Redskins tailor blocking to lessons learned Latest scheme just another variation

October 20, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- The legacy of Lawrence Taylor still hasn't been forgotten at Redskin Park.

The New York Giants perennial Pro Bowler, who redefined the outside linebacker position, is now playing on a losing team in the final year of his career.

That doesn't change the fact that the lessons the Redskins learned trying to defend him for a decade are still helping the Redskins win.

As coach Joe Gibbs dissected the team's 16-12 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, he noted the pass-blocking philosophy he developed from years of drawing up schemes against Taylor was one of the reasons they were able to neutralize a tough Eagles defense with a makeshift offensive line.

Coaches never seem to forget bad experiences and Gibbs remembers the time he called a screen pass in which the guard was supposed to pull out and block Taylor.

"The first time I called that, I said, 'Where did that guy come from?' He hit Joe Theismann right in the ear and the ball went one way. I said, 'What happened? Our guard is supposed to have that guy,' " Gibbs said.

"We learned that lesson the hard way. You pop a guard out there or have a back go after him and you can't block him that way. He's so fast off the edge he'll steamroll a guard. He's not the normal guy. He'll run right over him. It kind of evolved into keeping a tight end in the game plan."

The Redskins' trademark has become to keep a tight end to help block the Taylors of the NFL and sacrifice another receiver, which explains why the Redskins rarely use a four-wide receiver set.

"You take away both tight ends and you're sitting there with five linemen. It concerns us with good pass rushers. We don't like opening two edges. We do it sometimes, but you've got to be real careful. It's a short path to the quarterback [for the pass rushers]," Gibbs said.

Since opposing teams know this is the Redskins' philosophy, the next trick is to try to keep the defense off-balance by lining up different ways.

The way defenses practice, they hold up a card showing a play the opposing offense runs.

"If we can come up with something different, we can still do our basic stuff, but it's not on their card," he said.

The Redskins use different formations almost every game, but they came up with a new twist this time. They lined up the tight end (Don Warren) and the H-back (Ron Middleton or Terry Orr) in front of running back Earnest Byner in a formation the Redskins called Spike, Triple Stack or a Stacked I.

They often helped tackles Mo Elewonibi and Ed Simmons block Eagles defensive ends Clyde Simmons and Reggie White. The Redskins gave up only two sacks -- both coming in a three-play span late in the first half -- and had enough of a running game to set up their play-action passes.

"We were searching for a little different way to get to some of our regular formations. This was kind of a unique idea that Don Breaux came up with and we put it in," Gibbs said.

Breaux is the team's running backs coach who came up with the idea in the offensive coaches' brainstorming sessions.

The way the system works, the coaches come up with different ideas and the other coaches try to shoot them down.

"It's very hard to get anything by the committee. We can tear almost anything apart. The committee can ruin pretty much anything by saying, 'What if?' " Gibbs said.

Breaux's idea passed the committee and was put into the game plan.

Warren could move right or left while Middleton or Orr would become the lead blocker or a cut-off blocker on the back side.

"If you give them a different look and it helps you 10 percent of the time, hopefully, one out of 10 times, it may make the difference in a game because they have less recognition," Breaux said.

The result was that the Redskins managed to escape with a victory, but they didn't lose any respect for the Eagles.

They got inside Philadelphia's 20 on six different drives and got just one touchdown, but Gibbs wasn't blaming his offense. He saluted Philadelphia's defense. "They're the best defense in the league," he said.

Gibbs was still amazed by the play in the game. It may not have been a spectator's dream game with just two touchdowns scored, but it was a classic game from Gibbs' standpoint.

"There were some great plays in there. They were guys getting their heads handed to them. I thought it was a heck of a game," he said.

It put the Redskins back in the division race. They're tied with the Eagles at 4-2, a game behind the 5-1 Dallas Cowboys.

But they've got a tough schedule the rest of the way. They're at Minnesota on Sunday and play games at Kansas City, New Orleans and Philadelphia down the stretch.

If nothing else, they've reminded people that they are the Super Bowl champions despite their shaky start.

"If you're struggling a little bit, you need to get that good feeling about yourself," Breaux said. "It's something you can build on."

NOTES: DT Bobby Wilson, who sat out the game with back problems, was hospitalized after the game and put in traction. He's undergoing tests to determine how serious the problem is. . . . David Gulledge, who was waived when Eric Williams was activated, cleared waivers and was placed on the five-man practice squad.

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