The Washington Post

Kyle Shanahan embraces challenge of remaining ahead of defensive coordinators

Kyle Shanahan with Robert Griffin III (left) and Kirk Cousins (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan last season baffled defensive coordinators across the league as he further expanded on his already impressive play-calling abilities while introducing the pistol formation and zone-read option plays to Washington’s playbook. Defensive coordinators have spent the offseason working to catch up to Shanahan and other coordinators directing similar attacks.

Well aware of this, Shanahan went back into the lab this offseason and has concocted ways to ensure that he remains ahead of the competition.

“It’s always a challenge, not just for myself, but for every coach in this league,” Shanahan said. “Coaches are good. There’s a lot of tape out there and guys work extremely hard, so if you ever become complacent and you don’t change and you don’t evolve, guys are going to end up stopping you.”

The Redskins will continue to run plays out of the pistol formation, and Robert Griffin III will still run some zone-read plays. But new wrinkles will be included in the attack this season, according to players and Shanahan himself. Some of those will be put on display when the Redskins open the season Monday night against the Eagles.

The expectation is that an already explosive offense advances to an even higher level. Even if defenses do find a way to limit some of the explosiveness of the zone-read plays, Shanahan and the Redskins believe that will open opponents up to other areas for them to exploit.

“The thing that excites me is I think we do have a good system,” Shanahan said. “I think we can do a lot of different things. I think our players are capable of succeeding in a lot of different ways. You really don’t have to force much when you have a big system and you’ve got the players that are capable of doing it all. You really just have got to wait and see what they do on Sunday or in this case Monday. And when you see coverages and you kind of get a feel for what their game plan is, then it’s our job as coaches to go the direction that we always have been and just hope we can execute it.”

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

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice at 11:50 today.

● We’ll be posting links this morning to our Redskins/NFL preview section. Jason Reid’s column about Mike Shanahan the personnel man is one of the highlights.

More about the Redskins and NFL:

Redskins believe they’re ready to stop Chip Kelly’s offense

Thompson doing extra work fielding punts

Division-by-division NFL season previews

D.C. Sports Bog: RGIII’s newest ad includes exploding field | More Bog

The Early Lead: Manning throws seven TD passes in openerMore NFL

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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