If Carriker isn’t at left end, the Redskins cannot expect the same pressure from their defensive line. It’s really that simple.
A few more wrinkles
Don’t attempt to put a label on the Redskins’ fast-evolving offense. The Shanahans are mixing many philosophies in their attempt to capitalize on Griffn’s athleticism.
Regardless of whether the Redskins run the option with Griffin starting in the shotgun formation or show multiple pro-style sets (several receivers on either side of the line, a running back in the backfield) with Griffin under center, the Redskins’ coaching staff aims to confuse the defense with misdirection plays.
The Shanahans figured the Rams’ coaching staff, after studying film of the Redskins’ quarterback option plays against New Orleans, would focus on trying to contain Griffin in the pocket with their defensive ends and linebackers.
So the Shanahans and Griffin provided a lot for the Rams to consider.
The Redskins ran several plays in which Griffin, starting in the shotgun, would fake a handoff to a back, fake a pass toward one side of the field and then throw to a receiver on the opposite side or downfield.
On Griffin’s 68-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson in the second quarter, Griffin faked a handoff to Alfred Morris, faked an end-around toss to Josh Morgan and then threw a perfect deep ball to Hankerson.
The creative play showed why the Redskins are suddenly so difficult to defend with Griffin at the controls.
Kyle Shanahan has been aggressive in calling designed running plays for Griffin. Defensive players cannot simply pursue runners in the backfield or ignore what’s occurring around the line of scrimmage while they’re engaged with receivers. They always must account for Griffin.
The Shanahans’ creativity, however, comes with risks. By exposing Griffin on designed runs, his risk of injury increases. Just before halftime, Griffin gained 15 yards on a run up the middle and was drilled by Rams defensive back Janoris Jenkins.
On the next play, Griffin, clearly rattled as the pocket collapsed around him, jumped and threw a pass that was intercepted. That’s the kind of mistake a rookie quarterback will make after getting banged around a lot.
The Rams succeeded where the Saints failed: They consistently put pressure on Griffin.
If teams continue to do that, and repeatedly punish Griffin on designed runs, it will be interesting to see whether the Shanahans continue to expose Griffin more than quarterbacks usually are exposed in the NFL.
The Redskins also will have to deal with the injuries to Orakpo and Carriker. As we saw against the Rams, their defense isn’t as good without those two.
For previous columns by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.