I don’t think any offense in the NFL anymore is just, ‘We are this.’ I think we have to adhere to what we have offensively, talent-wise. We can do the read option. We can do naked bootlegs. We can run outside zone. We can run bubble screens. We can run deep balls. We can do play-action deep things. I think the whole idea to be a successful offense is to be diverse and be good at a lot of different things and not just one.”
Diversity in your offense is good but you still need a basic way of doing things so you can set up your personnel accordingly. Do you go with the power scheme and use to zone as a wrinkle? Then you build your line like Cincinnati did. If you want to emphasize the zone you put together a line with smaller, more athletic blockers. Of the starters on the Redskins’ line the last two years only Trent Williams weighs over 310 pounds.
Will Gruden go with the power scheme as their base? Other than his history with the Bengals there are other signs that he might be thinking that way. He retained offensive line coach Chris Foerster. Yes, for the last four years he has coached the ZBS here. But for years before that he was the O-line coach for power blocking teams like the Bucs, Ravens, and 49ers.
And it looks like Earnest Byner is going to be brought in as the running backs coach. He has been coaching since 1998 and with the Ravens, Redskins (under Gibbs 2.0), Titans, Jaguars, and Bucs he has coached backs in nothing but power schemes. He would seem to be an odd choice as the running backs coach if Gruden intended to stick with the zone.
All we’re doing is connecting dots here. We don’t know what Gruden really has in mind. There could be some more solid indications when the free agency period opens on March 11. If they start signing linemen who weigh in at 310 pounds or more, change is almost certainly coming.
As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.
No. 6 worst play of 2016
Redskins at Cardinals Week 13
3:47 left in Q4, Cardinals ball at their own 34, 4th and 1, Cardinals leading 24-23
David Johnson up the middle to ARZ 48 for 14 yards (Josh Norman).
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Tandler: What's worse than a punch in the gut? A gut punch you don't see coming. The Redskins had pulled to within a point with plenty of time left to get a winning score—if the defense could get a stop. When Bruce Arians sent out his offense on fourth and one, the Redskins had to watch for Carson Palmer to try to draw them offside. In fact, Joe Barry told the Redskins not to expect a snap and to be sure not the jump. But they did snap the ball and Johnson ran for the easiest 14 yards up the gut you’ll ever see. The air was out of the Redskins’ comeback balloon and Palmer all but put it away a few plays later with a 42-yard TD pass to J.J. Nelson.
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Finlay: This is not the first 4th Down conversion on our list of bad plays, but perhaps the most important one. Washington desperately needed this stop, and the defense thought they had it on the 3rd down play prior. Only Arians did not flinch about going for it, much to Barry's surprise, and the 'Skins D had no shot at Johnson. This play illustrated the weakness of Washington's defensive front perhaps better than any other run all season.
10 best plays countdown
10 worst plays countdown
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Kirk Cousins' price tag just moved even higher with the news that he will replace Matt Ryan in the Pro Bowl. ESPN's John Keim reported the roster move first.
Ryan's Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 44-21 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers. That victory means Ryan will not be available for the Pro Bowl, held this Sunday in Orlando. Cousins got his spot as an alternate.
Cousins gets the spot deservedly. This season he passed for 4,917 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing 25 TDs to 12 INTs. In two seasons since being named starter for the Redskins, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards.
The Pro Bowl nod for Cousins will only make the Redskins pending contract talks that much tougher. The quarterback played in 2016 under the franchise tag, which netted him nearly $20 million. This season Washington could again place Cousins on the franchise tag, with a price tag around $24 million. Both sides can still work for a long-term deal, though the value of that contract would likely soar past $100 million and closer to $120 million.
Some questions exist within the Redskins organization if that is too much money devoted to one player, even if it is a Pro Bowl quarterback.
It's fitting that Cousins is subbing in for Ryan, who has found much success playing under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. All signs points to Shanahan taking over as the 49ers head coach after the Super Bowl, and a report emerged that San Francisco would make a strong push to obtain Cousins, either in free agency or via trade.
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Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!