This was an idea from Skinzaholic56 from my last breakdown. In the comments he said "...I do have a request. With extra time during the bye, I’d really like a breakdown on some of our goal line woes. We have a huge problem with scoring in the redzone...". I really like this idea, so I'm gonna run with it. Just to let you guys know, if you have any ideas on what you'd like to see broken down, leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter (@UkRedskin1). I'm always open to suggestions and ideas, so I'll look into pretty much every idea. Anyways, on to the breakdown.
The Redskins rank right around the middle of the league in red-zone scoring percentage with 46.67% of our red-zone trips ending in points on the board, down from our 51.16% last year. We average 3.8 scoring attempts per game, converting 1.8 of those attempts on average each game. (Stats from teamrankings.com). For those who are interested, the Giants lead the league with 80% scoring percentage in the red-zone.
One of the main problems we have in the red-zone is our run game becomes ineffective, forcing us to pass. The zone-blocking scheme (ZBS) that our offence is built on requires lighter, quicker and more agile Olinemen. When we enter the red-zone, defences can afford to bring 8 in the box (bringing an 8th man in the box means to have your base defence, or front 7, in the 'box' and then adding an extra player - usually a safety - to help out number the blockers on a run play) without as much risk because they don't have as much ground to make up if it turns out to be a pass play. In goal line situations, you'll usually see the defence stack the Dline, and an offence stack the Oline with extra TE's and FB's to help block. With the lighter Olinemen we require for the ZBS, on the goal-line, when you need to power the ball into the end-zone, they will get overpowered in 1-on-1 blocks quite often. Lets have a look.
Here we have a typical zone stretch play. The idea, as always is for Hightower to follow the line to the outside, and cut back if he see's a gap. But as you can see, the Giants stacked the line because they don't have as much ground to make up if it turns out to be a play-action pass. Davis is blocking Boley on the left side of the line, we'll see in a minute that he gets overpowered, as do the interior guys.
With Davis being beat, Hightower is forced inside into heavy traffic. Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery and Chris Chester are doing an ok job if Hightower was able to get outside. But because he's forced to come back inside, the Dlinemen overpower the interior Oline.
And of course, this results in Hightower getting stuffed. This isn't to say you can't run at all in the red-zone, just that it's a lot more difficult to run in the red-zone than normally.
If our Red-zone run game isn't as effective as we'd like, what other options do we have. Team's with a big WR like Calvin Johnson like to just throw up jump balls and trust them to come down with it. Unfortunately, we don't have a WR on our roster that can do this:
Side note: I was at this game while on vacation in Florida. We were sat in the stand you can see there, and directly in line with the goal line. Had a perfect view of this catch, and I couldn't believe he did it!
The other popular trend in the NFL right now is the 'Back-Shoulder Throw'. The idea of this throw is to get a WR to run what looks like a 'go' or a 'fade' route, forcing the DB's head to turn away from the QB. The QB then throws directly at the WR's back shoulder, so that the WR can turn and catch it without the DB having a chance to break it up. Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning are among the best QB's in the league at this throw. Manning and Nicks are a deadly combination in the red-zone because of this throw.
Here's an example of this throw, in the Giants Monday Night Football against the Rams. Nicks is going to run what looks like a 'fade', where Manning would normally throw over his shoulder for him to run into. But in reality, he sticks his foot in the ground, and comes back for the pass.
You can see Nicks stick his foot in the ground and begin to turn away from the defender. Manning should have thrown the ball to Nick's back shoulder, which I've circled in black. But notice the defender is still running like it's a fade.
Even with a bad ball placement here, you can see just how effective this kind of throw is. The DB doesn't stand a chance. If Manning had thrown to the black circle, it would literally have been impossible to defend. This kind of throw is increasing in popularity in the league, and with it being a "copycat league" everyone will be trying it soon. The question is, is Rex Grossman (or John Beck for that matter) accurate enough to make this throw? I'm not 100% sold on that, but it remains to be seen.
So, with no WR on the roster with the ability to get jump balls like Calvin Johnson, and with us unsure if Grossman has the accuracy to make the back-shoulder throw, what options do we have? The play-action pass I believe is our best option. Fooling the defence into a run, allowing a TE or a FB to get open in the end-zone can be a legit threat for us in the red-zone. Here's an example from the Cardinals game of a perfectly executed play-action on the 1 yard line, and something I want to see more of.
Fred Davis is going to run up like he's blocking a LB at the next level before cutting outside into an open space. Logan Paulsen does the same on the far side. Darrell Young acts as if he's lead blocking, but also cuts outside once he reaches the line of scrimmage. Hightower comes up and makes a big block to help give Rex more time.
I've circled Davis, and the LB that is responsible for covering him. The LB is completely sold on the play-action fake and bites on it, leaving Davis all on his own.
As you can see, Grossman has a huge wide open area to throw into to hit Davis for the easy TD. I've also circled Paulsen who's just coming off his cut, and Young who would have been an option in the flat had Davis not been so wide open.
These type of plays are what I'd like to see more of in the red-zone to help get that scoring percentage up. I see Darrell Young as a huge red-zone threat on these type of plays with his ability to break tackles and make people miss that we saw in pre-season. He can be an under the radar guy that teams will underestimate, meaning we can utilise his ability to the full.
That's it for this breakdown. Sorry it's not as long as the last few, but hopefully you'll all still enjoy it and discuss it in the comments. Don't forget to hit me up on twitter (@UkRedskin1) with any ideas or suggestions you have.