While Jay Gruden's tenure as head coach of the Washington Redskins can be described as nothing short of tumultuous, he still has a few strengths. While never my personal choice as Mike Shanahan's successor, I appreciated some of the things Gruden did with his players that created opportunities upon further examination. I'd call these tendency breakers. Whether it's his tendency or a league tendency, Gruden likes to go against the grain. Let's take a look at two examples from the game against the Miami Dolphins.#1. If this doesn't look familiar to you, you may be a new reader. This has been Kirk Cousins bread-and-butter play all off-season. A quick play-action post. I even did a breakdown of this play from the pre-season. Because the frequency of its use, there is no way this play wasn't on the tape the Miami Dolphins studied (Gruden ran it a lot last year too). This makes it a tendency. Of course, it wouldn't be a tendency breaker if that was the actual play. What Jay Gruden dials up here is a Post-n-Go. Gruden anticipates the Dolphins DB jumping the post route because he has seen it so often. The LBs crash on the play-action opening up the middle of the field. Garcon is about to make his break on the post. As Garcon breaks, so does the CB but the CB is playing so far off, they probably should have just thrown the post. Meanwhile, trouble as Kory Litchtensteiger allows pressure quickly. CB shows good footwork, staying over the top of Garcon like his Cover 3 responsibility dictates. Of course, in this situation, most offenses have built in break to a deep comeback if CB stays over top of you on a fly route. Unless you are running off coverage for underneath routes. Of course, Litchtensteiger gave Kirk Cousins no chance. Pierre Garcon would have been wide open. #2. Here is a league tendency Jay Gruden breaks. Most outside zone play-action bootlegs either look like this.....(where the TE blocks down then releases to the flat) ....or like this (where the TE blocks down and the FB leaks out into the flat). The comeback route on the play-side and crosser from backside is pretty universal. That's where Jay Gruden makes his adjustment. Instead of a comeback on the play-side, Jay Gruden has DeSean Jackson on a Comeback-n-Go. Because every defender sees the play-action boot with a comeback as the first read, it's easy for a CB to be complacent and try to jump the comeback route out of muscle memory. Kirk Cousins carries out the bootleg and DeSean Jackson starts his comeback-action, freezes CB. Also, notice depth of Garcon's crosser. He aims it towards the single high safety who takes the bait and works towards him leaving Jackson in a 1-on-1 situation. Brent Grimes actually gets a good piece of Jackson's shoulder on the double move to slow him down but Kirk Cousins is going take Jackson step-for-step against anyone. Cousins just barely overthrows Jackson who ends up hurting his hamstring pretty significantly on this play. But the shot was there and was almost completed.
Neither play ended up being successful and that's what some will focus on but I like the actual idea and concept behind the play. Every play takes a coach to call it in the right situation and the players to execute it. With all the noise that surrounds Redskins Park on a daily basis, it's easy to lose sight of why Jay Gruden was brought on-board in the first place. I don't know if Jay Gruden will last another season here (or even after the bye week as rumors have been swirling) but what I do know is Gruden can still design plays that create opportunities. The team will need to hit on more of them if they are to have success in 2015.