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Cowboys Game Plan Week Eight: Once Again, Defend The West Coast Offense

The assumed starter against the Cowboys will be Colt McCoy, and Jay Gruden will run his modified West Coast offense if McCoy is indeed the starter, but there is a slim chance that Robert Griffin may start - and then there will be a huge choice to be made. Read on to see why.

DeSean Jackson after a loss
DeSean Jackson after a loss
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins offense has been undergoing change since Jay Gruden took over as head coach. Gruden likes an offense that is built on the principals of a strong running game first and foremost, and then spreads the ball around to many different receivers using a three-step, very controlled passing game, having the quarterback doing quick reads with the ball coming out quickly to avoid sacks.

It is very similar to what the New York Giants are trying to do with their new offense, which is to make the offense quarterback-friendly: have the ball come out quick to mostly short routes and then have the receiver make some big gains after the catch. But because Gruden inherited Robert Griffin and so much was invested in him, Gruden spent most of the summer installing a read-option, on-the-move offense that was designed with what Griffin likes to do in mind.

So, the question becomes: Will the fact that both Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy have a good feel for the type of offense Gruden has always liked to run work well without the kind of over-the-summer implementation that is usually required to make the offense run like a well-oiled machine?

Week Eight:

Opponent: Washington Redskins

Head Coach: Jay Gruden

Offensive Coordinator: Sean McVay

Offensive Scheme: Modified West Coast offense with a focus on the running game

Projected Starters:

  • WR1 - Pierre Garcon - # 88
  • LT - Trent Williams - # 71
  • LG - Shawn Lauvao - # 77
  • C - Kory Lichtensteiger - # 78
  • RG - Chris Chester - # 66
  • RT - Tyler Polumbus - # 74
  • TE - Jordan Reed - # 86
  • WR2 - DeSean Jackson - # 11
  • QB - Colt McCoy - # 16
  • FB - Darrel Young - # 36
  • RB - Alfred Morris - # 46


With the hiring of Jay Gruden as head coach, the Redskins have once again changed their offensive philosophy as Gruden wanted to modify the read-option type of offense to be more of a pocket passing offense while still retaining many of the traits that are tailored to the strengths of Griffin.

In this article over at the Washington Post, Gruden talks about what he likes to do on offense and how he may modify what he likes to do to suit Griffin:

"We have a base philosophy on offense: Trying to get everybody involved, short passing game, receivers doing a lot of the work after the catch, the good hard, play-action, taking some shots down the field, being very diverse in what we do."

"But all that depends on what Robert can handle," Gruden added. "If he can’t handle the terminology, or if he can’t handle a lot of the things, we might have to taper it back or cater to what he likes. If he’s not comfortable with the read-option as much, then we won’t run the read-option. But it’s just trying to get to know each other. I implement a system and we start from the very beginning and we go from there, and we branch off from there, moving forward, either adding more things or figuring out what he likes or what he’s good at. It’s fun."

But what happened after the injury to Griffin is we found out that perhaps Kirk Cousins may not have the mental makeup to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, despite initially receiving high praise from Gruden.

Cousins started out doing pretty well but that ended quickly as one bad game followed another. Gruden then decided that Colt McCoy would be the starter until Griffin can return healthy enough to challenge for the job once again. See this article for more about Cousins' benching.

How is McCoy doing since he replaced Cousins in the last game? Let's look at the first play he ran as the new starter:


Here in FIG 1 we see that Pierre Garcon is lined up at the top of the screen


We see in FIG 2 that it is a come-back at 7 yards and Garcon makes a really good move and as we see in the next Screenshot, (FIG 3), he breaks it back inside and gets by the corner.



And in FIG 4 thru FIG 6 he outruns the entire defense for a 70 yard touchdown.




Granted he didn't play that awesome the rest of the game, but he did finish up the game looking very good.

Again, the thing to notice is how this fits in with what Gruden likes to do and that is short, get the ball out quick, run after the catch type of routes.

However, he will also mix it up nicely and call some 9-routes that take a little bit more time to set up. When he does throw those routes, he will have the quarterback hit the receiver 42 yards down field and try to have the receiver four yards from the sideline.

"It’s a lot of the classic West Coast principles," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the Washigton Post. "And the thing that always strikes me, that I was always impressed with what Jay did in Cincinnati was the fundamentals were so well executed. I mean, they’re really fundamentally sound. You watch them in pregame and every one of their nine-routes is caught 42 yards, 4 yards from the sideline, which is kind of the textbook way of teaching that route. Every single guy caught the ball at that spot, so to me, that’s the sign of a good coach."


Once again the Dallas defense will need to concentrate on stopping the run first and then they can concentrate on ensuring that they tackle well because the Gruden offensive philosophy counts on missed tackles to get some long plays.

The Cowboys also will need some good film study by the secondary to know what to look for on Gruden's precise route running spots on the field so they can have guys waiting for the ball to come down, such as the safety noticing the 9-route quick enough to be in position 42 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Many of the pundits are saying it should be a blowout and with Colt McCoy at the helm, maybe it will and maybe it won't because we just don't know if McCoy has learned a lot since his last try.

On a side note, I have recently moved to Virginia about 30 miles from Washington, D.C. and hear Redskins sports talk all the time as I am driving to and from work. It is amazing how much I learn about the Redskins by listening to Chris Cooley do his technical breakdowns of the previous week.

The side note leads into why I picked a picture of DeSean Jackson for the article. Chip Kelly likes tall receivers, more importantly he likes receivers that will do their best at blocking for the run game. And according to Cooley, Jackson apparently makes a "business decision" on almost every running play to avoid mixing it up, and blocking like the other guy has the plague.

What do you guys think? Will this be another close game as is the usual case with the Redskins, or will it be a blowout?

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