Redskins will keep running zone read option with RGIII

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RGIII's running attack too effective to ditch

ASHBURN -- He defended the play much better than many defenses the Redskins faced last season. Andultimately, that's why Kyle Shanahan wants to stick with the zone read option. It's tough to stop.

The Redskins worked the zone read option into their offense last season, capitalizing on quarterback Robert Griffin III's skills. It's a big reason why Griffin ran for 815 yards as a rookie.

It also helped open up running lanes for back Alfred Morris, who ran the play on average less than four times a game. It also created passing lanes by freezing linebackers near the line and it slowed the rush by causing ends to hesitate.

Add it up and it's no wonder Shanahan, the Redskins' offensive coordinator, wants to keep it around. Even with talk that Griffin wants to run less. Griffin did not get hurt running the zone read option last season, with his concussion and knee injury coming off scrambles.

"The zone read really helped us," Shanahan said. "It's the least pass rush I've ever seen as a coordinator. I mean, guys were sitting there scared to death, watching everybody, not moving, and I really enjoyed being able to [have the quarterback] drop back and not have four guys teeing off on the quarterback."

While it's true defensive coordinators will spend part of their offseason trying to figure out ways to slow this attack, it's also true that they made adjustments last season.

Opposing defenses would send their outside linebackers or ends straight at Griffin; yet Morris would run through the opening for good yards. They'd send the outside linebacker wide, with the end crashing inside. But the Redskins countered with an extra blocker in the backfield, providing a balanced look. It would also often leave them with two blockers on two defenders, with Griffin unaccounted for by the defense.

"Some of the zone read stuff is the least he got hit," Shanahan said. "It was the scrambles and stuff like that when guys were unblocked and there are seven guys in coverage. ... You look at the zone read clips, and not many big hits happened on that because usually everyone's blocked for."

The thought of Griffin running consumed defenses at times. On Aldrick Robinson's touchdown catch in the Thanksgiving Day win over Dallas, all 11 defenders are staring at Griffin as he makes a zone read fake. By the time the safeties catch on that it's a pass, it's too late.

That's why, despite Griffin coming off major knee surgery in January, he will continue to run the ball. And the zone read will remain part of the offense.

"The threat of Robert running was, to me, the thing I enjoyed the most throughout the year," Shanahan said. "I go crazy thinking about blitzes every week and how we'll pick this stuff up. About halfway through the year I realize we're not getting blitzes like we used to see. Just the threat of a quarterback who can run ... opens up everything else."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner