Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday that the Washington Redskins donât need to eliminate the option-style running elements from their offense to protect quarterback Robert Griffin III during the upcoming season as Griffin returns from offseason knee surgery.
Shanahan, speaking to reporters after the team wrapped up a two-day minicamp at Redskins Park, echoed sentiments expressed earlier this offseason by his father, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan. Kyle Shanahan, like his father, said the teamâs option game helps to safeguard Griffin by slowing down opposing pass rushes. He pointed out that Griffin was hurt last season on improvisational runs on passing plays, not designed runs, and he said that Griffin will learn to protect himself better by sliding at the end of runs and by throwing the ball away when under pressure.
âHe stayed healthy last year running the zone read,â Kyle Shanahan said. âSo I feel pretty good about that.Â You really hope no one gets hurt. Itâs hard to control injuries. … When you do the zone read, everyone [on the opposing defense] is accounted for. Thereâs not many free hitters in it.â
Griffin, last seasonâs NFL offensive rookie of the year, had surgery Jan. 9 to have the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his right knee repaired. He originally hurt his LCL during a game against the Baltimore Ravens, then reinjured his knee both early and late in the Redskinsâ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Mike Shanahan was widely criticized for allowing Griffin to stay in the Seattle game at the quarterbackâs urging. Some analysts have said the Redskins should curtail Griffinâs running this season. Griffin said recently he had no problem with how he was used in the offense last season. But he also said he thanked his father for saying publicly that he would like to see his son throw the ball more frequently and run with it less often this season.
Mike Shanahan has defended the offensive system that the Redskins crafted for Griffin last season, which included the option game and other elements borrowed from the college version of the sport. Kyle Shanahan reiterated that Wednesday.
âYou just look at all the zone-read clips,â Kyle Shanahan said. âI mean, not many big hits happened on that. Usually everyone is blocked for. You know who isnât blocked. Look at the big hits. Look at what plays they were. The three injuries were pass plays. They werenât the zone read. The zone read is something that I learned going through the year that I think really helped us. Itâs the least pass rush Iâve ever seen as a coordinator â guys just sitting there scared to death, just watching everybody, not moving. I really enjoyed sometimes, actually, being able to drop back and not have four guys just teeing off on the quarterback, all trying to hit him in the pocket.â
Griffin also failed to finish a game against the Atlanta Falcons last season when he suffered a concussion.
Kyle Shanahan said what the Redskins do on offense this season will depend mostly upon what defenses do against them.
âI really canât answer that until I see the defenses we face,â Shanahan said. âThereâs nothing that weâre gonna do that says, âHey, we are gonna do thisâ or, âWeâre gonna do that.â The thing thatâs awesome about having a guy like Robert is Robert is capable of being great at anything. It doesnât matter whether itâs dropping back, play-pass, bootlegs, zone-read options. It really doesnât matter. Heâs capable of being great at all of it. So itâs fun when you coach a guy like that, that you really donât have to force anything. Weâre gonna do whatever the defense gives us and if they give us that, weâll take it. If they take it away, itâs enjoy throwing the ball and doing other stuff too.â
Shanahan, like his father, said that Griffin will improve his quarterbacking self-preservation skills as a second-year pro.
âIâm Robertâs coach, so itâs my job to help him with everything,â Shanahan said. âItâs not just Robert. I think itâs every quarterback whoâs ever played the game. A guyâs got to get used to sliding, knowing when to fight for yards, when not to fight for yards. I think itâs harder for guys their rookie years because the speed of the gameâs a lot different. Where you used to have a little more time to slide, now people get up on you a little quick. And when someone gets up on you quick and you slide at the last second, thatâs when you get hit under the chin and stuff. Youâve got to slide early, anticipate things.
âItâs not just Robert. Itâs all quarterbacks. I think a lot of rookie quarterbacks, it takes time to get that feel and they learn through experience. And I think Robert had a lot of experience last year, and I think heâll definitely be better from that. And weâll keep harping on it, and I think it will come natural for him.â
Of course, even if the Redskins do plan to tweak their offense for Griffin, itâs unlikely that they would announce it now and give opponents so much time to adjust.
âThe threat of Robert running was, to me, the thing that I enjoyed the most throughout the year,â Kyle Shanahan said. âI go crazy thinking about blitzes every week, how weâre going to pick all this stuff up. About halfway through the year, Iâm starting to realize weâre not getting any of these blitzes I used to see. It takes a lot of stuff you used to worry about, you donât get. The threat of a quarterback running makes defenses play sound. It makes them play 11 on 11 as opposed to 11 on 10 like theyâd been doing my whole career that Iâve seen. And so just the threat of a quarterback who can run, especially in the running game with the zone read and everything, whether thatâs working or not, just the threat of it opens up everything else.â
Griffin has said he thinks it is a realistic goal for him to be practicing with the team when training camp opens July 25 in Richmond. Mike Shanahan has said it will be up to doctors to determine when Griffin will be cleared to practice. Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins worked with the starting offense in offseason practices.
âItâs not tough to coordinate,â Kyle Shanahan said. âYou do the same stuff. You work everybody, no matter whoâs in there. It doesnât matter what quarterback is in there. Weâre really working the same plays and everything. You use some plays more with one guy than others. But youâre still working with all of them. The thing thatâs frustrating is you know youâre eventually going to play with [Griffin] and you like to work him and practice with him. But you canât do that. So itâs part of the injury and youâve just got to wait and be patient and get ready when he comes back.â
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