Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said they have prepared for the possibility of Robert Griffin III or Colt McCoy starting for the Washington Redskins Sunday. Griffin, however, offers Washington a different dimension in the running game.
The concern the Vikings defense has isn’t so much based upon having Griffin air out bombs, but whether the Redskins can establish the run. If they can’t, there isn’t time to throw deep passes. If they can, anything is in play – grind-it-out style football mixed with deep play-action passes that leave a defense a step behind and redirecting.
The ground game of the Redskins lost a significant dimension when Griffin got hurt in Week 2 of the season. When Washington runs, it’s a familiar refrain from what they’ve seen from other teams – running stretch plays at angles and letting Alfred Morris and Roy Helu pick their spots, make a decisive upfield cut and get as many yards as possible. It’s not a new trend.
“It’s sort of like what we saw against Green Bay,” Edwards said. “They are really going to stretch it to the front side and then, if you’ve got the edge set on the defense there, he’ll stick the foot in the ground. (Morris) is more of a one-cut guy where he’s going to get downhill off the stretch play. It’s very similar to teams we’ve faced, Houston used to run the same type of scheme. We saw it against Green Bay. Certain teams do it a little bit different in how they block the back side, but from that aspect of it that’s what we’re looking at this week. They’re really going to try to stretch us, which is going to put some stress on our defensive line and linebackers to get downhill, be able to build that picket fence.”
The big question will concern just how healthy RG3 is. If he is 100 percent as the Redskins claim, the potential for Griffin spotting a defensive end crashing down on what he thinks is a handoff and then Griffin pulling the ball back in and racing for 20 yards before sliding to a stop is a distinct and painful possibility.
So is the potential that Giffin’s balky ankle won’t respond to game-speed conditions and he won’t be able to live up to the defensive expectations of what he is capable of doing when RG3 is RG3.
As a result, gap integrity is going to be a focus on Sunday. Letting a nimble quarterback take advantage of players going on instinct is dangerous – especially if Griffin is in game-ready form.
“The big thing is we’ve got to work on the backside,” Edwards said. “You can’t relax. The tough thing with this team, they run so many bootlegs and so many things coming off that action that sometimes you see guys wanting to get up the field and that’s what we can’t allow to happen. You’ve got to be able to work and leverage the ball on the back side, just flat down the line, but don’t turn your shoulders where you’re too flat and can’t get back out to play the boot and those kinds of things. It’ll be some stress on the backside to make sure that we can handle the cutback off of it.”
As the Vikings defense looks to shut down Washington’s offense, they’re not going into it with two plans. They’re going in with three.
Plan A is that Griffin is good to go and they will be prepared for that. Plan B is that the Redskins employed elaborate subterfuge and McCoy starts. Plan C is that the Redskins are expecting a Plan A Griffin and they don’t get it. They have a game plan for that potential eventuality as well.
All three plans will be based on a disciplined defense.
Cutback runs, bootlegs a focus for Vikings
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