- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

ASHBURN — After the Washington Redskins signed tight end Anthony McCoy six days before the team’s opener, it was fair to wonder what he would bring to the team.

McCoy, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, hadn’t played during the last two seasons because of Achilles’ tendon injuries.

How quickly could he catch up to the Redskins‘ offense less than a week before the start of the regular season?

McCoy was inactive for Week 1 against Miami and made his debut in Sunday’s 24-10 win against the St. Louis Rams, allowing the team to utilize a three-tight end set to bolster the run game.

The result?

The Redskins rushed for 182 yards and controlled the tempo of the game. More importantly, they used a three-tight end set to get yards in critical situations, neutralizing the Rams’ aggressive defensive front.

The Redskins often deployed McCoy, Carrier and Reed like an extension of the offensive line, starting with McCoy closest to the tackle.

With 3:35 left in the fourth quarter and the Redskins facing third-and-8, they used the formation, giving Matt Jones all the room he needed to pick up nine yards to keep the drive alive.

The Redskins went back to it the next two plays, the second resulting in Jones’ three-yard touchdown run — with help from guard Shawn Lauvao pulling on the play — to seal the victory.

“The coaches coached us up all week on that personnel group and we did a great job going in and executing it,” Carrier said after Sunday’s win. “Our tight ends group, we’re tight-knit and any time we get to be on the field together, it’s just a great feeling out there.”

The Redskins ran the package 13 times on Sunday. It’s not always going to be successful, in part because it shows the defense an obvious running situation and allows them to stack defenders in the box. There were times when the Redskins gained just one or two yards.

What helped make the package successful on Sunday was the Redskins‘ ability to disguise their looks. After rushing for 161 yards against the Dolphins in Week 1, the Redskins were expected to establish the run early against the Rams.

On their first play from scrimmage, they came out in the three-tight end set as the Rams stacked the box. It was not a run, but a play action pass, and Reed was wide open in the seam for a 21-yard gain.

The Redskins‘ opened in the same package on the ensuing drive, only for Alfred Morris to rip off a 35-yard gain.

“You can’t just tell everybody to zone in on the run and attack the gap because then you’re so vulnerable to the play action,” left tackle Trent Williams said.

“What’s so hard about it is it’s not like we have tight ends that are just extensions of the offensive tackle, we have tight ends that can block their butts off and be a threat down the field.”

When the Redskins brought in offensive line coach Bill Callahan from the Dallas Cowboys prior to this season, they hoped he’d have the same magic touch on the offensive line and run game. Last season, former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray set the franchise rushing record with 1,845 yards and left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin were named All-Pro.

To see the scope of Callahan’s ability to tinker with an offensive line and find new ways to make it better, look no further than Carrier.

Carrier was a wide receiver at Beloit, a Division III college, and was a receiving tight end with the San Francisco 49ers. That’s not been the case thus far in Washington.

The team acquired Carrier on Aug. 21 in a trade with the 49ers. In less than a month’s time working with Callahan and tight ends coach Wes Phillips, Carrier has excelled as a run blocker.

He played 67 percent of the team’s offensive snaps on Sunday. The Redskins have had great success running in two-tight end sets with Carrier on the field, like Jones’ 39-yard touchdown run and 25-yard run on Sunday.

“I think my run blocking has been pretty darn good since I got here,” Carrier said. “I give all the credit to the coaches, helping me with the techniques they use and being strict on it and not letting anything slide.”

The Redskins will find out on Thursday night against the New York Giants if they can keep up their success in the run game.

McCoy isn’t shy about how the Redskins can continue to do that.

“If you want to win,” McCoy said. “Keep the tight ends in.”

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