Earlier this week, former Washington Redskins General Manager and current NFL analyst Charley Casserly made quite a bold statement:
While it will be hard for defenses to match Jordan Reed's route running, DeSean Jackson's speed, Pierre Garcon's anger after the catch, and Josh Doctson's jump-ball ability all at the same time, do the Redskins really have the best four-receiver combo in the entire NFL? That's up for debate, but the fact that the Redskins are even involved in the conversation is a step up for a franchise that is rarely mentioned as the best at anything. This grouping is called 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers) and is a Jay Gruden favorite. The most exciting factor in all of this is this might not even be the Redskins' most dangerous personnel grouping. Enter: 13 personnel (1 running back, 3 tight ends, and 1 wide receiver).
In no way am I saying that the Redskins' 13 personnel holds greater talent than its 11 personnel. I'm saying, from a schematic standpoint, it's much more diverse. Typically, when you send out 11 personnel, the defense is going to alert to pass and send out a nickel or dime defense to match up. Outside of a draw or screen play, what an offense does out of this grouping is not going to particularly surprise the defense. Now with a 13 personnel grouping, which is often used in red zone and short-yardage situations, the defense typically alerts to run and sends in its base or goal line defense. This is where the fun begins.
The Redskins' tight end depth chart currently reads: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, and Niles Paul. When Jay Gruden sends three tight ends to the huddle, it creates the first quandary for the opposition: Do you send out goal line or base personnel against three tight ends who have all flexed out and shown the ability to play receiver? If the defense goes light to compensate for the receiving ability of the trio, then the Redskins could easily line up like this and impose their will in the run game. None are elite blockers but should be able to get a body on cornerbacks and safeties.
If the defense decides to match 13 personnel with its own heavy personnel, spreading out would be the counter, which would place a lot of stress on linebackers and safeties, giving the Redskins more than one favorable matchup across the board.
This formation gives the Redskins a lot of run/pass options here. They could run double tight right to still possess a strength in the run game and also put Doctson/Reed on the other side to run some twin man/zone beaters depending on the opponent and who is in coverage.
Another Jay Gruden favorite here. A slight shift turns a power running formation into a trips tight bunch, which could cause a lot of chaos for coverage assignments.
Here is another Jay Gruden favorite and why he likes running backs who can help in the pass game. Sometimes his offense lines up like this and sometimes the running back motions out to this. It's another way to take a run-heavy personnel grouping and force defenses to either accept bad matchups or burn a timeout.
Here is one of Washington's more basic concepts but also probably the most used. It's no secret that the Redskins had some issues scoring touchdowns in the red zone last year. Kirk Cousins began force-feeding Jordan Reed and for the most part, it worked. Here is a three-tight end set where they isolate their two jump-ball guys on the outside in one-on-one situations. You may have noticed that I've been using Josh Doctson in these slides mostly because I'm thinking red zone. The receiver on the field would obviously depend on the situation and while Doctson won't be starting early, he will get early snaps in red zone situations for chances like the one above. Let's take a look at a play versus the Buffalo Bills:
1. The Redskins have 13 personnel on the field. Double fades is the call on the field. Jordan Reed at the bottom of the screen, and Jamison Crowder is at the top. This formation gives Kirk Cousins the opportunity the check his matchups, but Crowder isn't a terribly realistic option here. Imagine the upgrade that Doctson introduces into this situation. Also note the other two tight ends on the field are Tom Compton (who is an offensive tackle) and Alex Smith. Vernon Davis and Niles Paul are clear upgrades and give you many more diverse options.
When Kirk Cousins sees Bacarri Rambo on Jordan Reed, he snaps the ball, takes a step back and lobs up the fade ball. Jamison Crowder is running to the back pylon.
Reed goes up and gets the ball for the touchdown. The Redskins used a lot of 13 personnel on this drive and worked their way down the field. The new additions to the Redskins' roster will give this personnel grouping that much more juice.
If everyone remains healthy, this is going to be a difficult grouping to stop. If the Redskins are going to repeat as division champions, they are going to need to keep finding ways to convert red zone trips into touchdowns. Forcing the ball to Jordan Reed over and over worked last year despite teams knowing where the ball was going, but that doesn't mean it'll be as successful this year. The Redskins have added a plethora of talent this offseason, and this is one way they will be able to utilize it. It puts enough beef on the field to run the ball with players versatile enough to open up the pass game as well. This grouping will create questions for defensive coordinators the moment it steps on the field.
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr
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