X's & O's: Another Week, Another New Wrinkle In Redskins Offense

Win McNamee

Every week that goes by, we see a new wrinkle in the Redskins option offense. This week was no different. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has been getting pretty creative and it's catching defenses off-guard.

Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is currently running one of the most productive offenses in the NFL right now. He's done a brilliant job (in my opinion, anyway) of giving defenses and their coordinators headaches. Admittedly, having Robert Griffin III as your quarterback helps a great deal, but Kyle has done more than his fair share to make things easier for Griffin. Here are the last two plays of the first quarter to show you what I mean.

Lets first study the personnel group for this play. We have two tight ends (Fred Davis and Niles Paul), a running back (Alfred Morris), a receiver (Joshua Morgan) and then Brandon Banks, who switches between receiver and running back. With Banks is in the huddle, the defense doesn't know if they should call it as two backs and one receiver, or vice versa. Either way, with two tight ends, surely the Vikings can expect a run heavy formation, right? Wrong. Take a look.

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The tight ends are actually the furthest two players from the offensive line. Had the Vikings been in man coverage, this would have caused plenty of concern as they scramble to sort out the coverage responsibilities.

But then the Redskins throw a twist in the mix.

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Both Banks and Paul motion back towards the offensive line. Within seconds the formation has changed from four receiving options, to this:

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Suddenly, there are four guys in the backfield, all threats to run the ball.

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The Redskins end up running a variation of a play we saw against the Bengals, but this time they have a lead blocker for Griffin should he need it. Griffin hands off inside on the zone read on this particular play and Morris picks up three or four yards. But the fact that the Vikings defense went from the mentality of having to cover four receiving threats, to four running threats (Paul in theory could have been used as an inside shovel pass on a triple option if they wanted to) in a matter of seconds is amazing.

But the very next play, we see the exact same scenario. Logan Paulsen replaced Niles Paul, but otherwise they line up and motion into the formation the same.

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Having just seen the Redskins run an option read from the same formation from the previous play, they adjust and prepare for the possibility of Griffin keeping the ball. But this time the Redskins run a play-action fake, with Fred Davis on the outside running a slant against a smaller corner. Davis' size and athleticism should see him beat most cornerbacks on the inside.

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Which is exactly what Davis manages to do. Griffin makes the easy completion and its a big first down.

I've shone praise on Kyle Shanahan previously, but I can't help but reiterate how well he's calling games offensively right now. The way he's manipulating good NFL defenses, like the Vikings, into creating good match ups and confusing them is fantastic. From my experience at FedEx Field back in week three, I know a fair proportion of fans don't like Mike Shanahan, but I really hope they can appreciate Kyle.

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