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Alfred Morris Fit in Bill Callahans New Blocking Scheme

Sep 7, 2015
Samuel Gold

This article featured on RedskinsCapitalConnection.com.

Alfred Morris was drafted by the Redskins in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL
Draft. Since Morris entered the league he has been nothing short of dynamic,
rushing for over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons while averaging 4.5
yards per carry. The Redskins hired Bill Callahan on January 15, 2015 from
division rivals Dallas Cowboys to be the Redskins offensive line coach. Ever
since Scot McCloughan took over the general manager duties for the
Redskins, the Redskins have stressed the need for big, tough, nasty,
strong guys. The hiring of Callahan fits this goal and was further evidenced
with the Redskins selection of Brandon Scherff with the 5th overall pick in
the 2015 NFL Draft.

So what does this mean for Morris? In this breakdown, however, well look
further at the schematic differences between the two offensive schemes as a
supplement to the discussion from before.
Redskins Current Running Scheme
The Redskins under Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden primarily ran a zone
blocking scheme using the outside zone stretch to set up the inside zone run.
Here is an example of the Redskins current outside zone play using 21
personnel (two running backs and one tight end).

Redskins current outside zone play.mp4

This was a very common play for the Redskins last season out of the I-
formation. I highlighted the King combination playside block between the
right tackle and the tight end.

After Morris gets the ball he follows his blocks around the right side of the
formation patiently waiting for the hole to form.
It eventually does form between the right tackle and the tight end and Morris
escapes upfield for a large gain on the play. Here is an inside zone running
play the Redskins used in combination with the outside zone stretch.

Redskins inside zone running play.mp4

In this play, Morris is targeting the hole between the center and the right
guard. I highlighted the combination block between the right tackle and the
right guard.
Morris follows those two upfield and eventually gets taken down by the
linebacker after a 5 yard gain on the play.
Although this play wasnt as successful as the outside zone stretch due to
DE91 Ray McDonald taking on the double block it still gained 5 yards which is
impressive considering the lack of open running lanes.

Bill Callahans Coaching History


Before we begin looking at Callahans blocking scheme I always find it
interesting looking at a coachs history and what players and coaches hes
worked with in the past. With the help of Pro-Football-Reference you can
see that Bill Callahan has been a coach of a variety of large college programs
including Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, as well as different NFL teams
such as the Raiders, Jets, and Cowboys in the past 30 years.

Callahan was actually the offensive line coach for the Raiders under Jon
Gruden in the late 90s before becoming head coach of the Raiders. In his first
year as head coach in 2002, Callahan led the Raiders to a Super Bowl
appearance versus his former boss Jon Gruden unfortunately losing to him
48-21. He later joined the Jets in 2008 where he coached three of his
offensive lineman center Nick mangold, guard Alan Faneca, and tackle
DBrickashaw Ferguson to the Pro Bowl. All three repeated this feat in 2009
and additionally broke the Jets franchise record gaining 2,756 yards on the
ground leading the NFL in rushing yards per attempt (4.5).

Callahan joined the Cowboys in 2012 and helped reshape their offensive line
picking multiple first round offensive lineman including center Travis Frederick,
guard Zach Martin, and tackle Tyron Smith who all three made the Pro Bowl in
2014. If you are a Redskins fan this should make you very happy to read as
the Redskins offensive line has been a weakness of the team ever
since Chris Samuels retired in 2010. One more thing to note is that Bill
Callahan was also the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys from 2012 to
2014 and was given play-calling duties in 2013. So it wouldnt surprise me if
he took these duties from Jay Gruden to allow him to focus on game-
management just like Jerry Jones did to help Jason Garrett.
Bill Callahans Blocking Scheme

First Callahan doesnt run one blocking scheme. Callahan with the Cowboys
actually ran a variety of concepts including zone-blocking concepts the
Redskins are already accustomed to, but also man-power running plays that
the Redskins rarely ran in the Shanahan-era. For example here is the
Cowboys running the counter power versus the Saints.

Cowboys running the counter power play.mp4

This is a man-power concept that I actually broke down fully in my LeVeon


Bell article last season, but here it is in the context of the Cowboys. In the first
image I highlighted the the backside guard who pulls across the formation and
tight end Jason Witten who runs across the formation behind the pulling
guard to logjam block his defender.
Here Murray gets the handoff and reads the blocks infront of him to make sure
there is no immediate pressure.

Next Murray steps up to the line of scrimmage and then cuts outside following
LG Leary and TE Witten across the formation to set up his blocks. This play
requires good blocking immediately off of the line of scrimmage by the center,
right guard, and right tackle to allow the play in the backfield to form. Next it
requires good patience and vision by the running back to execute. Finally, it
requires an athletic backside guard and tight end to execute their drive blocks
on their defenders. This play showcases all three components and is very
successful.
Now this play raises an important question: Do you need a good blocking tight
end to execute this play? The Redskins currently dont have a top blocking
tight end. Cowboys tight ends James Hanna and Jason Witten are both very
good blocking tight ends. The Redskins have Logan Paulsem, Niles Paul,
and Jordan Reed on the roster. None of them are particularly great at
blocking. Paulsen is debatably the best of the group, but he was
just average last season. Instead the Redskins have fullback Darrel
Young who is an excellent blocker for Alfred Morristhese past few seasons.
With that in mind, the Redskins might be able to run this with Paulsen or run a
modified counter power running it from the Strong-I formation using Darrel
Young.

Here is another man-to-man concept the Cowboys used last season. This play
is a trap running play run from the shotgun formation.

Cowboys trap running play.mp4

I highlighted the backside guard who pulls across the formation while the
center and right guard downblock his defender ex-Cowboy Jason Hatcher.
What I found interesting about this play is RT78 Jeremey Parnell. Parnell
fakes like he blocking Jarvis Jenkins, but instead swim moves him to
downfield block ILB52 Keenan Robinson out of the play.
Murray reads his blocks and follows them upfield finally colliding with his own
teammate after a large gain on the play.

Here is the Cowboys running the one-back outside zone from the singleback
formation. This is similar to the Redskins zone however without the fullback
present.

Cowboys running the one-back outside zone.mp4

As you can see Callahans offensive scheme uses a variety of blocking


techniques that require top-notch offensive lineman to execute. Callahan
clearly has traits he looks for in judging an offensive lineman and based on
the Redskins 5th overall selection of Brandon Scherff its clear that Callahan
has already had an influence over the Redskins rebuild project. So I think
based on Alfred Morris traits with his vision, patience, and cutting ability he
fits as the Redskins first and second down back. The question mark is
whether or not he is ready to quickly read man-to-man blocks inside as the
majority of his large runs came on outside zone stretch plays. This will be his
test.