The Redskins offense is going downhill. And that’s a good thing.
New offensive line coach and running game coordinator Bill Callahan has kept some of the outside zone runs that the Redskins have utilized heavily for the past several years. But he has added a new element as well.
“We’ve done some more downhill run plays,” said Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams when asked about the scheme changes from last season to now. “I don’t know, I think they might fit the backs that we have a little more. Obviously those guys can still get out on the edge and have a lot of success there but I think that any time you can get a Matt Jones, a 235-pound back, or Alfred Morris, 220-230-pound back going downhill, it’s going to always present a challenge.”
It has indeed presented a great challenge to the two defenses the Redskins have faced so far. After two games they have rushed for a league-leading 343 yards and the ground attack has helped them control the clock to the tune of over 37 minutes of possession time in each game.
It’s not just the schemes that make Callahan such a respected and effective coach. He knows that the devil is in the details.
“Obviously, Bill is a different kind of coach,” said Williams. “He’s one of those guys who isn’t going to let anything slip through the cracks. He’s going to cover every possible look, every possible situation that they have. And he works us extremely hard and I think guys are buying in and it’s paying off.”
The acquisition of Callahan was a double coup for the Redskins because they took him away from their division rivals, the Cowboys. Through two games Dallas is 20th in the league in rushing yards after being second a year ago. The two main factors being cited with the Cowboys’ running game issues (certainly with a small sample size) are the departures of running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, via free agency and Callahan leaving after his contract was up.
A reporter was in Dallas a year ago working on a story about Callahan. He asked Cowboys center Travis Fredrick, who was going into his second season with Callahan as his position coach, about the coach’s style.
“Ultimate technician, he’s focused on every single detail,” Frederick told Greg Bedard of SI.com then about what Callahan was like in the offensive line room. “He’ll watch every play several times to specifically target every point. ‘Your hand is two inches to the right.’ Or, ‘Your foot came down too early or didn’t step in the right direction.’ He’s all over every point. He demands the best. Certainly helped me.”
The Cowboys had one of the top offensive lines in the game last year. Jeff Fisher of the Rams, the team the Redskins beat last Sunday while gaining 182 rushing yards, said that the line reminded him of the Cowboys’ group.
“They’re outstanding on coaching,” Fisher said after the game. “Coach Callahan has done a great job with that offensive line. It’s Dallas all over again.”
Well, the Cowboys line got it done for 16 games plus a couple in the playoffs. This season is barely underway. We will have to see if the Redskins can keep it up but it looks like they are in good hands.