When I previewed the Washington Redskins' offense leading up to the Week 6 matchup with the Eagles earlier this season, I called it a "Top 10 offense" in the NFL led by a rushing attack that, despite only ranking 25th in the league, was one of the league's best thanks to a dominant offensive line. A popular response to the piece was, "How is that possible? The focus should be placed more on Washington's passing attack and quarterback Kirk Cousins." Turns out I was (unfortunately) right, as the Redskins pounded the Eagles on the ground for over 230 yards back in October, using a wide variety of run schemes, a physical performance from their five linemen up front and a breakout performance from rookie free agent Robert Kelley.
Washington is still a very good run team. The Redskins rank just 12th in the league in yards per game (109.5), but their identity is based on grinding teams into the ground. With Kelley as the lead back now, ahead of former third-round pick Matt Jones, the Redskins still use a variety of run schemes. The two biggest, however, are the many iterations of the zone run and their version of the Counter play.
Shot 1 - #Redskins love getting Robert Kelley going with different versions of the Counter run play. Check out some of these blocks up front pic.twitter.com/hZoPWJvVSQ — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 8, 2016
Here are two examples of their Counter play, which is coincidentally a staple of a Cincinnati run game that the Eagles held to 2.4 yards per carry last week. On the first play, the Redskins call a Counter run out of their 13 personnel set, and this play is going toward the strong side of the formation. One tight end and the backside guard pull to the play side, while a double team at the point of attack gets great movement. Tight end Vernon Davis blocks the backside linebacker to open up a hole for a touchdown.
On the next play, only the backside guard pulls to the front side of the play, but you still get the counter action in the backfield from Robert Kelley. The guard picks up an outstanding block in the hole, a double team works up to the linebacker and Kelley has a wide open hole for a big gain on the ground against Arizona.
Shot 2 - Two versions of their zone blocking scheme. Kelley is decisive, and double teams are crushing DL at the point of attack #Redskins pic.twitter.com/vBdEhogs7p — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 8, 2016
This version of Inside Zone (a play I know as Duo) has the double teams essentially working backwards toward the backside linebacker. The nose tackle is completely removed from the action, linemen immediately get up to the second level and Kelley is off to the races for a huge play on the ground. The Redskins have a lethal run game when they're hitting on all cylinders, and the Eagles' defense must be ready for a fistfight in the trenches on Sunday afternoon.
The Redskins love to operate with multiple tight ends, whether Jordan Reed is available or not. Reed didn't play in the Week 6 contest, and he may not be ready to play on Sunday. But whether it's Vernon Davis or Derek Carrier, expect to see the Washington tight end group moved around the formation, including split out wide. The Redskins are one of the best downfield passing teams in the league, and they're one of the most effective play-action teams in the league. This group of tight ends is very involved of both aspects of their air attack.
Shot 3 - #Redskins love using play-action to get TEs downfield. Doesn't matter if Jordan Reed is available or not; big part of what they do pic.twitter.com/nxiRYQebYa — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 8, 2016
Wheel routes from the inside slot are common for the tight ends in the Redskins' offense. Davis actually caught a similar pass against Malcolm Jenkins back in Week 6. The wheel routes from the slot are always tough because of the "rub element" that defenders have to deal with close to the line of scrimmage, as it helps to create separation for the tight ends in the open field.
Like any good offense, Washington excels at understanding what coverage defenses will be in and then attacking those schemes. Any time you're a team that can run the football at an effective rate, it becomes even easier to do that. At this point in the season, the Redskins know how opponents will line up to defend different run looks such as five- or six-man surfaces (multiple tight ends on the line of scrimmage) as well as tight formations with receivers lined up with minus splits (inside the numbers).
