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What can we expect from Scott Turner’s offense?

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Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Redskins’ new offensive coordinator, Scott Turner, has been around the NFL for nearly all of his life, growing up as the son of former NFL offensive coordinator and head coach Norv Turner. For the last decade or so, he’s traveled between the NFL and college ranks, eventually landing back in the NFL with the Panthers as a QB coach in 2018, and serving briefly as their offensive coordinator at the end of the 2019 season.

His experiences have taken him from working with Cam Newton as a rookie (2011-2012), to Josh Gordon and the Browns’ receivers in 2013, to QB coach with the Vikings in 2014-2016 where he helped to mentor Teddy Bridgewater before his career-threatening injury. After a short stint as an offensive analyst serving under Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan in 2017, he found his way back to the Panthers.

The 2020 season, however, will be Turner’s first full season as an offensive coordinator, and given Ron Rivera’s defensive-mindness, it might be reasonable to conclude that Turner will get a fairly free hand in shaping the direction of the team’s offense. Based on his past experience and practice, what can we expect from Scott Turner’s offense?

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

He Game Plans to Fit His Personnel

Over the course of the past week or so since the draft, much has been made of Turner’s coordination with Kyle Smith on the selection of WR/RB/ST/”Swiss Army Knife” Antonio Gibson in the third round. It recently came out that Turner starting devising plays for the elusive Gibson after having watched him at the Senior Bowl in January. That’s both impressive and consistent with his performance in Carolina.

When Turner took over as the Panthers’ OC, he determined that they had been using their multi-faceted weapon, WR Curtis Samuel, inappropriately. They had been sending the blazing fast Samuel (4.31 speed) on vertical routes where he was able to get separation. The problem was, neither Will Grier nor Kyle Allen had the arms to get him the ball effectively. Once Turner became the OC, he drafted plays for Samuel out of the backfield, with nearly 50% of the WR’s carries coming in the 4 games that Turner managed.

He did something similar for lead WR DJ Moore. Turner, recognizing the shortcomings of his QB talent, fed Moore balls on intermediate routes across the middle, his strong suit. Moore is not the sort of WR with a well-developed route tree, but short passes, taking advantage of his ability to rack up yards after the catch, helped him finish as a top 10 WR in 2019.

New York Giants v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

He’s Already Planning Around Haskins

To say that Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan didn’t design their offenses to the strength of their rookie QB would be an incredible understatement. Gruden seemed annoyed that Haskins had been drafted at all, and Callahan rolled out one of the least creative offenses in the NFL’s recent memory, repeatedly trying to force the run on first and second down, and then asking his young QB to try to throw on third down more often than not. It was an offense ostensibly designed to protect the young QB that instead placed him squarely in the crosshairs of defenses that knew exactly what was coming their way.

In his early comments on Haskins, Turner has pointed out the QB’s strong arm and pocket presence, as well as his comfort with the play action game - which, it has been established, probably can’t be overdeployed. The new OC intends to cater to that strength. Turner has also noted:

“Something ... [Dwayne’s] done a good job of in his past and in college too is just being able to get the ball out quickly and kind of distribute the football to the playmakers and let them make the plays for him.”

The addition of Gibson to playmakers like Steve Sims and Terry McLaurin is the most direct path for Turner to make life easier on his young signal caller. It’s said that Scott’s father, Norv, hammered Cam Newton to “take the lay-up” - hit the easy route - when he got in trouble.

We can almost certainly expect the Redskins’ new OC to do the same with his young QB, providing him with a multi-talented arsenal of weapons that can both take advantage of his deep balls skills - a la Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gandy-Golden - as well use different pre-snap looks to run similar combinations of motion, shifts, and jet sweeps to get the ball in space to playmakers like Gibson, Guice, and Sims.

He’s Interested in Analytics!

Some here may recall that our previous interim head coach didn’t even realize the team had an Analytics’ Department, which may partially explain why he ran one of the most predictable and least adventurous offenses in recent NFL history.

Turner, it appears, has his feet firmly planted in the 21st century and is interested in finding ways to incorporate data into his offensive decision making. Hopefully he’s preparing to follow in the footsteps of our neighbors just up 95, who have used analytics to significant effect in their recent success.

It’s also interesting that one of the reasons given for the Panthers parting ways with Rivera was that their owner, Dave Tepper, wanted a more analytics-focused offensive mind leading the team, and that Turner served in that role after (and likely before) Rivera’s departure.

As with the retention of Kyle Smith, whose drafting skill Rivera has repeatedly expressed admiration for, perhaps the head coach recognizes some of his own deficits in the evolving, modern offensive game and has sought to fill those gaps with a young coordinator who has made a point to acquaint himself with appropriate contemporary tools.

Final Thoughts

Turner has helped groom several young QBs in the NFL, from superstars, like Newton, to a solid, competent QB like Bridgewater, as well as limited, young QBs like Grier and Allen. He’s worked with the most potent offensive weapon in the game - Christian McCaffrey - as well as top end receivers like Gordon and Moore. He’s deeply steeped in the Air Coryell offense refined by his father, as well as exposed to the pro style offense and power running game employed by John Harbaugh at Michigan. Whatever Turner’s offense looks like, we can expect it to be built around the strengths of the players he has at his disposal, as opposed to forcing ill-fitting players into his scheme. In the 2020 Redskins Turner has a young and expansive palette to work with. It’s going to be interesting to see what he puts on the canvas.