Poor start altered Kyle Shanahan’s game plan vs. Eagles


Things didn’t get off to the start that Mike and Kyle Shanahan had hoped for. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said all offseason he had no plans to scrap the zone-read option plays from his playbook. Shanahan loves the uncertainty that it causes for defenses and the versatility that it afforded his unit.

But the Redskins on Monday ran only six zone-read plays – two designed quarterback runs ranking among them. Shanahan said the huge deficit the Redskins faced – not a change in philosophy – caused him to run so few zone-read plays throughout the game.

“We never got to do our game plan, to tell you the truth,” Shanahan said. “We had some stuff in there early, but it wasn’t just that that we didn’t get to do. We didn’t get to do 90 percent of our game plan. It turned into two-minute drill pretty fast. First half we wanted to set some things up, which is what we kind of always do in our offense. But we weren’t able to set anything up, and you don’t want to just run it to run it.”

One of the most potent offenses in the league last season, Washington encountered uncharacteristic struggles on Monday, managing just three first downs and only 75 yards in the first half. The first possession featured an Alfred Morris fumble on the first play. The second possession ended in an interception by Robert Griffin III on the fourth play. And the third series ended with a botched pitch from Griffin to Morris in the end zone on the second play. That play resulted in a safety.

“I was shocked by everything. You never go into a game anticipating that. It was frustrating for me, frustrating for all our players, and something we had to deal with,” said Shanahan, whose unit finally rebounded in the second half and scored 20 points. “I’m proud of how they came back and at least they didn’t give up. We kept fighting. But it’s definitely something we have to get corrected and can’t have happen.”

In the first half, Griffin looked like a player who was trying to work his way back into the flow after not playing in eight months. He  refused to use rust as an excuse.

Kyle Shanahan said rust was apparent, but not just for Griffin.

“I think –  it’s obvious people will say that – and any time you have three turnovers in the first six or seven plays, they should say that about everybody,” Shanahan said. “When Robert doesn’t play in the preseason, you know when anything goes bad, we’re going to get that. I don’t think that was it, but I think everybody looked rusty. Everybody struggled. No one did a good job and it took us a while to get into any part of the game.”

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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Mike Jones · September 12, 2013

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