Monday, July 28, 2014
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Film breakdown: Look for the Redskins to test the Eagles' safeties

The Redskins' had a potent offense last season, and it all started with their running game. In 2012, the Redskins led the league in rushing:

Film breakdown: Look for the Redskins to test the Eagles' safeties

Eagles safety Nate Allen. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles safety Nate Allen. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

The Redskins' had a potent offense last season, and it all started with their running game. In 2012, the Redskins led the league in rushing:

Alfred Morris racked up 1613 rushing yards, second in the NFL only to Adrian Peterson, while Robert Griffin III chipped in 815, running the read option. But the Skins weren't limited to just pounding the rock. They used play action extremely effectively, drawing the linebackers up toward the line of scrimmage, and hitting passes in the intermediate zones in between the linebackers and the safeties. Most people think of the 2012 Skins as a running team, and they were, but they also hit on 53 pass completions of over 20 yards, which was good for 12th in the league.

The ability to hit on plays in the intermediate zones was a product of being able to run the ball, and their success on those intermediate completions had a domino effect on the safeties as well. Once the Skins hit on a few plays in front of the safeties, they would look to try to catch the safeties cheating up, and then burning them over the top.

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Last season, the Redskins took a page out of the Eagles' playbook of years past. Back when DeSean Jackson was getting behind opposing defenses with regularity, the Eagles were beating teams with a 2-man route combo that put a lot of pressure on the safeties. It's a very simple concept. The tight end on the left side of the formation will run a 10-15 yard comeback route, while the receiver on the other side will run a deep post:

The idea is to get the safety lined up on the TE's side to bite up on the TE's comeback route, while the WR from the other side runs his deep post to the area of the field vacated by that safety. Here's a Saints safety watching the Eagles' TE from a play in 2009:

The Eagles' TE makes his cut, and the Saints' safety drives on his route, while DeSean Jackson is going to be running past the safety:

The Saints' safety recognizes his mistake, but it's too late. DeSean gets behind him:

And he's off to the races after an easy pitch and catch.

The Redskins burned the Eagles on a similar concept last season. Here, they're going to try to put pressure on Nate Allen. The slot receiver on the right side of the Redskins' formation is going to run a 10-15 yard curl in front of Allen, hoping to get him to bite on his route:

As the play develops, Allen has a choice to run with the receiver streaking down the field, or running up to take away the receiver in the intermediate zone.

Allen runs up to take away the shorter throw:

And the receiver running the deep post couldn't possibly be more wide open:

When he catches the pass in the end zone, there isn't a defender within 15 yards of him.

I watched this play over and over, and still couldn't decide what defense the Eagles supposed to be in. I think they were supposed to be in Cover-3, with Nnamdi Asomugha, Nate Allen, and DRC each taking deep 1/3 responsibility, with DRC just completely ignoring his assignment, but I really couldn't tell for sure. It doesn't matter anymore, frankly.

This was the Eagles' defense in a nutshell last season, with Nnamdi giving defensive coordinator Todd Bowles a glare like wants to choke him out in his sleep: 

If it makes anyone feel any better, the Redskins hit on this play against Dallas the following week. Same concept. The receiver on the left is going to run a curl in front of the safety, with Robinson running a deep post in behind him:

The safety bites up on the curl route:

And Robinson is wide open again:

And he treats the Dallas fans to a little dance:

You can bet the Skins are going to look to test the Eagles safeties in this game, and Eagles fans should get their first glimpse of whether or not new defensive coordinator Billy Davis will bring back some competence to the Eagles defense.

Jimmy Kempski Philly.com
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