Kyle Shanahan embraces challenge of remaining ahead of defenses

Kyle Shanahan

Kyle Shanahan knows he must stay ahead of the curve. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND – Last season, Kyle Shanahan broke out a new-fangled, hybrid offense on the NFL with Robert Griffin III as the centerpiece. The zone-read option schemes had just started to pop up in the league the year before. But Shanahan took it to the next level, not only by running the zone-read schemes, but pistol formations as well. On top of that, he continued to run the traditional plays of his father’s trademark zone-blocking schemes out of the pistol formations to further baffle defenses.

Now, as he enters Year 2 of the offense, Shanahan knows he must stay ahead of the curve. Defensive coordinators have made no secret that they spent the offseason studying the option attack both in the NFL and on the college level. Many of them talked to college coaches to get a better understanding of how to thwart the attacks that Shanahan and his fellow option-running offensive coordinators may throw at them. And so, Shanahan has worked to further diversify the Redskins’ offense, embracing the challenge that awaits.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how they do it, and I’m sure, I mean, there’s a lot of smart coaches out there, and guys can stop anything they want to stop,” Shanahan said after Thursday’s practice. “That’s what we know as a coaching staff, we know as an offense, our players and everything.”

Shanahan says that defenses may find elements of the zone-read schemes to take away. But he believe that could set his offense up to exploit other areas.

“The key is, what are they doing to do to stop it, and what, in that defense when they do stop it, do they make more vulnerable?” he said. “Is that going to help our outside zone the other way, is that going to help our play pass, will it help our dropback? You can stop anything you want, and the key is making somebody stop something, making them cheat their defense to do it, and then having the other plays and the other talent at certain positions to counteract what they are doing, and it’s really kind of a wait-and-see approach.”

When training camp opened, Pierre Garcon expressed a belief that his team’s offense could this season become  “the best ever.” His stance raised eyebrows nationally.

Shanahan admitted that he too did a double-take when he heard Garcon’s comments.

“I mean, I laughed at that, too,” Shanahan said. “That’s very high expectations, and I like his confidence, but that’s a little pressure right there. I don’t know about [best] in the history of the NFL, but I think we did a good job last year. You get better or worse, and we need to get better. If not, we will be worse. I don’t think we’ll be the exact same as we were last year, and it’s very important not to get complacent.”

Shanahan thinks that Griffin will naturally improve in his second season in the NFL, and he also believes that health should help the Redskins improve in some aspects. Not only are Garcon and fellow wide receiver Josh Morgan stronger and more explosive after hobbling through last season and regaining their health. But running back Roy Helu Jr. also continues to excel. Helu’s speed could have helped Washington’s rushing attack last season, and he could have provided another element as a receiving threat out of the backfield.

“I’m real excited about Roy. He’s looked healthy since he came back and he showed that to all you guys versus Tennessee,” Shanahan said. “He helped us a lot his rookie year and we didn’t get him last year because he wasn’t healthy. You could see he fought it all through training camp. Even when he was trying to play, he wasn’t the same guy and he looked like the guy that we know and that you guys have seen last week during that game. Roy is a legit back. He can help us a lot. He can do a little bit of everything. He’s a little different than [running back Alfred Morris]. He’s definitely a faster running back than [Morris]. He’s good out of the backfield. He’s got good hands, and I think he can really complement [Morris] and help him out.”

Kyle Shanahan knows he must remain ahead of the curve. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Shanahan, right, with Aldrick Robinson, has a lot of weapons to work with. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Jones’s observations.

● Friday’s practice — the final one of training camp — is at 10:35 a.m.

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