So much of today’s NFL is based on match-ups, by creating and exploiting mismatches. This is done both on an individual level and a numbers game (i.e. how many defenders in the box vs the run, or how many receivers in the route vs number of guys in coverage), but both have the same result, putting your guys in the best possible position to succeed.
While there are a number of great examples out there in the NFL, the New England Patriots are probably the best team in this area (both offensively and defensively). Now it is not to say the Redskins need to emulate the Patriots exact approach, but rather that they ensure their players success, by playing to their strengths. So what can the Redskins do to take advantage of these mismatches? (Remember, just because I reccomend a particular player play a certain way, it doesn’t mean he needs to do it 100%, other wise you would tip off the defense).
Tim Hightower- Hightower is returning from a serious injury, but he figures to get a fair amount of snaps next season. He’s still probably the Redskins best all-around back, as he’s a solid runner/receiver while being really strong as a pass protector. With a rookie QB at the helm having a last line of defense is key which means Hightower should get more carries in passing situations.
Roy Helu has some big play ability and he should be used on a 15-20 carry basis, with an added emphasis as a receiver. Helu should even split out wide on some plays to try to create mismatches against linebackers. Evan Royster looks to be a poor man’s version of Hightower, but he could work his way into a niche role. He is very good at gaining positive yardage, and should be used late in games to kill the clock.
Fred Davis- Davis is probably the Skins best playmaker, but he still needs to be used effectively to get the most out of him. He’s not as strong in his route running and and hands, meaning he’s not much of a possession receiver. He’s at his best exploiting mismatches down the field and that is how he should be used. Given that he should also be split out more, to take further advantage of his downfield ability.Blocking is his biggest weakness and Redskins would be wise to limit the number of plays where he’s blocking, esp. when the play is designed to go to his side.
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Chris Cooley may have lost a step, but he could be the possession option to compliment Davis. He’s also got the versatility to work out of the backfield in an H-back/Fullback type of role, and could find some nice match-up potential. Ideally the Redskins will assign him to be more of an inline blocker than Davis. And have him chip the defender before settling in a soft zone. Nile Paul is very intriguing as he transitions to TE. He’s got excellent speed and looks to run good routes as well. Mainly I’d look for him to work from the inline spot to hopefully get better match-ups. Also during two TE set’s pairing him on the same side as Davis could allow him more freedom as Davis draws more of the coverage.
Pierre Garcon– Getting Garcon the ball in space is key, whether that is throwing the deep ball, or hitting him on an intermediate crossing route that could allow him time to run free and get yards after the catch. I’d keep Garcon on the outside to maximize his potential. I’d also try to take advantage of some bubble screens if teams are giving a bigger cushion, b/c they respect the deep ball. Garcon fits better on the left side, of the formation, but there doesn’t seem to be a big difference between the two for the Skins.
-Josh Morgan is more of an outside receiver as well. If he recovers well from his injury, he’s got the speed/leaping ability to become an effective deep threat. Leonard Hankerson is an interesting option, and one that could cause great match-up concerns for opposing defenses. Given his size, if a team has shorter corner in the slot, then the Skins should take advantage of the height advantage. If the team has a more physical CB, the the Redskins should have either Santana Moss or Morgan inside with Hankerson playing outside.
These are just a few of the ways that the Redskins can get away from their practice of forcing players to play against their strengths. Too often of late Washington has forced players to be something they are not and it has cost them. At least here the Redskins collectively have the ability to exploit mismatches. Who do you see creating the biggest mismatches, and succeeding in exploiting them?