The Washington Redskins will have a new playcaller on both sides of the ball -- well, coach Jay Gruden used to call plays on offense and will again next year after not doing so the last two years. And defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has called plays, just not in Washington. What changes might we see? That's the topic of the mailbag.
John Keim: There obviously will be differences because no two people call the same game and some have a better feel for the rhythm of a game and when to be aggressive, etc. I will say, defensively at least, for those who think it was all about playcalling, you're just a bit off. That said, I do know at least some people in the building wanted a more aggressive approach defensively. (That can be with blitzes or how coverages are played, so it's not just about sending extra defenders.)
You can dial up a certain blitz and wow everyone. But really, it's about being prepared, playing disciplined, doing your job and executing properly. Do that more often than not and you'll be fine.
But don't forget: The Redskins were like that under Jim Haslett, too. How you disguise a coverage or blitz matters; the timing of the call matters. But if a guy executes improperly or if there's confusion, it's not about the call. It might be about the teaching -- that's on the position coaches. It might be about ever-changing rules (a complaint I heard several years ago), which leads to confusion and then big plays. It might be about the talent.
The funny thing is, one person who likes the Manusky promotion and worked in the same organization as him in the past said he skewed conservative. But I know one appealing thing about him before this process started was the expectation that he'd be more attacking than outgoing DC Joe Barry -- and Manusky promised that's the sort of defense he wanted during an interview on ESPN 980 (I would love to ask him myself more about it so we all could learn more; requests have been declined).
From 2010-14, the Redskins averaged 205.8 blitzes per season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manusky's last defense, the Colts', averaged 204.5 per season. In the last two seasons, the Redskins called for 117 and 182, respectively.
I know the question was about playcalls, but usually for a defense that means how aggressive it is, which is why I bring up blitzes. I'd be more concerned about what's being taught on the back end as far as coverages, so there's less confusion. That was an issue last year. I know there's been a belief that the Redskins have good corners who can play more press coverage.
Also, this is true: If the Redskins improve their defensive personnel, Manusky can call a different and more effective game.
Offensively, Gruden has helped shape the game plan the last two years even though he wasn't calling plays. It's also hard to compare what Gruden called three years ago to what he might call in 2017. In 2014, he used three quarterbacks and the offense never quite found a consistent rhythm. Now he'll be calling plays for a more evolved offense. Outgoing OC Sean McVay, now the Rams' head coach, was continuing to evolve as a playcaller, too (and was a very good one). Gruden is further ahead in that development.
I also think Gruden tended to have less predictable personnel groupings and formations. But in talking to some players, they didn't think a whole lot would change because the philosophy will be the same. Both McVay and Gruden, one player said, know how to use their personnel. For what it's worth, it wasn't just a matter of McVay running Gruden's offense. They incorporated some of what previous Skins OC Kyle Shanahan used to run, and Bill Callahan was/is in charge of the run game.
The game plan also will depend on what happens at quarterback and with the receivers in the offseason. I do think the Redskins would like more balance than they had this season: 607 pass attempts, 379 runs. While McVay liked play-action, Gruden has used it more. The Redskins used it on 127 dropbacks in 2014 compared to 101 and 103 the past two years, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They averaged 11.98 yards per play-action attempt in '14 compared to 10.42 the past two years combined. Make of that what you will.