Redskins 10 Questions: What will Kevin O'Connell bring to offense?

10 in 10: The Countdown to Redskins Training Camp

Craig Hoffman
July 18, 2019 - 8:52 am

Believe it or not, training camp is almost here. After one of the most consequential Redskins off-seasons of the last two decades, we’ll start to answer the biggest questions we have about the football team. 

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With ten days to go until Richmond, The Fan started asking our ten biggest questions about the 2019 Washington Redskins. With three down and a week to go, here’s our 7th biggest question

7. Kevin O’Connell’s impact as offensive coordinator.

The Redskins problems on offense last year started with personnel. By midway through the season, they didn’t have anyone opposing defenses really had to gameplan for. Jordan Reed wasn’t himself. Chris Thompson was hurt. Paul Richardson was out. Jamison Crowder was banged up. Adrian Peterson had no line to run behind due to injury and on top of all that, Alex Smith’s injury left no one to distribute the ball anyway.

That’s not to say there weren’t schematic issues and this is part of the reason why O’Connell was elevated from QBs coach. The Redskins need more creativity in play calling. They led the league in first down runs and weren’t very successful on them. While Jay Gruden is still planning to call plays, O’Connell now is in a position to be more forceful during the week and devise some sequences that can work starting with a pass. He also has more of a right to talk to Gruden during the game about how the play calling is going if he feels they are becoming too predictable.

Washington also needs to find continuity in its scheme. Bill Callahan’s run plan didn’t include wide zone. The Redskins main play-action plays faked a wide zone. That’s a problem as long as any defender on the other side of the ball has any kind of understanding of offense. If it looks like wide zone and the team you’re facing doesn’t run wide zone, you know it’s pass and that negates the play-action entirely.

Elevating O’Connell above Callahan gives the new OC more say in how things come together. That could be running different runs or running different play-action plays. The Redskins running game was also overly diverse last year in many professional opinions (read: coaches, players, and analysts with NFL experience). How could they expect to run seven different runs well if they couldn’t run one? O’Connell now has the power to simplify.

Callahan still has a huge role and his 40 years of experience isn’t taken for granted. However, O’Connell’s recency of being in the league gives him an understanding of the modern player that players have enjoyed this spring. One player told me after a spring practice that the offensive install hasn’t been much different than it was under Matt Cavanaugh, it’s just that “(O’Connell) gets what it’s like to be us.”

Players have to play and play well. That is why O’Connell is not higher on this list, however, if he can put them in better positions to succeed more often, his impact could elevate an offense that was stuck in neutral (and at times even reverse) last season.

Question 10:  Will Rob Ryan, Ray Horton have impact?

Question 9: Who's the odd-man out at middle linebacker?

Question 8: Can Montae Nicholson return to form?

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