I'm sitting here trying to figure out how the Redskins offense will be better next year, and its not the passing game that I think will have the most impact. Itís the running game. With Gibbs, minus his first year in '81, it's always been about the running game first and foremost.
The general consensus seems to be that Gibbs will move away from the traditional counter trey and implement more stretch plays & zone blocking plays to accommodate Portis. If he runs like he did in his first 2 years in Denver then I'm all for it.
But I have a few concerns that maybe some of you coaching types could shed some light on.
Zone blocking means everyone blocks a gap in a particular area, hence the name zone. There's no pulling, no counters. It's pretty straight ahead. A stretch play is similar to a sweep in that it goes to the outside, and the blockers stretch out to one side, and the ball carrier picks a gap to run through.
Ostensibly, Portis "lacks the patience" to run the traditional counter trey Ė thatís what the pundits say. Portis is better suited to the zone blocking because speed is his main asset, and the zone play allows him to enter the second line of defense before the linebackers can make a play Ė thatís the theory anyway. But doesnít it take patience to run a stretch play? It seems to me that it does. And didnít Portis gain a ton of yards with that play in Denver? So Iím not sure what all this ďPortis doesnít have patienceĒ nonsense is all about.
Which brings up the traditional counter trey. I think the reason that we wonít much of it next year is because when two linemen pull, it leaves to big an area for a speedy DE to run through, and he can blow up the play from the backside. So last year I noticed that Gibbs started to run a modified version of the counter trey, with only one lineman pulling. We had some success running that play, as I recall.
The point Iím trying to make here is that Iím not sure running a lot of zone plays is the best idea. One of the things that the trey did was it wore down the linebackers. In the 4th quarter, when a LB saw Jake Jacoby barreling down on him for the 20th time, he really didnít want to take on that block. So he didnít, which allowed the RB to gain another 3-5 yards minimum, every time.
Thereís a school of thought that says great coaches adept to the talent they have on their team, rather than forcing a scheme that doesnít cater to their playersí ability. But I think the counter trey can still work, because athletes havenít stopped getting tired and reluctant to take on blocks from men who outweigh them by 50+ pounds. If Portis can succeed with the stretch play, then he can succeed with the counter. I sincerely hope that the offense doesnít abandon the counter in favor of trying to get Portis a home run every time. Football is largely about wearing down your opponent, like a 12 round boxing match, and the counter wears down people. I think itís time for Portis to embrace a tried and true running scheme, and just wait that extra half second for things to develop, and heíll have his best year ever.