When I look at this Washington Redskins team I see an offensive unit that, to me, is a top 10 group in the league when you factor in the scheme and the personnel. Led by head coach Jay Gruden, this team tries to attack defenses at every angle with an efficient, quarterback-friendly passing game in the quick area, a multiple screen game and, perhaps most importantly, a heavy emphasis on the run game. Washington's ability and willingness to get things going on the ground is where I begin.
Shot 1 - #Redskins are a big zone stretch team, but mix in gap concepts as well. This is a beautiful picture of their Trap scheme vs #Browns pic.twitter.com/A3l8yXWRqV — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
Washington's rushing attack is led by running back Matt Jones, last year's third-round pick out of Florida. Jones' game is based off his physicality and competitiveness as a runner. There are times where you question his vision and feel in their scheme, only to have him bust four or five runs in a row that you make you think he could be Marshawn Lynch in time.
They like to feed Jones the football in the stretch zone run game, but Washington's staff is not afraid to sprinkle in the gap schemes as well. They run a ton of power and counter, but this play is a great example of the trap scheme. I analyzed this play in the Eagle Eye in the Sky video feature earlier this week. Cleveland's defensive line was aggressive all game long, so it sucked the two defensive tackles in, blocked them up with a combination of a trap (offensive lineman coming across the formation to block a tackle) and a wham (tight end coming across the formation to block a tackle) block, all while getting other linemen up to the second level to create a gigantic hole for Jones to run through for a big gain.
This Redskins offensive line is the best the Eagles have faced up to this point. The Redskins have had a number of injuries throughout the season up front, but they've consistently kept quarterback Kirk Cousins upright and helped to open creases for Jones to run through. They're big. They're physical, and they're athletic.
Shot 2 - Example of #Redskins athleticism up front with Scherff/Long. Impressive pass off of 'first color' from pullers in Sweep play. pic.twitter.com/PokJuVC6aP — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
Here's an example of that athletic ability, also from the game against Cleveland, on a sweep play. On this run, Brandon Scherff, last year's first-round pick, gets out in front as a puller with center Spencer Long, a former third-round pick, coming right behind him. Typically, you see the first puller on this play pick up "first color," or, the first opposing team's jersey he sees in the hole. But watch the confidence Scherff has in Long, who was thrown into the center spot after working at guard throughout his career due to an injury to Kory Lichtensteiger. Scherff sees he'd have a tough angle to pick up the linebacker, so he passes him off to Long. Scherff moves onto another target, allowing running back Chris Thompson to pick up a huge gain for a first down. Thompson is a third-down back for Washington. He's a physical blocker and a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. He's not used exactly as often as Theo Riddick, but he has a very similar skill set. He's a name Eagles defenders must be aware of on Sunday.
Shot 3 - #Redskins want more carries for Rob Kelly, but look at the trio inside. LG Scherff and C Long have been playing at a high level pic.twitter.com/gDl01pmgkc — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
The third horse in the Redskins' backfield is Robert Kelley, who is built similarly to Jones and runs almost as hard. Gruden went out of his way on Monday to praise Kelley, saying the staff intends to make him more of a part of their offense. The toughness of this offensive line is evident once again as Long roots out Baltimore's nose tackle on this big run play.
Left tackle Trent Williams has been the best blocker on the roster for a long time (I could make the argument that Scherff is now), but he is right now playing the best football that I personally have seen. He's athletic. He's physical and he even showed off some versatility this season, sliding down to guard mid-game due to injury. He looked like an All-Pro inside.
Shot 4 - Trent Williams is playing at a really high level as well. 2 shots here; 1 at LT, another at LG. Crazy athletic for an OL #Redskins pic.twitter.com/3ezRqNIpQB — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
Williams has historically had a lot of issues with Fletcher Cox when Cox lined up over the tackle as a 3-4 defensive end. I don't know how many times they'll be matched up now that Cox is lined up inside, but it's certainly a matchup to keep an eye on in this game. This line is incredibly talented. The entire group as a whole is athletic, physical and nasty. They want to finish defenders into the dirt.
Shot 5 - Scherff and Long at it again. Doubling the nose and working up to the second level, watch Scherff finish Williams here. #Redskins pic.twitter.com/vSJutmmdbv — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
Here's an example of that against Baltimore last week. Scherff gets nose tackle Brandon Williams on his heels and pancakes him on this run against the Ravens. Physicality isn't just a hallmark of Williams, Long and Scherff. Left guard Shawn Lauvao has been dropping the hammer on defenders as well. Washington brought in Lauvao in free agency and, up to this point in my opinion, had not lived up to that billing. He's won me over these last few games though, as his physicality in the run game has really taken his play up a notch.
