What are they good at?
Blocking, deception, misdirection. Mobile quarterback, young stud TE in the making, capable receivers, and one cut runners. Could you imagine if John Elway were in the prime of his career and ran the read option like RGIII? This is the one wrinkle that should give our defense some fits today. Though RGIII doesn't look as explosive as he did last year, He has more than enough speed and arm to keep our defense on it's heels.
I'm not going to bother getting into the numbers, because we have not faced a team that does what the Redskins do at this level. The Eagles aren't as good with their blocking assignments up front. Let's get to the film and take a look at what Bronco Mike saw from last week's game.
The Read Option
Where does it begin and end? Well, a good start is rooted in the old school Broncos zone blocking scheme that dominated the NFL landscape for the better part of a decade. If we think back to those teams and what characterized them: 1) 21 base offense team 2) very athletic along the offensive line 3) good blocking receivers and TE 4) disciplined one-cut and north/south running 5) WC passing game that relied heavily on play action.
What I see today is most of that with some formation twists. You're still going to see a lot of 21 personnel, and the FB is one of the most important facets of this offense. Misdirection and deception are key and even take on a new level with the read option.
Shanahan and co. have successfully blended this college scheme with a pro style offense and sound ZB concepts that make this offense a logistical nightmare to face off against.
I loved RGIII coming out of college. I thought and still think he is a better prospect than Andrew Luck, though the damage he took last year as a runner was very eye opening as to whether or not this sort of scheme is viable long term in the NFL. Here's an example of what still makes him so dangerous as a runner:
First off let me just say how beautiful ZB is to watch when it is executed properly! Here you see an eight man box and with everyone accounted for, that leaves one extra number for the offense whether it be the back or the QB. This is designed to open up a running lane off the C/D gaps depending how the strongside DE and the MLB attack the play. Here the MLB is going to attack the C gap, but is sealed off by the FB (to the left just in front of RGIII). The strongside end is going to attack the RB, and that leaves RGIII with the clear decision to keep the ball and scamper for about 30 yards.
Bronco Mike could run his big ass through that giant hole, and they have to use a sundial to time my 40.
What made this play for RGIII was the terrible play of the end. He decided right away he would take on Alfred Morris leaving RGIII all alone against the SAM LB who was being blocked by the TE. Whatever our Broncos do tomorrow whether it be Von Miller from the Under look or Robert Ayers/Derek Wolfe/Shaun Phillips from the otherside, they must maintain that gap and make RGIII choose what he will do more with more difficulty than the result was here.
We have the formation (pistol), the personnel (21), and the setup. What happens when RGIII runs playaction against a stacked box?
I don't know about you folks, but I see 9 around the box. That leaves a single high safety and man coverage underneath. At the bottom of your screen tight to the line will be Jordan Reed, rookie TE out of Florida. Let me tell you about this kid, he's a definite hybrid TE/WR in the mold of say Shannon Sharpe when Shanahan utilized him in the Bronco offense. Now, you might compare his skillset to someone like Aaron Hernandez who was used all over the place to create mismatches.
Here, Reed is going to be matched up with SS Major Wright (bottom of the screen along the line). From the snap Jordan has Wright beaten and looks to be wide open coming across the field. He abruptly changes direction toward the numbers at the bottom of the screen. He creates so much separation--he will be a handful to cover for the Broncos secondary:
looks like a deep crosser, then BOOM, back the other way
If RGIII hits him in stride it might be a TD. Reed has to slow down a bit and instead the play goes for 40. I don't see Danny Trevathan capable of running with him down the field. Too fast. I know it is a bit unorthodox and probably something we will not see, but I would rather see a 3-1 break in the defensive secondary with DRC and Harris covering the receivers and Kayvon Webster covering the TE.
The positive I see about the read option is that it usually takes the backs out of the passing game.
We see the threat that RGIII is running and throwing and what that heavy personnel can do to load the box and create matchup issues in coverage. What about the regular old running game and ZBS?
When done properly, ZB and a capable downhill runner should yield 4 yards at minimum each time no matter what. This is a perfect scenario when every block is made. But it can be so easy to grind out 6-8 yards on 1st and 2nd down and leave the offense with their entire playbook open on 3rd down.
I can see it in my head already, without diagramming. They will block down to the strongside, 71 will take the playside end, 82 will tandem block with 71 and peel off to take the SAM, the center will take the Mike, 74 will take the WILL, and 86 will seal off the backside. Like clockwork.
Now look here, 82 has stayed with the tandem block on the end, but it doesn't matter, the direction of the block is going to take that LB out of the play. B gap is where Morris takes his run and though the hole doesn't stay open long, he still gets that magical 4-yards on 1st down.
Not only can Morris chew up the ground in this offense, Roy Helu can as well. I'm just going to just put the snips in without any commentary. This play went for 14 yards and a TD.
What we've seen thus far have been plays against base defenses and loaded boxes. What if they bring in 3 WR and spread the field from shotgun?
Now, for whatever reason, the Bears choose to blitz both of their nickel LB's which leaves a deep safety against Jordan Reed down the seam. This is pretty idiotic and even a quarterback like RGIII who is schemed to only make one or two reads can see the mismatch.
My question is, what do the Broncos do?
1) You can see there will be 6 in the box, that leaves 7 on 6 for the offense.
2) If the Broncos line up this way in their nickel, it almost assuredly means they will play man to man.
Now, let RGIII run the read option from this alignment into this defense. They will gouge yardage all day, guaranteed. Something that the Broncos will do differently is not blitz. I'm almost certain of it. I'm also pretty certain they would drop that safety whether it be Duke Ihenacho or Mike Adams closer to the LOS for coverage responsibilities and play Rahim Moore in centerfield, like we have seen them do a million times.
If the Broncos do combat 11 personnel and the things RGIII could still do with the read option, Wesley Woodyard is going to have to be the spy, and Danny Trevathan is going to have to be the man watching the back in coverage, or the one bracketing that TE along with the S.
If the Broncos combat 11 personnel the way they did the Carolina Panthers last year and Cam Newton, you're going to see much more 3-3-5 nickel with Von Miller as the spy. Either way, let's take a look at my keys to defending this offense:
1) The ends/OLB's have to stay disciplined at all times. We will likely see a muddle rush and care that the ends keep RGIII honest. They must not let him break contain.
2) Coverage wise I want Jordan reed doubled/bracketed all day long. Put our outside guys on an island and make Garcon and co. beat DRC and Kayvon Webster.
3) If we are going to play man free, Woodyard or Miller must be used as spies to make sure RGIII does not gouge our defense with scrambles.
4) Duke Ihenacho must play a disciplined game at SS and take good angles in coverage and when tackling.
5) Our speed must beat their speed. We are at a mathematical disadvantage against the read option, so our linebackers must be quicker to the point of attack than their counterpart. Good thing for us all our linebackers are capable crashing the backfield quickly.
6) Our bigs must win the physical battle upfront and push the OL back to disrupt the gaps the runners have to choose from. I'm looking at Vickerson and Knighton here.
7) We have to win 1st and 2nd down in order to limit their playbook on 3rd down. This one is an oldie but goodie, especially against a team like Washington who can make defenses look so foolish with playaction and the zone option.
This is a watershed moment in the year for our defense. It now looks like our front 7 is completely healthy. I want to see a dominating performance, and I want the defense to shut them down early and allow our offense to build a lead. RGIII one dimensional is better than RGIII with everything at his disposal.
Broncos 31 Redskins 21