Kyle Shanahan: Element of surprise gone for NFL’s option-play offenses

Kyle Shanahan (right) says NFL defenses have adjusted to last season's college-style offenses (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Kyle Shanahan, right, says NFL defenses have adjusted to last season’s college-style offenses (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Thursday that the Washington Redskins and other NFL teams with option-style plays in their offenses are “not shocking people” the way they did last season.

Opposing defenses have adjusted, Shanahan said, after it was “easy at times” last season to make such an offensive approach work.

“You knew any time you get the attention that we did, that San Fran. did, Seattle did last year, when you have something that was that successful, guys are too smart,” Shanahan said at Redskins Park. “They’re gonna work all offeason, find a way to stop it. I think when that happens, you’ve got to get better at the other stuff. I think we do have some other stuff. I think we are getting better at it. We did some of the stuff last year, too. But the thing about last year was, a lot of people weren’t ready for it at all. So it was easy at times.

“Now it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. It’s just not as — you’re not shocking people like you were last year. And when teams are completely committed to stopping something, I don’t care what it is, they’re gonna stop it. And you’ve got to do other stuff and make them worry about other stuff before you want to come back to that and attack it.”

The Redskins are off to an 0-3 start to the season and their offense has not been as productive as it was last season, when quarterback Robert Griffin III was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. Griffin, coming off knee surgery in January, has not been as successful as a runner this season.

“I don’t think it was any real big secret about what are they [opposing defenses] gonna do?” Shanahan said. “I mean, there’s certain ways you knew they’d stop it — just go get the quarterback, not allow him to run, make him hand it off every time, overload the defense, put everybody over there, take a safety out of the middle of the field and bring him down so you’re outnumbered. There’s not too many options. Those are all the obvious options that do stop it.

“When teams do that, it leaves holes other places. And when you have holes other places, how automatic are you at executing those plays that attack that? I don’t think we have been in all those areas. I think we’ve been a little hit or miss. We’ve just got to continue to be better cleaning all that up.”

Shanahan said the Redskins’ three opponents this season have tried different approaches on defense.

“They’ve switched it up,” Shanahan said. “We’ve seen a couple ways they’ve played us. …They’ve mixed it up. We haven’t got a lot of them called. …It hasn’t been there all the time. I think Robert’s proven he’s a big threat on it. So I think guys are a little more reluctant just to give the quarterback the edge. And hopefully we get more runs, get more runs going and you end up seeing what happens.”

The Redskins mixed option-play looks with some rollouts by Griffin during last Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions. But Shanahan maintained that the Redskins didn’t change their offensive approach greatly in Griffin’s third game back.

“It’s just game situation,” he said. “We had the same plan in the first two games. We rolled him out versus Philly. I think he had two keepers versus Philly. We had some planned versus Green Bay but we knew it was gonna be tough versus Green Bay the way [linebacker Clay] Matthews came off the edge and they’re always up the field. They contained. They kept you in the pocket pretty well. This game, we thought we had just as good of a chance like we thought versus Philly. But we were able to do better on third down. It was a tighter game. We were able to mix it up and keep them off balance. It just worked out better.”

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 on Tuesday.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice Friday at 11:50 a.m.; Sunday’s game in Oakland kicks off at 4:25 p.m.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

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