Shot 4 - Tight splits from WRs get #Packers to check to Quarters coverage. #Redskins run a perfect Quarters-beater with 'Mills' concept: TD pic.twitter.com/njic0Oj1a1 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 8, 2016
This is a perfect example of the latter. Washington lines up in a tight formation, with both outside receivers lined up inside the numbers. This is going to be a shot play from quarterback Kirk Cousins. It's a perfect quarters (four defenders in the deep part of the field) beater downfield. The pass play is called by many as the Mills concept, where you have, from the same side of the field, a deep post paired with a dig route on the inside. The thought process is that you can get the inside safety to bite on the dig route, creating room for the post in the deep part of the field. The play works perfectly for a long touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon.
Shot 5 - Great 'Cover 2 Man' beater from #Redskins with Crowder attacking down seam into void. Safety leans towards D-Jax. TD for Crowder. pic.twitter.com/vqvOR0qHFJ — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 8, 2016
Here against Green Bay, the Packers are in Cover 2 Man, and the Redskins are running the perfect route concept against that coverage. With DeSean Jackson lined up as the No. 2 receiver inside and Jamison Crowder lined up as No. 3, you have two legitimate downfield threats out of the slot. When both receivers attack downfield, the safety is in a tough spot. He decides to divert his attention to Jackson on the outside. This opens up a huge void in the middle of the field for Crowder, and with the cornerback playing underneath him (thinking he has a safety over the top), it's an open pitch-and-catch for a 44-yard touchdown for Washington.
That play came from a 3x1 set, one of the Redskins' most effective formations because of their personnel and scheme. When you line up in that kind of formation, with three receivers to one side, there are lots of ways that it impacts coverage concepts, whether they are man or zone. When you have receivers and tight ends like Washington has, it can create tough matchups defensively across the formation.
Shot 6 - #Redskins excel using 3 x 1 sets because of their scheme and personnel. Bad CB play here, but D-Jax can still stretch field pic.twitter.com/g1htnKiLWQ — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 8, 2016
Here's another example of a 3x1 set, this time against Dallas. The cornerback completely blows this coverage with his eyes caught in the backfield. Jackson is lined up outside and runs a straight vertical route for an easy touchdown. Reed and Crowder line up in the slot here, with Garçon as the X receiver on the back side by himself. When you factor in all of the different combinations in this type of formation, with all of their talented pass catchers being able to line up anywhere, it can create problems for a defense. Jackson lined up as the No. 2 receiver on a 59-yard catch last week against Arizona, and he's made a lot of big plays out of the slot this year.
Here's an example of exactly that. Jackson is lined up in the slot down in the red zone in a 3x1 set and ran a beautiful route for a touchdown, but look at the distribution of the receivers. You have three receivers, Garçon, Crowder and Jackson to the left. You have Reed, a tight end, alone on the back side, with a pass-catching threat out of the backfield in Chris Thompson. Watch the high safety in the middle of field roll AWAY from the three receiver side, following Cousins' eyes to the other side of the field. The corner over Jackson has no safety help and he trots in for a touchdown. This goes to show you how the diverse set of pass catchers in Washington keeps defenders constantly guessing in the secondary because they can beat you at every level of the field in so many ways.
Shot 8 - #Redskins 126.1 QB Rating on passes 20 yds downfield. Cousins 8 TDs 1 INT on deep balls. 59 plays of 20 yards is 2nd in the NFL pic.twitter.com/hoqtaw8OYj — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 8, 2016
Washington has one of the best vertical offenses in the NFL. You see that in another 3x1 set with tight end Jordan Reed attacking downfield. The Redskins rank second in the NFL with 59 plays of over 20 yards. Cousins himself has a 126.1 passer rating when he throws the ball over 20 yards downfield (third in the NFL), completing 24-of-49 passes for 868 yards, eight touchdowns and just one pick. Washington has just five drops all season long (best in the NFL), ranks third in the NFL in 10-play drives (26) and has only had 12 three-and-out series all season long (best in the league). This is a deadly offense that can win on the ground or through the air, and is a huge test for the Eagles' defense.
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.