Before Jay Gruden was hired, there were rumors that he was the guy who would succeed Mike Shanahan in Washington. Due to this information, I took a look at Jay Gruden's offense in Cincinnati to see exactly what the Redskins might be given. My inital thoughts are below:
I then elaborated...
Gruden used a ton of different screens in Cincinnati to get the ball to his playmakers. That put linebackers in a quandry. If they didn't react to Gio Bernard moving towards the line of scrimmage quick enough, the fleet running back had the ability to burn them. This hesitation also opened up small windows for the Bengals tall targets down the seam.
In Washington, Gruden hasn't been as creative with his screen plays. Also, the Redskins lack big receivers. However, that doesn't mean the screen game can't help everyone involved.
The screen game is predictable when you only use it in 2nd or 3rd and long downs. It's much easier to catch defenses off-guard when you use it in multiple situations. Let's take a look at how they used them against the Saints:
2nd and 9 -- 11 Personnel
The Redskins use motion on this play to help determine the coverage and blocking assignments. Since the Saints defender follows TE Derek Carrier across the formation, it gives the OL an alert that it's man coverage.
The OL now know that the only defender in the middle of the field has Matt Jones in man-to-man coverage and needs to be blocked. The Saints are bringing five rushers.
Jones acts as if he is going to chip the defensive end, but then turns around once the DE goes by him. LeRibeus and Scherff are out front. It looks like LeRibeus is taking the LB in man coverage while Scherff gives support then heads up field.
This play almost gets messed up. The LB is too quick and LeRibeus can't get a good angle on him. Scherff only originally planned on getting an arm on him to help support LeRibeus but the LB starts breaking through as Matt Jones makes the catch.
Scherff ends up taking full control of the defender and riding him past Jones while LeRibeus heads up field. They basically switched their assignments. This is common as who heads up field is dependent on where the defenders are but still good to see from an OL trying to establish camaraderie.
The whole team is working together here. Multiple blocks set up all over the field and Jones just gets to use his vision to follow it all.
Jones is tackled, but not until he reaches the 11-yard line.
2nd and 8 -- 12 Personnel
The Saints are in a Cover-2 zone on this play so it's not as easy to identify the one guy they had to block. Redskins are in a different personnel than the first play and are using play-action on this one. This helps against this coverage. The beginning attention drawn to Jones on play-fake is quicky abandoned once it's realized it's a fake. Redskins have five guys jumping out in front.
The Saints LBs slowly drop but freeze once they see what looks to be a hand off. This makes sense because the Redskins run game was working.
Once it's recognized as a play-fake, the Saints LBs retreat quickly to make up for their "false" steps forward and get way off the ball.
The LBs are way out of place and Jones is getting the ball with tons of blockers ahead of him.
The CB cuts Scherff because he doesn't want that hit. I don't blame him. This almost trips up Jones. Good job by him to keep his footing. LeRibeus has a LB lined up and is about to drive him out of bounds while Redskins have a second wave of blockers coming in.
Jones then cuts off the Carrier block and Williams has acquired a target. DeSean Jackson now coming into picture from the opposite side of the field to help at the 3rd level. Spencer Long has no one to block and is trailing the play but is about to "take someone out" of the play.
Brandon Browner, who is essentially the only unblocked defender within range, peels back and knocks Long clean off his feet. Williams pins his block back, Jackson washes the last DB and Jones cuts off that last block.
Jones ends up in the end zone on this one.
I was highly critical of a screen pass the Redskins ran against the Falcons when they had a chance to put the game away. I criticized it because it was predictable. It can really burn defenses in unpredictable situations. It also messes with a defenses mind as the LBs bit anytime the RBs moved and put them out of place as the RB would break into a drag route instead for big gains.
Now, I understand why the screen game may have been lacking when Alfred Morris was the bell cow, but Matt Jones is a playmaker and Chris Thompson has been healthy. It also helps Kirk Cousins build some confidence and get into a rhythm. I'm actually surprised the Redskins went away from it in this game but everything was working so it's hard to fault them. Hopefully, moving forward they can use this to catch defenses off guard and open up other holes in the defense.
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr.
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