DraftNasty's Inside the Huddle, Vol. I: Washington Redskins
September 17th, 2012 By Corey Chavous
Washington Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III showed off his deep ball prowess on Sunday with a pass that traveled 62 yards in the air. The result? A 68-yard TD pass to WR Leonard Hankerson. What made the play so effective?
Inside the Huddle:
Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams
9-16-12Play: QB Robert Griffin III's 68-yard TD pass to 85 Leonard Hankerson, 2nd QTR Formation: 21 personnel (2 RBs, TE, 2 WRs) Backfield Set: Near-I Right, Z-Close (FB offset to the strength of the formation in an alignment to the right of the QB)
The alignment of the ball was on the right hash facing the Rams’ defense. The X-receiver, #85 Leonard Hankerson, had a numbers minus two split (two yards inside the numbers). One of the unique aspects of the play was the position of the Z-receiver, #15 Josh Morgan. He was aligned in what NFL defenses describe as Z-Close (numbers minus two) when on the near hash (or away from the field). This means that while he’s still off the ball, he’s very tight to the formation and the tight end (commonly referred to as the Y).
2) BACKFIELD ACTION
On the snap, Griffin III takes the handoff from under center and fakes an outside zone stretch to the Dot RB (deepest RB -#46 Alfred Morris- in the backfield). The fullback on the play, #36 Darrel Young, immediately pops back to the weak side of the formation after the lead fake action to seal the widest defender (potentially a blind rusher off of the play action). The entire offensive line is in unison with the zone stretch run principle. On this play, they do a decent job of influencing a potential running play to the defense. Simultaneous with this action is a fake reverse to Morgan, which actually is like having an outlet or flat route for the QB (sort of a bubble screen look) if the defense takes away Griffin’s primary two-to-one read. Griffin’s ball-handling on the play hid the ball from the defense because:
a) he extends the ball into the belly of the RB #46 Alfred Morris (who did a fine job of picking up the Sam LB, #50 Rocky McIntosh, on the play) and,
b) he hides the ball on his left hip after the fake.
This allows him to then extend his throwing arm to Morgan on the fake reverse action.
3) PLAY DESIGN
The concept of the play is commonly referred to as ‘Dover’ or 'Race' route by NFL defenses. It is normally a two-man route that is designed to test the integrity of a defense’s three-deep, deep half or quarters zone principles. It is used primarily on first or second down. While the play fake is going is on, the tight end on the play, #83 Fred Davis, runs a Deep Over concept. This is a route that crosses the formation over the top of the LBs (who have to honor the play action fake) and underneath the Deep Middle Third Safety or Quarters (4-Deep) safety while going to the opposite hash or top of the numbers. It is usually run at about 18-22 yards, just deep enough to force the free safety to make a decision.
What is even more interesting about the Redskins’ offensive concept on this play is that they used the tight end to run the ‘deep over’, while using the Z-Close WR to run the fake reverse swing route back to the weak side of the formation. Normally, the tight end blocks, and the Z-Close receiver would be running the deep over to influence the deep middle or quarters safety.
4) DEFENSIVE REACTION
What makes the play difficult for the defense to defend is that if the deep middle third safety breaks on the deep over by the tight end or the Z-Close WR (TE normally blocks, Z would run this DEEP OVER portion of the route) there is no one left in the middle of the field.
If the defense is in three-deep zone coverage, the widest deep third defender (to the side of the Z-WR and TE) has to replace the safety in the middle of the field (in three-deep). If he doesn’t, the cornerback to the X-receiver side will be isolated with no deep middle help.
If it's a quarters look (the four deep defenders are each responsible for a quarter of the field), then each side (S & CB) handles the double of the receiver to its side. The quarterback is taught to read this after he gets his head back around off the play action fake.
6) Helmet Cam
The Rams used an eight-man front on the play. It looked as if they were in some type of three-deep or combination quarters coverage to the Z-receiver side (#15 Josh Morgan). The SS on the play, #27 Quentin Mikell, reacted well off the run action fake (while aligned deep in the box as an eighth man) and located the deep over route of the TE, #83 Fred Davis, from an underneath perspective. Meanwhile, the LCB to that side, #31 Cortland Finnegan, played over the top of the route by Davis. The reaction of the Rams’ free safety, #43 Craig Dahl, suggests that the cornerback to his side, RCB #21 Janoris Jenkins, may have been responsible for the wide receiver without any potential safety help. Jenkins played with outside leverage on the play, suggesting that he would possibly receive help inside and in the deep middle.
While Dahl was in a quarters alignment, it seemed as if he may have been responsible for the Z-Action reverse swing by #15 Morgan. This is only suggested because of his forward movement when reacting to the swing action off the fake reverse. Other than DE #94 Robert Quinn keeping his contain element, there was no curl/flat defender to the side of the reverse or swing action by Morgan. For Washington’s play design to work, one of the deep zone defenders has to jump the over route by Davis. This didn’t happen, Finnegan simply mirrored it over the top, but the FS Dahl was slightly caught by the reverse action. This left three defenders on or around Davis’ deep over, but no one left in the deep middle of the field. Was Dahl the designed quarters safety (Responsibility: underneath post, CB over the top) or was Finnegan supposed to roll back to the Deep Post on the rotation? Or should Jenkins have been aligned inside because he wasn't going to be guaranteed safety help?
Either way, the play action left Jenkins one-on-one with no post safety help (whether it was quarters or three-Deep).
7) VARIATIONS OF PRINCIPLES
Another aspect of the play is that at 12 yards, Hankerson runs a stutter fake by dropping his hips. If Jenkins reacts to the stutter he’ll be in trouble, with or without safety help. Even if it’s not man-to-man coverage, every NFL zone defense carries man-to-man principles the further the route develops down the field for the corner. This holds true in either quarters or three deep zones. Give the Redskins credit for using a commonly seen principle with subtle variations. The Z-receiver reverse action, the tight end running the deep over instead of the Z, and then the post route from the X-receiver turning into a stutter-n-go post pattern.
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