The goal of Kelly’s system is to move up and down the field at a speed that makes it difficult for the defense to substitute or get a good read on the offense while also wearing the defenders down. That, in turn, is supposed to help the Eagles dominate time of possession and score often.
“It makes you kind of second-guess yourself,” said Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who faced Oregon’s offense twice while at Purdue. “That’s what you have to try to fight when you’re playing an offense like this. You’ve got to play fast even though they’re trying to make you guess.”
Explained Kelly, who has said his goal is to run 80 to 100 offensive plays a game: “It’s all about how many plays does your offense run versus how many plays their offense runs. So in most games, our offense is on the field more than our defense is on the field.”
The Redskins have an idea what the Eagles will attempt to run, but they admit they don’t know exactly, mainly because no one has seen the full attack on display in the NFL. But defensive coordinator Jim Haslett spent the offseason watching video of Kelly’s offenses at Oregon, and he has spent the past several weeks dissecting Philadelphia’s preseason games. Haslett is familiar with the Eagles’ personnel, having faced many of them twice a year in each of the last three seasons.
And so the coach believes he has a good game plan and that his players will be well-prepared.
“You don’t know what anybody’s going to do exactly in a game until you get in the game. You have to have the ability to adjust to what they’re doing and be flexible in what you’re doing. So I can only go on what I’ve seen. I’ve watched 23, 24 Oregon films. I watched what they did in the preseason. If they can do anything else, God bless ’em.”
Redskins players say they began watching film of Oregon’s offense on their own during the summer and occasionally as a group throughout the preseason — but more so in the final week of the preseason, when the starters were already ruled out for that game at Tampa Bay.
Only days into training camp, the unit began preparing for an uptempo attack. Segments of the defense’s walk-throughs featured a scout offense that came to the line quickly, snapped the ball and moved the ball downfield. The defensive players jogged around, barked out assignments, quickly lined up and reacted to the plays. Later in camp, the defense went 11-on-11 against a scout-team offense that operated at a brisk pace. And in the third preseason game, Washington faced Buffalo, which runs a similar offense. Redskins players came away from that game believing they had received a good dress rehearsal for the season opener.
“ ‘Haz’ done a great job. When we prepared for Buffalo, it was just high pace, no rest,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “They’re just placing the ball, running the play. Conditioning-wise, we’re going to be ready. I think it’s all about communication though across the board.”
Washington’s defense fared well against the Bills. The players quickly got into position, called out assignments and executed.
But Haslett concedes there could be times when he is unable to get a play in to his players. In those situations, he will rely on defensive captain London Fletcher to put the unit in the right formation.
“London’s the best at it, so we don’t have to worry about that,” Haslett said. “He’s prepared. He’s well prepared. He’ll know exactly what we want in every situation. If something happens and I can’t get the call in, he’ll know what calls we’re going to have based off of what they have got in the game, so that’s not a concern to me at least, because I feel like London’s like having a coach on the field.”
In addition to keeping pace with the Eagles, the Redskins must play soundly against the zone-read plays that feature Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy. Washington’s fourth-string quarterback, Pat White, has played the part of Vick in practices, giving the defense “a great look,” according to Coach Mike Shanahan. Plus, the Redskins’ defenders have gone against their own zone-read plays in practice since last season. So the players feel like they have a good understanding of what they need to do.
“Communication and everybody being sound and playing their responsibility,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “Nobody doing more than they’re supposed to do. That’s what hurts a lot of people — you’ve got two guys out of gaps, you’ve got two people on the running back and nobody on the quarterback or two people on the quarterback and nobody on the running back. Everybody’s got to play their assignment, and we’ll be fine.”