D.C. on the West Coast

by Thomas Griffenkranz on February 21, 2008 @ 11:28:24 PDT


The Washington Redskins recently finished the hiring of their new coaching staff with the addition of Sherman Smith, formerly the Tennessee Titans assistant head coach/running backs, as offensive coordinator.


Smith, 53, joins former Seattle Seahawks teammate and new Redskins head coach Jim Zorn in Washington, after spending 13 seasons overseeing the ground attack with the Titans. Smith spent eight seasons as an NFL running back, including seven, in Seattle, with Zorn.

Before joining the Titans coaching staff, Smith spent time at the University of Illinois working with both the running backs and the tight ends. He began his college coaching career as the running backs coach at Miami University (Ohio), where he played quarterback for four seasons.


Under both Zorn and Smith the Redskins will employ some form of the West Coast offense. After hiring Smith, Zorn announced that he would be calling the offensive plays but that Smith will have a key role in teaching and implementing the new offense.

While there are many different versions of the West Coast offense, the basic philosophy is a pass-first attack that relies on short, horizontal passes. As defenses concentrate on stopping the short throws, running lanes and deep passing routes tend to open up.

Quarterbacks in this system must be highly accurate, mobile and instinctive. They have the ability to deliver quick, short, precise passes but do not necessarily have to have a "big arm."

In the West Coast offense both receivers and running backs have key roles. Receivers are expected to run precise routes, have sure hands and be able to make plays in traffic. Running backs, first and foremost, must be able to run the ball but are also an important part of the passing game. Typically, running backs are asked to catch the ball as often as they run the ball.

Fantasy Impact

Under Smith, the Titans' running game enjoyed plenty of success. In 2007, the Titans boosted the fifth-best rushing attack in the NFL, running for 2,228 yards, including LenDale White's 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition to White, Smith has coached several 1,000 backs including, Travis Henry, Chris Brown and Eddie George.

With the Redskins Smith inherits running back Clinton Portis. In 2007, Portis ran for 1,314 yards, good for fifth-most in the NFL, adding 11 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 51 passes for 417 yards. Portis should benefit the most from the Redskins' shift in offensive philosophy. Look for his rushing statistics to be similar but his receiving numbers to increase, thus making him a top fantasy back once again next season.

Quarterback Jason Campbell's season was cut short after he dislocated his left knee cap in Week 14. Despite a four-game winning streak under backup quarterback Todd Collins that led to a playoff berth, Zorn has named Campbell the starter heading into next season.

Campbell must improve on his 57.7 career completion percentage. While Smith is the offensive coordinator, Zorn is expected to work very closely with Campbell. Campbell should have the mobility, even after the injury, necessary for a quarterback in this system, were he needs to improvement is with timing, accuracy and decision-making.

In the receiving game the Redskins have several reliable options including wideouts Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, as well as, tight end Chris Cooley. Cooley led all Redskins with 71 catches; Moss (61 receptions) and Randle El (51 receptions) made up the No. 2-3 spots, respectively. Look for these totals to increase under the new pass-first ideology. 

The Redskins need to get under the salary cap, so look for them to try to add a big bodied, sure-handed receiver, either, in free agency or the NFL Draft. Some names to keep an eye on in the free-agent market are Arizona Cardinals' Bryant Johnson and Seattle Seahawks' D.J. Hackett. In the draft, look for Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Malcolm Kelly and Texas Longhorns wide receiver Limas Sweed to be on the Redskins radar.

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About Thomas Griffenkranz

Thomas has been a KFFL contributor since 2007.

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