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The Redskins and the zone read-option

4/29/2014

Jay Gruden made it clear -- once more -- that the zone read-option won’t be a big part of their offense. Here’s the thing: Even if the previous staff had stuck around, as Robert Griffin III had matured as a passer, and the offense evolved, the zone read option likely would have decreased anyway.

Gruden emphasized at his first news conference that the zone-read would remain in the playbook. In subsequent interviews, he has said it will be a part of the offense, but it also would depend on Griffin’s comfort level running the play.

Monday, Gruden told Andy Pollin on SportsTalk 570 that "it’s not going to be a major part. I want to make sure that we have other things that we can do besides the read-option, because it takes a toll. You have to practice it a lot to be very good at it. It kind of takes away from the defense’s ability a little bit, it takes away from other plays that you need to work on, your protection schemes, your running game, all that stuff. It just takes away from that. So we want to make sure that we work on the core running game that we have, the core drop-back passes we have. And then once we get going, we get those implemented, maybe sprinkle in some read-option.”

The numbers say it wasn’t a huge part anyway (and I’m excluding the zone-read, play-action passing game). In 2012, the Redskins ran the ball out of the zone-read look on 118 of 519 carries (22.7 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information. In 2013, the Redskins ran it 83 of 453 carries (18.3 percent). Of course, had Griffin entered the season in different circumstances, and not been shut down for the final three games, the 2013 number would have been higher.

But as Griffin grows as a passer -- especially with the talent now around him -- the need for him to run out of the zone-read will lessen.

Here are some other relevant zone-read numbers from ESPN Stats & Info:

  • Griffin carried the ball more than any other quarterback in each of the past two seasons. He ran two more times than Cam Newton two years ago and two more than Terrelle Pryor this past season. Newton ran it 16 times less than Griffin this past season.

  • The Redskins were seventh in runs out of the zone-read compared to second in 2012. Even with a normal year for Griffin -- and if the team hadn’t fallen behind in so many games -- the Redskins likely would have been no better than third. Philadelphia was first with 307 runs and Buffalo was second at 169. But the Redskins might have passed Carolina (106) or Seattle (101).

  • The Redskins averaged 5.33 yards per carry out of the zone-read in 2013 compared to 6.18 the previous year. The play works. But the offense will be more explosive when the passing game evolves.

  • Griffin averaged 5.46 yards per carry out of this look in 2013 -- a good number. But it was a drop-off from 2012 when he averaged 8.00. Running back Alfred Morris averaged 5.25 yards per carry from this look in 2012 and 4.53 yards per carry this past season.

  • Two teams carried the ball more than 55 times out of the zone-read in 2012 (Carolina and Washington). Eight teams carried it at least that amount in 2013.