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Back Shoulder Fade - Evolution of Scott Turner's Offense

One of many experimental iterations ...

SilentThreat

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The evolution of Turner’s offense


Once again Rivera has quietly made some very impactful moves to take this team up another notch. As we concluded last season, we had a QB position that finished bottom 3 in terms of production. That includes being 25th in passing YPG and 30th in total YPG. Total Intended Air Yards (yards the ball travels in the air on a pass attempt, completed or not) that across 4 starting Qbs totaled 3,686. For reference, the LOWEST IAY by any 16 game starter last year was Phillip Rivers and he totaled 3,893. Another reference…. Drew Lock started 13 games last year and he attempted 3,883. Another telling stat. IAY per attempt. Meaning, what was the average distance of attempted pass? Haskins: 6.7. Allen: 6.0. Smith: 5.1. Heinicke: 13.1! This means that clearly the eyeball test is backed up by the numbers. The difference in the ball going down field was DOUBLE when Heinicke was under center.


So, what does it all mean? Terry Mclaurin had 87 catches, followed by an RB (McKissic – 80), a TE (Thomas – 72), and RB (Gibson – 36) and finally your next WR (Cam Sims – 32). Mclaurin is clearly an animal, within this restricted passing game he still averaged 12.9 yards per reception and amassing 1118 receiving yards. The other 4 COMBINED for 1,983. At just over 3,000 yards across your top 5 receiving weapons, your top guy accounts for more than 1/3 of it. We had 1 true weapon, and had to figure out an offense around him. A lot of debate can be had about why it was so limited. Was it the game plan or the limitation of the QB position? My opinion? The system was there to go down field, we just didn’t have the horses on the field enough to make it happen.


Going back and watching the playoff game from Heinicke, the idea that this offense could look a lot more like the one that attempted 13.1 air yards per pass is a very viable option. In this screen grab you can see a play that Alex Smith would have taken 10 times out of 10.

1616849447337.png


Rush comes from behind, Mckissic is wide open in the flat after going in motion. Instead Heinicke rolls right and buys time, finds Logan Thomas down the right sideline for a gain of 27. You can see the whole play here:

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It starts at the :14 second mark. Instead of a ‘safe’ check down and McKissic gaining 5 – 7 yards, it’s an explosive chunk play. I personally believe these types of plays happened A LOT because of our limitations on offense. Whether that be inconsistency at the WR position across from Terry Mclaurin, a qb with limitations physically in Alex Smith, or Dwayne Haskins likely struggling to process the field well enough to get playmakers down the field with any regularity, the offense was handcuffed. I believe plays were there to be made.


On to 2021. Insert Ryan Fitzpatrick. Last year he averaged 7.8 air yards per attempt, almost 3 yards further down field than Alex Smith, out ‘winningest’ QB least season. For reference Brady led the league at 9.1 IAY per attempt. Fitz has arguably had his best years of his career over the last 3, with his last 16 game statistics looking like this: 366/561 (65%) – 4256yds – 25tds – 13ints – 95.1 passer rating. If those stats were applied to 2020, Yds would be top 10, the rest would be in or around top 20. This is not some elite level of QB play but it’s a pretty substantial upgrade. If Fitz ultimately wins the starting job and keeps it over the course of the season, the mentality of getting the ball down field should be very apparent.


The other level of this evolution is the weapons on the team. I don’t think there is an argument against the fact that we’ve completely upgraded our playmaking ability on offense. McKissic and Gibson have already shown ability as RBs, along with Thomas at TE and we all know McLaurin. Add to the mix Curtis Samuel, who played running back at OSU and ran an almost identical 40 time to McLaurin, and Humphries who is a TRUE slot WR. We’ve had our dreams of Trey Quinn being that guy, and wanting Steven Sims to be a spark plug, but it’s obvious Rivera and Turner were as frustrated with these two as we were over the last 12 months. Oh… and we haven’t even had the draft yet :D.


This leads me back to what I truly think the Scott Turner offense will look like going into this season. I believe the ball will be pushed down field, and I think we will see an offense where players don’t have true ‘positions.’ A ton of motion, play action, and changing the eyes of the defense. Taking Gibson and shifting him out, then moving Samuel into the backfield to force the hand of the defense and set up a matchup we want. Legit speed all over with players that can play inside, outside, or in the slot. Misdirection and borderline chaos to keep the defense guessing, not really knowing who is going to blow by them to create a big play, and a QB that appears to be ready to take that shot.
 

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Canadian Hog

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Excellent analysis, Derek!

A great read. I am excited for the potential of this offense to make big plays this coming season, give us the lead, and allow our defensive front to attack.

With more firepower, I am hoping that we will be assisted in terms of not having to play catch up as often. Too many times we were chasing the game. Better starts need to be a focal point this year and a better downfield passing attack will help in this regard.
 

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Great stuff! I have a few thoughts here. First of all, as I put it on the last Blind Pigs episode. We have RBs who can play WR, and WRs who can play RB. Opposing DCs and on the field formation callers are not going to be able to anticipate what's coming based on personnel. That was the case last year and it will be even more so with Samuels in the mix, the addition of Adam Humphries, and Fitzpatrick under center.

It's hard not to feel some excitement about the potential of this 2021 offense and beyond, but there are two caveats I will mention.

