Quarterback Robert Griffin III was 5-of-10 passing for only 36 yards at halftime of the Redskins’ loss to Cincinnati last Sunday. The Bengals uncharacteristically played the first half with two deep safeties to fortify their pass coverage, and they successfully filled passing lanes and limited Griffin’s effectiveness through the air.
In the second half, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the Redskins coaching staff decided to use receiver Brandon Banks in the triple option to force Cincinnati to bring one safety down to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. It worked. Not only did the passing game open up after that, but also Cincinnati’s ends and linebackers could no longer key solely on Griffin out of the backfield. Banks’ speed made the Redskins’ option more dynamic, and he finished the game with 29 rushing yards on three attempts.
“It’s been something we worked on in training camp,” Shanahan said. “It’s been something that’s been in the package for the last three weeks.
“We got Banks in there and it changed up some of the defenses, gave some different looks. It caused some problems for them, which I think made them adjust a little bit. Then, it opened some other things up, so it helped change the game just from a schematic standpoint. I think it helped gather our players some momentum and get the chains moving a little bit.”
Banks was happy just to get the ball in his hands in space. On one carry he outran a cornerback around the edge.
“Speed kills in this game, I think,” Banks said. “It’s going to be hard to guard [running back Alfred] Morris, then Robert, then me. They’ll have to choose one of the three, if not two of the three. One of us is going to eventually get some kind of positive yards.”
Banks frequently played out of the backfield in high school, running the Wildcat and jet sweeps. He didn’t do it as much his junior year at Kansas State because they had quarterback Josh Freeman, this week’s opponent in Tampa Bay, but he did his senior year.
This triple option, like the Redskins’ other new offensive concepts, isn’t a finished product. Banks dropped one pitch during the third quarter.
“We’ve got to work on the timing,” he said. “It was my fault. I was too close to him and the ball snuck up on me, and I dropped it. I got a lucky bounce and just kept going with it.”