I've spent the past few days, both looking at tape and digging through statistics, to get a closer look at why the Redskins have been so successful on offense, as well as how to exploit them on defense. As a guy who relies much heavier on the former (tape) than the latter, I did find some pretty interesting consistencies regarding the Redskins' run defense, within the standard statistical analysis.
I'm not one to think statistics tell the entire story, but combining the statistics with what I see on tape, the numbers make complete sense.
I've come to the conclusion that the Seahawks would do themselves well to pound the football. They don't need a ton of pistol (which plays to what the Redskins defense spends a significant amount of time practicing against - think about it), they don't need to get too cute with Wilson running the football. They need to challenge the Redskins defense early, to stop the run, and they need to stick with the run.
You'll see in my notes below, that when prior Washington opponents stuck with the run this season, they beat the Redskins most of the time.
If Seattle can control the clock with the run, and mix in short to intermediate passes, they'll convert short 3rd down situations consistently, and keep the creative Redskins offense off the field.
Here are the notes I took, and posted on Twitter earlier in the day, and they're actually still in Twitter format. Why? Because I don't feel like re-writing them.
Here they are:
- Washington's run defense ranking (5th overall in league in yards-per-game - 95.8) is deceiving. They've defended tje fewest number of run attempts in league. The 'Skins D has seen only 22.7 rushing attempts per game (lowest in NFL), despite giving up 4.2/carry (Fewer rushing attempts. Fewer total rush yards. Per carry stat more important here)
- Redskins are 2-5 in games where the opponent rushes more than 24 times. The two wins came by margins of 1 point (NYG - week 13) and 3 points (BAL week 14). The ‘Skins surrender 128 ypg, and 4.45 ypc across those 7 games. (When teams stick with the run against Washington, they win).
- The ‘Skins game to go back and watch, is vs. PIT. The Steelers generated 140 yards on ground, and held the ‘Skins to 86 total rush yards. PIT won, 27 - 12. (If you're signed up for Game Rewind, go watch it back).
- The Redskins' D surrendered 300+ yard passing performances to nine quarterbacks this year. That number would've been 10, but Josh Freeman (TB) threw for a measly 299 in Week 4. (This is an interesting stat, because it could explain why teams haven't run the ball very often against Washington, despite them not being very good against the run; thus creating what I like to call a "false sense of a good run defense". I literally just invented that term).
And as far as how to contain the Redskins on offense, here are a few earlier tweets I put out, strictly in response to tape study:
- The ‘Skins masterfully execute the stretch zone with Alfred Morris, who is more than just a "system" ‘back. He has good vision, quickness, burst. (Alfred Morris is good.)
- Key for Seattle's defense will be to diagnose, shed and swarm to contain the edge, and backside on stretch play. It's a slow-developing play. (Morris spends a lot of time waiting, in open space. Seattle has the speed on defense to fly to the football and disallow Morris and the Redskins O-line to setup lanes).
- Defenses have gotten in trouble vs Washington when they "wait" for the run play to develop. But this plays to Redskins' strength in setting up zone blocks (See note above).
- Seattle has to explode to the ball and bottle up the run. Sounds easier than it is though, because Washington uses play-action so well, and tends to freeze linebackers (Washington's triple-threat -- QB run, RB run, Pass -- on any given play, has caused defenders to freeze in space, leaving Griffin clean, with plenty of time to scan and select, and has also allowed Morris to sit in space and allow lanes to develop, as the gaps aren't being filled by opposing linebackers).
- Robert Griffin actually doesn't get thru progressions very quickly, but Washington does good job of making this a non-issue by buying him time with play fakes. (See all points above).
- Griffin goes to his 1st read A LOT, due to the ability to freeze defenses. This makes sense, considering Baylor's offense featured so much 1-read. (Washington coaches have played to Griffin's strengths, and away from his weaknesses here, by simplifying the passing game to one or two key targets on each play. With the time he has, he can wait for a receiver to get open).
Thus huge key for Seattle will be to disrupt receivers' and tight ends' timing off line, forcing Griffin to look for other options, at which point he's not as effective. (If Seattle can press consistently and jam receivers off their routes - win leverage at the line - this could give their D-line more time to get after Griffin. This will still be a tough task.)
In that sense (1-read frequency), these offenses are actually pretty different (Seattle's vs. Washington's). Similarity between the two is the ability to buy time for their quarterbacks with the threat of the run. (Everyone talks about the similarities, and there are some, between Seattle and Washington, in terms of how they run their offenses. But, the biggest difference is that Russell Wilson plays a more traditional QB game, moving through progressions, dropping back more traditionally, more frequently, etc. This really isn't an important point. Just a fun observation.)
The conclusion here, is that Robert Griffin is able to utilize play action to buy the time he needs to make up for his key deficiencies, which are:
- Locks onto primary target
- Doesn't move through progressions rapidly
- Isn't very effective at leading receivers on quick, timing-based routes - i.e. quick slants, outs, etc.
Both run and pass plays tend to take a long time to develop with this offense, and if Seattle is smart to fly to the football on hand-offs, as well as knock receivers off their routes at the line in press, they could disrupt both attacks, and make it tough for Griffin to establish rhythm on offense.
Defense is obviously important, but I still think that Seattle has to take control of this game with their offense, and make the running game the single most emphasized element to their attack against the Redskins.
Derek also runs a Seahawks-centric draft, free agency, & pro player personnel site called "ScoutTheSeahawks." Head over and bookmark it - he maintains a really great free agent tracker that is much more in-depth than most places because of his background doing deep scouting of NFL Draft prospects.