Scouts Inc.: Key personnel groupings are sparking 'Skins

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd
What has been a key to the resurgence of the Redskins' offense? Coach Jim Zorn has done a masterful job of utilizing his personnel within his formation designs.

Washington's offense has been at its most dynamic in groupings featuring multiple tight ends: "12" (one running back, two tight ends), "22" (one running back, one fullback, two tight ends) and "13" (one running back, three tight ends). When an opposing defense sees one of these packages on the field, it reads run and usually counters with a corresponding personnel, alignment and play call. But the collection of tight ends Chris Cooley, Fred Davis and Todd Yoder and fullback Mike Sellers provide the versatility and complete array of skills to force opponents into making some tough decisions on early downs.

Cooley excels at finding soft spots in underneath zones and sitting down in them to provide quarterback Jason Campbell a big target. He's also very effective out of these groupings on screen passes. The West Coast offense has allowed Cooley to move around within the structure of the passing game and make a lot more plays. Davis is a versatile player who has shown playmaking skills and some consistency as a run blocker. Sellers is a strong, massive run blocker who has deceptive speed and agility for his size. He can shift or go in motion. He can provide physical lead blocking or effective edge and move blocking. He can align in the backfield or detach from the formation as a wing.

That versatility creates alignment flexibility within the formation designs and allows the offense to gain an edge based on what the defense dictates. In other words, these groupings give Zorn choices: pound the ball on front-side power zones or detach Cooley to create passing-game mismatches. If a defense stays in base, Cooley gets a chance to get open against an overmatched safety or linebacker. Match up with sub personnel, and the Redskins can motion into a spread formation and attack the weakside bubble against six defenders in the box with running back Clinton Portis.

Portis still is an explosive player with breakaway speed, and he gets stronger as a game wears on. He runs with good vision and can press the hole in Washington's zone-blocking patterns. The Redskins' experienced offensive line consistently creates movement for him in the run game. Redskins opponents often position an extra safety near the line of scrimmage, depending on the situational down and distance, but these groupings force them to think twice about that strategy. And because Portis is a skilled receiver out of the backfield and an explosive after-the-catch threat, he gives Washington another potential matchup weapon in those heavy personnel packages.

Zorn has only scratched the surface of what his offense can do out of these groupings. In much the way Miami is doing with its single-wing "Wildcat" scheme, Washington can continue to create and build on his multiple-tight end sets from a play-selection standpoint. It's a truly great way to continue exploiting opposing defenses.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.