First of all, as we've seen with other teams at times, adding a marquee weapon or even muliple top tier skill position players does not always equate to instant or radical improvement. Dallas fans were 100% certain that adding Amari Cooper to their player mix was going to make them a top tier offense. It hasn't. There are two many variables that are critical to creating a scary good defense. One of those variables is how well an addition 'fits' with what the OC is trying to do on offense. In the case of Washington, Curtis Samuels looks to be a near perfect fit in a Turner offense because he has the physicality of a RB, the versatility to play both slot and outside, and the fearlessness to go over the middle when called upon. Again, opposing D's will not be able to predict what play is coming when Samuels is on the field or in motion. But the bottom line when it comes to Free Agent offensive additions, we won't know how well these new additions fit into Washington's offense until we know. Certainy looks promising though.

We all know that a decisive and mobile QB (think Heinicke in the playoff game here) can hide a lot of OL deficiencies. And we have that guys at QB in Fitzpatrick as well as in his potential backups. That still doesn't entirely mitigate some concerns on the line. Who will play LT? Can Moses and Scherff stay healthy, do we have sufficient depth so that we are not drafting guys off the street should the injury bug hit our OL? I have concerns, but perhaps we've still got a Free Agent move to make for an O Lineman and/or have plans to beef us up there in a big way in the coming draft. We are also one Logan Thomas injury away from being without even 1 NFL starting-caliber Tight End on this roster. Setting aside fantasy moves like transitioning one of our current WRs to TE, that's a real concern.

And while we are all rightfully fixated on our improvements at the WR position (also remember we have Kelvin Harmon) coming back, we have a scary (in a good way) backfield pair in Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic.

This is going to be a very exciting offense to watch. I cannot wait!
 

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I am a firm believer we need to upgrade the LT position, but I also think you'd be pretty surprised at how well the O-line actually did. Another factor here is that the best way to minimize a pass rush is to play ahead of the chains. Gettin 6 yards on first down instead of 4 sets up so many different things. Having the mentality to push the ball down field (not necessarily 15 or 20 yards, but hitting an intermediate route 5 yards down field instead of checking down on a swing pass that's lateral to the line, makes a huge difference on early downs. 2nd and 5 and the WHOLE playbook is open. QBs don't need all day to complete a 5 yard pass. 2nd and 8 or 9 is almost certainly a pass, and we all know what 3rd and 7 means.... but 3rd and 2 with 3 QBs that have enough in legs to scramble for a short first down makes the D-line think.
 

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I don't know, Dak Prescott was throwing for 450 yards a game at the start of last season with the Cowboys assets at WR including Cooper, Gallup and Lamb before he got hurt.

I think the critical factors are one as indicated the ability of the offensive coordinator to scheme for the transition to make players comfortable and not be stubborn and insulated in how the offense is called, and two - as with Washington - you are bringing in veteran players in Samuel, Humphries and Fitzpatrick that have NFL experience. As the WP sports piece noted, Fitzpatrick and Humphries played together in Tampa Bay when Humphries had his best seasons.

That's one reason I really didn't want to see Washington draft a WR in Round 1 and go through the 1-2 year growing pains you usually see at the position. Terry McLaurin as a #3 pick who came in and started right away is like manna from heaven. That only happens once a decade even to the best front offices.
 

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Heineken & Smith both had a Buc in their face all evening there. LT upgrade has to happen, and at least stout competition for Moses on the right. The left side needs addressed in the 1st or 2nd at latest in doing so
 

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The Bucs front seven was among the best in the league last year. A LOT of teams had issues with blocking them.

I agree that LT is an ideal 'get' in 2021 as we seem to have addressed a number of other positions already in free agency, outside of linebacker.

LT like quarterback is almost impossible to find in free agency for the long-term as quality candidates are usually in their mid-30's or coming off injuries and represent a significant gamble.

Better to get LT in the draft and have a stud on the cheap for 4 years.
 

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The answer to our LT woes is this kid Darrisaw, he wants to be with them too

 

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Besides Darrisaw I believe they need to focus on upgrading the short yardage back as well. Barber is just too meh for my liking. There’s gotta be a mid round bruiser back to switch things up.

I’m liking this Stevenson kid more and more & according to Walter football he’s a 3rd or 4th rounder. Dude can run, catch and very importantly block. Well worth a 3rd imo

 
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We made progress at RB in 2020 with Gibson emerging as the primary ballcarrier and McKissic a nice change of pace back and speed option.

We were late in setting our roster as Derrius Guice free-fell out of the league, Adrian Peterson was released and we used Peyton Barber as a stop gap as depth at the position.

His role as a short yardage option came about to a large degree in the fact he lacked the speed and ability to catch the ball that would have had him in on more of the game plan and he showed he could still move the pile forward and not get knocked back.

But I agree that with Gibson and McKissic now more firmly established in their roles, we need to move on from Barber and develop some quality depth at RB, guys who can run the ball 15-20 times a game if either of the others misses time over the 17 game season.

Lamar Miller, if at 29 he can somehow regain some semblance of his prior form, could be that one year bridge for 2021.

I wouldn't be surprised if we drafted a back in Round 5 or 6 that has some upside potential as an every down rusher.
 

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I'll be covering the RB draft prospects in our next Blind Pig episode, so I'll refrain from commenting here :)
 

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