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The All-22: How the Redskins combine backfield motion and route concepts to stretch defenses

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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This was the end result of some great offensive planning. (Getty Images)

Yesterday, we looked at how Mike and Kyle Shanahan turned receiver motion, blocking schemes, and interior route concepts to create a six-yard touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. Here's the second of the four touchdown passes thrown by Robert Griffin III in that Philly game, a 49-yarder to receiver Aldrick Robinson that reveals the effectiveness of two primary ingredients in the Redskins' new offensive mix -- advanced backfield action, and multi-tiered route concepts that stretch opposing defenses to their limits.

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This looks like one thing, but will be another. The Eagles are not ready for this. (NFL.com)

Pre-snap, the Redskins show a three-receiver set with tight twins right. The Eagles bring safety Kurt Coleman down to cover slot receiver Niles Paul, and cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are clamped down on the outside receivers. Or, at least, they think they are...

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Washington's backfield churn sets Philly's D off-kilter. (NFL.com)

...until all the moving parts start to go. Right-side outside receiver Brandon Banks runs an end-around to the left side, which leaves Rodgers-Cromartie with a zone look and nobody to cover head-on. Robinson takes Asomugha out of the backside coverage with the beginnings of a deep over route, and Paul takes Coleman out of the picture with a 14-yard curl over the middle. Deep safety Nate Allen seems to be in position to help Asomugha over the top with Robinson, but it doesn't quite work out that way, due in part to Washington's backfield.

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Things really fell apart in Philly's intermediate coverage... (NFL.com)

First of all, great job by Redskins tight Logan Paulsen, the right-side H-back on this play, moving to the left side and blocking right defensive end Darryl Tapp. If Tapp breaks backside protection, this play falls apart, because it takes too much time to come to fruition. Now, we see Rodgers-Cromartie late to the slot receiver party, which is kind of strange because there isn't anyone else to cover on that side.

At a key point in the play, when Griffin is about to release the ball, Allen turns back from helping Asomugha and leaves the cornerback alone to cover a receiver who's running a route going away from him. That's bad news, folks. Asomugha may not be what he used to be, but there's no way in hell he's going to take an outside release on an "X" receiver unless he knows he's getting boundary help inside. The Eagles were set up to play deep thirds on a route combination that made it a mismatch.

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...and the linebackers were too busy running around in circles to help. (NFL.com)

Now, why does the backfield help to create this issue? Take a look at the linebackers on the play.

The end-around takes the SAM and WILL 'backers out of the play altogether, which leads me to believe that the Eagles assigned all three of their 'backers to flow to the backfield, or somebody really screwed up. With the Eagles' defense this year, it's hard to tell. But it's pretty clear that rookie SAM linebacker Mychal Kendricks was spying Griffin to make sure that this wasn't all a ruse to set a designed run for a quarterback with track speed. That's the Redskins' X-Factor this year -- teams must spy Griffin as a runner, or suffer the consequences if they don't.

On Thanksgiving Day, this will be Rob Ryan's problem to solve.

"He is a special player," the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator said of the rookie. "That's why they traded half a team to get him. Obviously, he's a tremendous athlete and they say he is a hell of a kid. I don't like him, but I know he is very talented. This game looks like it's in slow-motion for him already and hopefully we speed it up a whole lot this week."

If the Cowboys can't solve Washington's three-tiered offense, Ryan will like RG3 even less.

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