The Redskins have four pass plays this year that have gone for 45 yards or more. It’s not surprising that two of them are touchdown bombs from Kirk Cousins to DeSean Jackson, one from 63 yards out and the other from 56 yards.
The source of the other two, however, is quite unlikely. Rookie running back Matt Jones, who at 6-2, 231 is cut out to be a power back, has caught screen passes of 78 yards for a touchdown against the Saints and another for 45 yards against the Giants.
Screen passes have not worked well for the Redskins of late. How long has it been since they worked effectively? Well Jones 78-yarder was the longest touchdown pass caught by a running back since Larry Brown went 89 yards against the Jets in 1972. More recently, Darryl Young caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III in 2013 but that one was a downfield pass, not a screen. Last year Roy Helu caught a short pass from Cousins and scampered for 55 yards but that wasn’t a traditional screen pass with the line blocking momentarily, releasing, and forming a wall for the back to run behind after catching the pass. Same with a pass from Rex Grossman to Helu in 2011 that covered 47 yards for a touchdown.
Kirk Cousins sees a lot of factors working together to make the plays work.
“I think it’s a combination of getting the screens called at the right times against the right looks,” said Cousins. “You’ve got to have an offensive line that can be good actors and sell the pass down the field and convince the guy on them that it’s a pass and they need to rush. To have the perfect timing to set that up and then let the guy go and then go find the downfield blocks.
“When you have athletic lineman like Morgan Moses, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, Spencer Long, Josh LeRibeus, they’re getting out and they’re able to run these guys down. I think you’ve seen the escort that Matt Jones has had on a couple. These guys can run. It’s great to see, it’s encouraging.”
The line is the key. If even one defender senses that his blocker is intentionally letting him get to the quarterback he can disrupt the play.
“Screens are plays that have low risk, high reward,” said Cousins. “The risks of a lot of things going wrong are not as high as if you’re throwing the ball down the field deep. In return you can get a lot of big, explosive plays. It’s a great play that when you can be good at it, it makes an offense very explosive and dangerous.”