X's & O's with: Eddie Mason

Two plays stood out for me from the Steelers game, one that showed the inexperience of Patrick Ramsey and the other the inexperience of Antonio Pierce. That one also showed the savvy of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roehtlisberger. And a third play came down to attitude, which the Redskins didn't have on the play.

The first play happened in the first quarter. The Redskins had a max protect offense on a third and six. Laveranues Coles is lined out wide left and they had James Thrash and Robert Royal to the short side. James check releases and runs a dummy route. And they have Ladell chipping on the defensive end and then he comes across the middle. PAtrick drops back and on this play the line did well. They had good blocks. Now, from the TV, I couldn't see if the receivers were open. But the throw wasn't made downfield. Instead, Patrick throws the ball underneath to Ladell, knowing that a defender is right there to break it up. Patrick had to have seen that. It didn't make sense to make that throw. Patrick could have pump-faked and scrambled for the first down easily. Plays like that are killing this offense, making that smart decision.

The second play offensively also happened in the first quarter. First of all, I have to say: scrap the H-back. It doesn't work. The reason the offense has struggled is that they haven't run any five wides or four-receiver sets on a consistent basis. They've got Thrash, Coles, Rod Gardner, Taylor Jacobs and Darnerien McCants. Put them in the right system and they can all make plays. Anyway, on this play, its twins formation. Coles and Gardner are on the left, Robert Royal and Chris Cooley are on the right. Cooley runs a seam route and Royal runs a wheel route behind Cooley. Pittsburgh is in a zone defense. All the defenders are doing is playing their zone, dropping into space. Patrick tries to force the ball. My question is, Why isn't he looking off the defenders and then throwing backside to his supposed million-dollar receivers instead of throwing over here to Cooley and in double coverage and Royal, who isn't open? It's another example of inexperience and poor decision making. Every quarterback has been taught to look off the linebacker and the safety.

When a quarterback does that it tells me he knows where everyone is at on the field. When they don't do that it tells me they're not confident adn trustworthy and he doesn't know the offensive system. When I see Patrick drop back I see happy feet. Instead of looking off people he's looking where he's throwing. One thing he has done better are his play action passes. But his pocket presence and knowledge and knowing where everyone is and looking people off, he's not doing that. That inexperience will continue to haunt the offensive scheme.

Defensively, go no farther than the beginning of the second quarter, a third and six inside the Redskins' 25. This goes back to Ben and it was also a negative for the Redskins defense. The Steelers were in a Pro I formation and had a man blocking scheme. The Redskins had two deep coverage and four underneath. Jerome Bettis was the check release. One problem on this is the Redskins had no pass rush. But look at Ben's eyes on the play. The first thing he does is look to his left. Every good quarterback is taught to do that, to look away, and to hold the defenders. Anytime a defender is in a zone, he's not looking at a man, he's dropping to a point. Antonio dropped to his zone, but he was burned by Ben.

Ben looked left, held Antonio and he faked a throw. Ben turned his shoulders like he was going to throw to the left and that forces the defender to break downhill. Then what he does is dump to his man, No. 36, on that underneath route. For Antonio, you've got to know where you're at on the field. He should have stayed on the left hashmark, but got caught several yards inside. I know Gregg teaches them this day in and day out. But young players don't always recognize the situation. Antonio is a good young player and will be great in this league. But this play was a momentum shifter because Bettis got them inside the 5. This was the same play Patrick threw to Ladell and the linebacker broke and made the play. The one to Bettis should have been for no gain and they kick a field goal.

Then the next play was an attitude check. Pittsburgh lines up in I-formation and Kreider, who was jacking people up all game, does an isolation block on the left side on Barnes and just crushes him, folds him up. That's an attitude play. You should never let a fullback drive you back like that. You should get cut for that. Bettis walks into the end zone and that was the difference in the game.


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