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What to watch for: Redskins turn to short passing game instead of runs

Sep 16, 2015, 1:01 PM EDT


The Redskins ran the ball 37 times against the Dolphins, the most they had run the ball during a competitive game during the Jay Gruden era (they did run 42 times during the blowout of the Jaguars in Week 2 last year). But only 11 of those rushing attempts came in the second half with the game within one score the entire time. That drew some fire from fans saying that Gruden abandoned the running game, which was working very well, with Alfred Morris rolling for 4.8 yards per run.

But CBS put up an interesting graphic during the fourth quarter charting Kirk Cousins’ 10 passing attempts starting with the four-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reed just after the two-minute warning. Here it is:


Note the emphasis on the short passing game. If the defense is expecting you to run the ball, the normal way to counter this in a West Coast offense is to go to the short passing game. After Morris’ first carry of the second half went for minus-2 yards, Gruden tried the short passing game some. Short passes to fullback Darrel Young and wide receiver Jamison Crowder gained nothing and the Redskins punted.

The next possession it was short left to receiver Pierre Garçon for six and then Cousins hit Reed for the 25. An attempted screen to tight end Derek Carrier lost a yard, then a series of penalties pushed the Redskins out of field goal range.

The Redskins ran three times on their next possession, which was marred by penalties. The ensuing punt was the one that Jarvis Landry took to the house and the Redskins trailed the rest of the way.

They ran once in their first possession after the punt return and also tried a lateral to Andre Roberts, who misplayed the ball. That resulted in a fumble charged to Cousins that fortunately went out of bounds.

In their final series, the Redskins ran three of the nine plays with Morris gaining seven and 13 yards on the first two carries. But when he was caught for a loss of one on first down from the Miami 23 with three minutes left, the running game was pretty much out of the picture.

I have said that the Redskins probably should have run the ball more often in the second half. But note that some passes can have the same effect as runs and they are used as a change of pace. That’s what Gruden did here and it likely will be part of the game plan all year long.

  1. batguy21784 - Sep 16, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    It seemed to me that Gruden called the second half way too conservatively. Yes, we were running the ball very well in the first half, and seemed like the Phins couldn’t stop it. BUT, you have to know that halftime adjustments will be made. You have to counter plan. It’s the cat & mouse game. Seemed like Gibbs & Co. were geniuses at this. The game would be tight at halftime, but the Skins would blow’em out in the 2nd half.

    Yes, Cousins will need to shift to short passes some, but what seemed most absent were the downfield plays. Sure, we lost Djax, but we still have guys who can stretch the field and get open. You have to take some shots or the defense will crowd the line. What about Ross? He’s pretty fast right? Jordan Reed? Grant? All of these guys can present matchup problems. Take some shots.

    In sports as in life, you can’t play “not to lose.” You have to play to win.

  2. bangkokben - Sep 16, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    Very reasonable but I expect it will provoke the same “we have to run the ball” responses. And cue the “we need to take shots downfield” chorus.

    On a side note, getting a CBS covered game without Phil Simms was a good experience. I still hate their theme music but the rest was fine.

  3. mr.moneylover - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:04 PM

    Jay gruden dont know how to make adjustments so we will lose at the end of the day…jay gruden weakest got exposed last week he hurt his own team by not making adjustments and as a head coach gotta be able to know what the other team is doing a switch up the game plan on the fly if you have too

    • hail74 - Sep 16, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      This whole article was based on Gruden adjusting to Miami’s focus on stopping the run.

  4. mr.moneylover - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    I smell a new head coach

  5. mr.moneylover - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    Jay gruden got to many excuses on why he keep putting his own team in a postion to lose….first its rg3 fault now last week its d-jax injury…BS on top of BS

  6. bangkokben - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    Greg Robinson, Alec Ogletree, Stedman Bailey, Zac Stacy, Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead and Rokevious Watkins.

    Where are they now?’
    Robinson is the starting left tackle
    Ogletree is the starting weakside linebacker
    Bailey is a back up wide receiver
    Stacy is a back up running back for the New York Jets
    Brockers is starting defensive tackle
    Jenkins is starting cornerback
    Pead is 4th running back

    One offensive starter and four defensive starters.

  7. ET - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    I’m not philosophically opposed to a short pass game, but it seems like the play calling and execution could be improved. Let’s leave Roberts out of the short pass game altogether. I was confused by the Crowder target, and disappointed not to see what Jones could do in the flat.

    • bangkokben - Sep 16, 2015 at 5:23 PM

      Unfortunately we’re going to have go give these rookies time to adjust to the game. The sack Lichtensteiger let in, Jones ran right past the guy to go out in his route. That’s the kind of rookie mistake you have to live with that you wouldn’t expect from Morris or Thompson. As soon as Crowder get’s his feet wet, will see Roberts on the bench or the inactive list.

  8. goback2rfk - Sep 16, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    Cool link about Cousins grandmas van Rich Tandler. If I remember correctly Alfred Morris had a similar old car years ago. Kirk does not make that RG3 or Manning money he has to save for the future. He has to keep what little he has got cause his contract is getting ready to expire along with his career.
    More than likely Kirk will have to look for employment after the NFL as the little bit of money he has made is not enough to sustain him indefinitely.

    Kirk Cousins small time contract of 4 years 2.5 million with a tiny 400k guaranteed money. Kirk is making around 600K a year and once taxes are taken he clears less than 500K. I am surprised he was able to afford his Grandmas van. Poor old Cousins. At-least he has a nice wife to go home to. I am sure Kirk can taste that extension like a warm peach cobbler on fall evening. He better show something soon, go get em Kirk.
    I want to see 300 yards and 3 TD’s this Sunday big guy. No INT’s! httr Kirk is gunna get us on one of those 7 game win streaks.

    • Darren - Sep 16, 2015 at 7:24 PM

      And you make more then?

      • goback2rfk - Sep 16, 2015 at 7:30 PM

        No. I make much much less. Of course I was speaking in terms of NFL pay not reality. I am sure most people in this world would love to have just one week of Kirks salary.
        For a starting QB Kirk is making much less than average kind of like Russel Wilson there for awhile.

  9. kenlinkins - Sep 17, 2015 at 1:52 PM

    I am not buying this, Once again this head coach got away from the run just when it could have helped him put points on the score board. If the Dolphins were really set to stop the run (i.e. 8 in the box or moving LB’s or SS up) then the middle of the field at 8 to 12 yards would have been open or the Top of the Defense was open. No Sir, I do not buy this at all. It was just poor play calling. Also, how do you take a Delay of Game call at the Dolphins 22 yard line after a -1 yard pass play? This was nothing more than a coach who can not seem to call up the guts to trust his ground game when needed or lack the guts to throw for the end zone,as even a West Coach system tells you that if a defense is playing the run they are not pass rushing as hard and the deep ball should be open with play action and if Garcon can not get open deep with one of one coverage why is he making all that money? Either the Dolphins have the greatest defense the world has ever seen (as they covered everything) or the play calling sucked, end of story. CBS graphics or not, this was the head coach’s failure! Archives

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