Quick Hits Edition: The Run Game Impacted by the Tight Ends

Welcome back to The Burgundy and Gold Report. In the midst of a four game losing streak, the Skins finally got that monkey off their back and defeated the Dallas Cowboys. The score wasn’t an indication of just how lopsided this game actually was, down to the final missed field goal attempt by Dallas that clanked off the goalpost. The Redskins defense came to play and completely shutdown Pro Bowl running back Zeke Elliot. As far as the defense stopping  Dak Prescott, most of his passing yardage was accrued during the 4th quarter and was kept in check for the majority of the game.

On that day, Washington flipped the script and beat Dallas at their own game with strong defense and a running attack Dallas was forced to respect. After the game, the NFL updated Washington as #2 in the league for overall time of possession. This might not be what Gruden envisioned his offense to look like, but winning is the bottom line.

The Heart of the Run Game

Many expected to see Chris Thompson & Rob Kelley lead the charge after Derrius Guice was lost for the year to a knee injury. Unfortunately, Kelley joined Guice on IR and Thompson has been dealing with a myriad of ailments, though CT announced he’d play this Sunday.

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Many fans didn’t expect much from any of the veteran running backs in the open market, but one running back made his case for the job. That back was All Pro Adrian Peterson. AP has been the heart and soul of the Redskins’ run game thus far. Coaches and teammates have openly acknowledged how humble, but determined Peterson is. The veterans presence has been an inspiration to the entire team. Players and coaches have gone on record that Peterson’s workout & recovery regiment is second to none and teammates have followed suit.  This offense will go as far as AP can take them. Inevitably, the passing game will get in sync. Until then, Peterson will carry the load.

The Redskins currently sit atop the NFC East with a 4-2 record and another divisional match up looming against the Giants. New York is in the midst of a fire sale and in a 24 hour period traded cornerback Eli Apple as well as defensive tackle DamonSnacksHarris. The loss of Harris’s shear size in the middle of New York’s line should aid Peterson and the Redskins attempts to establish the run.

The Tight Ends in the Run Game

The Redskins have brought Jordan Reed along slowly after dealing with multiple injuries and surgeries over the past few seasons. The opportunity for Davis & Sprinkle to receive additional snaps was now a possibility. The results have been decent, but not the type of production one might think. For the year, the tight ends have only combined for 417 rec yards and 2 TD’s (Reed 268 rec yards 1 TD & Davis 149 rec yards 1 TD), Although the overall statistical production is lacking their presence in the run game has been tremendous.

ESPN Redskins beat reporter John Keim explains how using multiple tight end formations has aided the run game,

“The Redskins ran 13 times out of 2 TE sets. B/c of TE versatility, can spread out and unclog the middle vs. a base D. They averaged 5.54 yards per carry out of this set. Completed 6-9 passes; 8.22 YPA.”
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The improved Redskins run game is not only a product of the their O-lineman staying disciplined in their respective assignments, but also the improved blocking from Reed, Davis and Sprinkle. The trio has opened up running lanes for Peterson, Thompson and Bibbs on many big runs. This was a weakness of Reed in years past, but his dedication to refining his craft has rubbed off on the rest of the group. Having three tight ends that can contribute in the run, as well as the passing game, gives the offense an added dimension until the receivers get it together.

Changing it Up

During the Jay Gruden era in Washington, the run game has been stagnant and an afterthought around the league. In previous seasons, fans have voiced their frustrations regarding the Redskins’ run game and Gruden’s inability to be multidimensional in his play calling. It’s still early, but Jay has clearly made the run game a priority. On the year Washington has called run on 100 of the 169 1st down snaps.

Against Dallas, we saw more outside zone runs which AP excelled at. Peterson definitely left some yards on the field, but his continued improvement is room for optimism among fans. The Redskins offense has not resembled the West Coast scheme Gruden has run in years passed. Running out of shotgun, outside zone runs, jet sweeps, etc. were a staple of Alex Smith‘s offense during his time in Kansas City. Although many think that Gruden is not playing to Smith’s strengths, Smith is given a variety of audible options as well as the ability to run or pass out of RPO. Having Peterson and a stable run game allows Smith to play his style of game, while relieving pressure in the passing game. Smith is a good quarterback, Washington just needs to stay the course and put the run game with Peterson at the forefront of their game plan.

Thanks for checking out another B&G Report.  Stay tuned for more news and player analysis leading up to Sunday’s pivotal NFC East match up with the New York Giants.

HTTR🏹🏈

Written By Adam Aniba

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