- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s not that teams know what’s coming; it’s that teams know what they want to stop. And that’s led to tougher situations for Robert Griffin III as a passer, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.
Griffin said after Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that it seemed like the defenders knew what was coming. They defended certain pass plays well, notably the pass off a zone-read fake. On those plays, the Eagles’ linebackers played pass first and could then drop into lanes that took away the favored inside routes.
But the Eagles also went heavy with seven-man boxes, trying to help the coverage. That’s a big reason the Redskins ran the ball so well—and why they stuck with the run even as the Eagles pulled away.
“We anticipated that during the game,” Shanahan said. “They were going to take the pass game away... . [Teams] really don’t know if a play is coming. They’ll play aggressive and take away the run or take away the pass. Some people mix it up and really try to keep you off-balance so you never know what’s going to happen so you have to adjust. In the fourth quarter they were trying to take away the run.”
That’s also when the Redskins started having more success through the air, enabling them to use different routes and formations.
Other teams have played more in coverage to defend the play-action pass better -- Denver used mostly seven-man boxes as well, for example.
Shanahan said Griffin was used to teams playing more eight-man fronts a year ago. Linebackers would get out of position on pass drops after play fakes.
“Our first year everyone played us with eight-man fronts, sometimes almost nine-man fronts,” Shanahan said. “When you do that you have guys wide open like we did last year. That’s one reason the play-action was so good. This year [teams are saying], ‘We’re playing you more passing and you have to earn the right in that run game.’ Which we’ve been able to do. You’re not always going to get that deep ball so you have to dump it off and be patient. That’s part of the NFL. No matter what quarterback you’re going against, no matter what system you go against, you have to relate or adjust your game plan accordingly. That’s one of the reasons we ran the ball so much against a team that was very good at stopping the run.”
Shanahan also said Griffin’s drop-back passing will take time to develop.
“But he’s so sharp at picking things up. He can make any throw. Not many people have that ability to do that,” Shanahan said. “The great part about it is the sky’s the limit for him in the future. There is going to be some growing pains. It’s not going to be automatic. We didn’t expect it to be automatic. But there will be growth in what we do with him as time goes on he’ll keep on getting better and better.”