Sustained success of zone read, pistol offenses hinges on diversity


Robert Griffin III and the Redskins had great success running the option and pistol.

If the Redskins intend to continue featuring zone read option and pistol formation plays in their offense during Robert Griffin III’s second season, success will depend on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan keeping the attack diverse and ever-changing, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday.

Defenses that faced the Redskins last season will spend the offseason studying the offense, and will try to find ways to stop it where they failed last season, said Rivera, who experienced that first-hand last season in his team’s second year of using quarterback Cam Newton in similar schemes.

So, to stay ahead of the curve, Rivera learned that his other playmakers needed to continue to improve and that he and his staff had to find additional ways to use them to keep teams off-balance.

“I think part of it had to be with our play-makers as far as how our receivers and tight ends were doing and the run plays we ran off of the zone-read,” Rivera said at the NFL combine. “If you’re not diverse and not giving them something else to look at, then teams are going to load eight, nine guys up in the box, and you’re going to have to throw it.”

He added: “I know this, people are going to look long and hard at it. NFL coaches are going to talk to a lot of college coaches and try to get their feedback and their ideas on how to stop it.”

San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy, who as Denver’s offensive coordinator ran the option with Tim Tebow, said sustained success with those schemes will now be a challenge for teams. Defenses now have significant amounts of tape from Newton, Griffin, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. Now the pressure will be on offensive coordinators to find more ways to execute without the element of opponents’ unfamiliarity.

“Without a doubt, defenses are going to start preparing more for it through the offseason program, through training camp,” McCoy said. “Two years ago we were the first ones really to get into this on a game by game basis. Now a lot of teams are doing it. So there’s a lot more time in the offseason to prepare. ‘What is our plan? How we going to stop this? What are we going to do?’ So really the advantage changes a little bit to the defense having more time to prepare.”

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · February 22, 2013