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Will the Redskins move away from zone blocking?

Will the Redskins move away from zone blocking?

Are the Redskins preparing to change the way they run the ball?

All NFL teams utilize some zone blocking running plays but only a handful use zone as their primary scheme. The Redskins have been one of those teams ever since Mike Shanahan arrived in 2010. We are getting some indications that change may be coming.

Jay Gruden’s Bengals were set up for power blocking. No starter on their end of season depth chart weighed less than 310 pounds. Two of them weighed in at 335. That’s a line that can run zone plays—something the Bengals did regularly—but is built for power.

When I asked Gruden if he preferred the zone or power as his base scheme his answer indicated a bit of everything. But note that he says what the team does well in the past and then quickly inserts what he “likes”.
I think they’re in the top 10 the last couple years, so they have a system in place that’s very good. They’re an outside zone blocking team that can do inside zone. I like the power plays. I like the gap blocking plays. So there’s a little bit of everything. I don’t think any offense in the NFL anymore is just, ‘We are this.’ I think we have to adhere to what we have offensively, talent-wise. We can do the read option. We can do naked bootlegs. We can run outside zone. We can run bubble screens. We can run deep balls. We can do play-action deep things. I think the whole idea to be a successful offense is to be diverse and be good at a lot of different things and not just one.”
Diversity in your offense is good but you still need a basic way of doing things so you can set up your personnel accordingly. Do you go with the power scheme and use to zone as a wrinkle? Then you build your line like Cincinnati did. If you want to emphasize the zone you put together a line with smaller, more athletic blockers. Of the starters on the Redskins’ line the last two years only Trent Williams weighs over 310 pounds.

Will Gruden go with the power scheme as their base? Other than his history with the Bengals there are other signs that he might be thinking that way. He retained offensive line coach Chris Foerster. Yes, for the last four years he has coached the ZBS here. But for years before that he was the O-line coach for power blocking teams like the Bucs, Ravens, and 49ers.

And it looks like Earnest Byner is going to be brought in as the running backs coach. He has been coaching since 1998 and with the Ravens, Redskins (under Gibbs 2.0), Titans, Jaguars, and Bucs he has coached backs in nothing but power schemes. He would seem to be an odd choice as the running backs coach if Gruden intended to stick with the zone.

All we’re doing is connecting dots here. We don’t know what Gruden really has in mind. There could be some more solid indications when the free agency period opens on March 11. If they  start signing linemen who weigh in at 310 pounds or more, change is almost certainly coming.

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon


Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon

The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.

Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.

The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.

The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.

Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.

The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.