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Gruden & Smith: The Future of the Offense

Updated: May 9, 2023

Welcome back to the Burgundy and Gold Report.

When news broke that rookie running back Derrius Guice would be heading to IR with a torn ACL, many Redskins fans clearly felt defeated . It’s understandable how his injury affects the hope of a productive run game, but “The Next Man Up” mentality is all too familiar to Redskins fans.

So why should fans have optimism? Head Coach Jay Gruden and staff have put together a young & hungry roster that has a great opportunity to compete this season and beyond.

The signing of All Pro running back and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson will add some intrigue to the run game. Having a Peterson/Thompson one two punch could lead to a resurgent run game for Washington.

Jay Gruden inherited an inferior roster with veterans past their prime. Many players signed by Mike Shanahan had no business being on an NFL roster (e.g. tackles Tyler Polumbus and Jordan Black). Gruden also dealt with an overreaching superior in President Bruce Allen and notoriously overly involved team owner Dan Snyder. Allen & Snyder seeme removed from the final roster decisions and appointed a real football mind to build the roster in Vice President of player personal Doug Williams. The dedication given to upgrading the defensive line and signing of multiple undrafted free agents, doesn’t reflect Allen & Snyder’s blueprint.

While in Cincinnati Gruden had a successful offense with a decent run pass ratio. It’s a misconception in the modern day NFL that teams need a bell cow running back to have a productive run game. As the former Cincinnati offensive coordinator showed he could have success with the likes of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. Those names are nothing to write home about, but nonetheless formed a potent running back by committee attack that had success.

The primary question Gruden faces in 2018 is can he get the Redskins enigmatic run game going? Also will Jay mold the offense around Alex Smith and show versatility in his play calling? It’s time to go through those questions and more.

Trading for an experienced veteran quarterback in Alex Smith probably avoided a rebuild on offense for this team. Let’s face it Jay doesn’t have that kind of time to produce a winner. With Cousins moving onto to Minnesota, Gruden has an opportunity to work hand in hand with an experienced QB who seems to have endeared himself to his teammates and coaches in a short period of time.

This has to be the season that Jay’s play calling decisions improve. What better way than to play to your new quarterbacks strengths. ESPN Redskins writer John Keim was interviewed on The Team 980 Inside The Locker Room with host Al Galdi and had the following to say,

There is a lot of things they didn’t show in the preseason like RPO’s. They’re not running any of it in the preseason and this is going to be a heavy part of their offense.”

In saying that, you’d have to have been living under a rock for the last 5 years if you haven’t witnessed the evolution of Smith’s game. As Keim mentioned, the run pass option (RPO) plays will be a staple of the Redskins offense. The Eagles showed just how potent and successful the option can be in keeping teams off balance. Add in more zone read, jet sweeps, QB rollouts and this Skins offense could look far different going forward.

Smith previously worked with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and Andy Reid in Kansas City. Both of those coaches were smart enough to realize that Smith was much more than just a pocket passer. Gruden gets a quarterback in Smith who has seen everything, but has a reputation as a dink & dunk quarterback. The Skins current offensive personnel actually makes perfect sense with Smith’s particular skill set. Jay schemes better than most when it comes to getting his receivers open. Doctson will be asked to be a 50/50 ball receiver, Crowder will continue to rack up receptions from the slot and Richardson will be the deep threat. It will all come down to trust between Jay & Alex, but Smith could be the signal caller Jay has been waiting for to unleash his scheme.

Having a veteran signal caller in Smith, who had one of his best seasons in 2017 at age 33, could speak volumes about the team’s confidence in the quarterback. His current teammates have had a lot of positive things to say about him as well. During JP Finlay’s recent interview with Jordan Reed, he asked the Redskins tight end about his thoughts on Alex Smith.

“He plays fast and he’s a playmaker. He comes out of the huddle fast and the ball comes out fast. Sometimes I don’t expect the ball, but I’ll come out of ny break and the ball is in a good spot to catch it.

JP Finley followed the Reed interview up with a few notes of his own regarding his conversation with Alex Smith.

“Alex told me he wants to run more option packages and get out if the pocket more.”

Although the run game has room to grow, Coach deserves some credit for building an offensive line from the ground up. Jay inherited this team from embattled former head coach Mike Shanahan. In return, he fielded an undersized and over the hill offensive line group. Although some of Shanahan’s zone run scheme formations are used by Gruden today, it’s more of a wrinkle used at times.

During the preseason, fans noticed that the Redskins lined up in the I-Formation with a fullback, on a few occasions. Many fans thought nothing of undrafted fullback JP Holtz being signed post-draft, but the fact that the Redskins released him only to add him to the practice squad is something to keep an eye on.

The Redskins Head Coach has a golden opportunity before him with all the added youth & talent now on the roster. Having newcomers Paul Richardson‘s speed & elusiveness as well as the size & athleticism of undrafted phenom Cam Sims, gives the Redskins added playmakers. The Redskins new additions should build more confidence in turn allowing Gruden to have a more balanced running & passing attack. This could be Jay’s last opportunity as a head coach, so I expect him to pull out all the stops. What better way than to hand the reins to a proven quarterback who excels with the unexpected.

Thanks for checking out another edition of The B&G Report. The Redskins open the season versus Arizona so stay tuned for the the Arizona Season Primer. 


Written By Adam Aniba

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