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Redskins Mailbag


It's time, once again, for the weekly mailbag. Don't forget to submit any questions; Redskins related, or just general football questions, to me on Twitter, @UkRedskin1 or in the comments section below.

First up, Hogs Haven user Bill-in-Bangkok

I wonder if you could talk a bit about pre-snap motion. Most teams utilize at least some motion, though I get the feeling that the ’Skins do more of it than most other teams.

What are the reasons for/benefits of pre-snap motion with backs and receivers, and why would one team favor lots of motion in their offensive scheme while another team might not?

Every team has some form of pre-snap motion in their offense. You're right in thinking the Redskins use it more than most, especially this year. Mike Shanahan has always had a lot of motions in his offense, but this year with the addition of the read-option, the Redskins motioned at least one player on most plays.

There's a couple reasons to use motion. The first is that motioning a player can help you read the defense. The best example is moving a slot receiver or a tight end from one side of the line to the other. If a defender follows them, then it gives the quarterback a clue that the defense is in man coverage. But if the defense doesn't react, then it's an indication they are in a zone coverage.

Motion can also be used to create mismatches in the defense. At times last year, you'd see the Redskins motion Darrel Young or Alfred Morris from the backfield to receiver. The defense has to react quickly and make sure everyone is covered, but they could be caught off-guard if the ball is snapped quickly afterwards.

Having versatile players allows you to play around with motion. Guys like Percy Harvin are an absolute nightmare for defenses. He can line up as a standard receiver, being covered by a cornerback. Then seconds later, he's motioned into the backfield and the defense has a split second to adjust to the possibility of him taking a hand-off before the ball is snapped. Do they have the corner come down and try and tackle in the run game? Do they want to bring a safety down to bring an eighth defender in the box, leaving them with just one deep safety? So it can cause a lot of confusion.

The downside is that it can be confusing for the offense too. It takes time to learn all the terms and knowing exactly where you're meant to start and where you're meant to end up, let alone the route you're going to run or defender you have to block. It's a long learning process for rookies especially, which is why it could take some time before Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson see significant time.

The other thing is that it can slow down the tempo of an offense. If the offense is in a two-minute-drill, they don't want to waste precious seconds waiting for a tight end to motion across the formation. Sometimes you need to just get to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball.

Next question.

I think both happen. Paul is the only tight end I could see being cut, but his special teams contributions will be key after the loss of Lorenzo Alexander. At quarterback, I'd be surprised if Rex Grossman isn't on the final 53. In an ideal world, you wouldn't need him, but with Robert Griffin III's knee injury you can never be too safe. If Griffin misses any time this year, Cousins would be the only other quarterback on the roster. But gun to my head, I'd say 4 TE's is more likely.

On to the next one.

Perry Riley has been quietly learning from London Fletcher for a few years now. Ultimately, I think he's the guy to take over, at least to begin with, when Fletcher calls it a day. Keenan Robinson will probably experience a similar situation, getting time next to Riley as he learns the intricacies of playing inside linebacker. But in the long run, Robinson's athletic ability and coverage skills make him a better candidate than Riley to be the every down inside linebacker on this defense.

Starter? No. Could he be the nickel corner? Absolutely. He showed some good promise late in the season last year, playing as the outside corner and allowing either DeAngelo Hall or Josh Wilson to move down to cover the slot.

Crawford has had a lot of positive things written about him so far this offseason, Raheem Morris and Jim Haslett have both praised him. He's reportedly done a much better job coming in and covering the slot than he did last year. He had trouble reading the route when covering the slot last year, because a slot receiver can go either way. He was much more comfortable on the outside where he had the sideline to help him. But his quickness is one of his better attributes, which is key for slot corners. With a year of experience behind him, he could, in theory, find more success covering the slot.

Final question

With the versatility of the players we have now, it's entirely possible. I'm not sure we'll see many new formations though. I think we could see more of some formations we used less frequently, but not completely new ones. I think having guys like Reed and Fred Davis being able to line up as tight ends, slot receivers and H-backs while Thompson can switch between running back and slot receiver, are going to be tough enough for defenses to stop without adding in new formations. But you never know, Kyle likes to switch things up and maybe has some new option plays up his sleeve.

That's it for this week's mailbag, don't forget to leave your questions for next week's mailbag in the comments below or on twitter, @UkRedskin1.