Lauvao is coming across the formation as a puller. The first defender in his vision is a blitzing defensive back.
Bug meet windshield.
I think at this point you get the hint that the Redskins' offensive line is a physical group that wants to maul you up front. It's going to be a big test for this Eagles defensive line. This takes me back to my original point though about Washington's offensive philosophy. Gruden and the offensive staff want to establish themselves on the ground. The Redskins rank 25th in the NFL with just 86.4 yards per game, but it's not for a lack of trying. They come at you with a number of looks in multiple schemes. One package that they use often to help get things going on the ground is 13 personnel with their back and all three of their tight ends.
Shot 7 - #Redskins love using 13 personnel, obviously won't have that if Reed is out, but general philosophy will remain; they want to run. pic.twitter.com/k2Qk1FwTxt — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
Now if Jordan Reed (concussion) does miss Sunday's game, the Redskins won't have three tight ends for their 13 personnel package. However, I don't expect that to change their philosophy. They already play Vernon Davis and Niles Paul, their other tight ends, a good amount of the time, so it won't require a huge change in what they do schematically. In fact, I'd expect it to be more of what we saw the Eagles do when Trey Burton and Zach Ertz were injured, plug an extra offensive lineman (perhaps Ty Nsekhe) in. On this play, the Redskins run a split zone play to Jones, with a tight end coming across the formation.
Shot 8 - Later in the game, same personnel, same formation, same down-distance. Deep shot. #Redskins are a big play-action team on 1st down pic.twitter.com/JD4WpQ02KL — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
Late in the game and it's the same exact formation with the same personnel grouping. It's first-and-10, and you get the split zone action in the backfield to the same side. What makes this play different? It isn't a running play. This is a perfectly executed play-action pass off of one of their staple run plays. This ends up being a huge gain after a pass interference call downfield.
Washington is a huge, huge, huge play-action team, especially on first down. Six of their 10 longest plays of the season have come on first-down passes downfield in the vertical passing game. This is where the Redskins try to take your heart, and it will be up to the Eagles' second-level defenders (namely linebackers and safeties) to make sure they quickly key and diagnose run-pass and get to their landmarks in coverage to prevent big pass plays downfield.
Shot 9 - #Redskins use a lot of multiple TE sets and are not afraid to attack downfield not only with Reed, but w/ Vernon Davis & Niles Paul pic.twitter.com/w0PSTPryiR — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
This isn't play-action, but it is a four verticals pass play with 13 personnel on the field. This shows you the faith the Redskins have in these tight ends to win one-on-one matchups in the passing game. Reed would obviously be a huge loss, but Vernon Davis and Niles Paul are both still very athletic options at the position. They can beat you down the seam or in the quick passing game.
Shot 10 - Another play-action shot from #Redskins, this time to Doctson. He hasn't been a big part of the Off yet, but can break out anytime pic.twitter.com/JpNV5stIEa — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
Here's another first-and-10 shot play. This time it's a post-wheel concept to rookie Josh Doctson, the biggest play of his young career. The first-round pick from TCU has gotten off to a bit of a slow start because of injury, but he is able to break out at any time. He's another really good complement to this receiving corps. Doctson has size that the other four receivers don't have. Pierre Garcon is a great intermediate receiver who is still excellent after the catch. Jamison Crowder is a quick, crafty slot receiver who is a big part of their offense, both in the quick game, the vertical game and in the screen game. Last but not least, DeSean Jackson is still a dynamic vertical threat in the deep passing game.
Shot 11 - #Redskins can attack safeties because of their various route concepts and commitment to the run game. DeSean can still run as well pic.twitter.com/3Dc1gYtsti — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 13, 2016
This is a three-level stretch from the Redskins, another big concept for them. Jackson is lined up in a tight split close to the formation, forcing off coverage from the Giants. Watch this route by Jackson, who runs past the near safety. It is important that the Eagles' safeties make sure their eyes are in the right place against this passing game. Jackson gets vertical, runs a strong route and tracks this ball beautifully for his lone touchdown of the season. The Eagles' defense is in for a tough matchup with this Washington offense, which can attack you at every level. It's what may decide the outcome of this NFC East showdown.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.