The latest Washington Redskins loss has raised yet more questions about Kyle Shanahan‘s play-calling and the run game. Alfred Morris finished the game with 26 yards on 11 rushes, his lowest in both categories all season. Morris had averaged around five yards per carry over the course of the season until this game, so it was unusual to see him with such little production. Many fans asked why the Redskins went away from pounding the rock with Morris (Mike Shanahan addressed this on Monday). The truth is, the Giants defensive front played Washington’s zone scheme very well. They used multiple looks and disrupted the interior linemen, in particular, from their normal assignments. As a result, the Giants linebackers were allowed to roam free and make tackles on Morris.
The variety of looks came as somewhat of a surprise. We saw their traditional 4-3 front:
We also saw plenty of eight-man fronts, with a safety playing in the box:
On top of that, the Giants even ran some 3-4 looks:
The Giants used these different looks at various points throughout the game. They also did a good job disguising them, often shifting their front seconds before the snap to catch the offensive line off guard. Washington struggled to cope with all the movement up front, which stopped them from reaching the second level.
Here we see the Giants in a run-heavy 4-3 front. The Redskins are running a counter play that starts off to the left but then bounces back behind right tackle Tyler Polumbus.
Polumbus and right guard Chris Chester are forced into a double team up front, allowing the highlighted Giants linebacker, Jon Beason, to roam free.
Neither Polumbus nor Chester are able to get off the double team and reach Beason. Morris runs the counter right into Beason for little gain.
Here’s another example.
The Giants bring eight defenders into the box with another run-heavy front.
Chester is once again drawn into a double team and unable to disengage from it early enough, allowing Beason to run right through the hole.
This is an example of how much the team misses fullback Darrel Young. Tight end Logan Paulsen received snaps as Young’s replacement, but is clearly not a fullback. He fails to keep his head up and block, instead attempts to use his momentum to knock Beason over.
Paulsen fails to make the block and Morris is once again tackled in the backfield.
One last example, looking back at that 4-3 front from earlier.
This time the Giants shifted their line left just before the ball was snapped.
Just as we saw above, both guards are unable to get off their blocks and reach the second level. Kory Lichtensteiger was unable to cut off Spencer Paysinger from running right up the gap and wrapping up Morris before he can even return to the line of scrimmage.
New York game planned well to take away Morris. Traditionally, Mike Shanahan would have used play-action bootlegs to counteract this. But the Redskins have Robert Griffin III. With the defense playing so aggressively, the Giants allowed Washington to open up the read-option game. Griffin was able to pick up 88 yards on 12 carries, though some of that came from scrambling. With the defensive ends crashing, Griffin was able to pull the ball and pick up an easy four or five yards before getting down or out of bounds safely. Through use of the read-option, the Redskins were able to manage 139 rushing yards. So for me, I wouldn’t say the lack of carries from Morris was the reason Washington failed to win the game. They found other ways to run the ball, namely Griffin. Kyle Shanahan can be criticized for a number of things this season, but I don’t personally think this should be one of them.
Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins’ play without the benefit of access to the team.
● The Redskins practice at 11:50 a.m. Wednesday. Mike Shanahan and Griffin are expected to speak with reporters after practice.
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