The more important thing that you want to think about is why Riley missed the block and how to prevent this from happening in the future.
The Redskins special teams unit has been subject to scrutiny this season and it's been deserved. There have been questions about blocking on kickoff/punt returns and who on the roster should be returning said kickoffs/punts but last week brought up another problem as the Raiders blocked a Sav Rocca punt for their first score of the game. In this edition of film study, we're going to look at what happened and what went wrong on the play.
Again, it's easy to say that a player missed an assignment (which to be honest, did occur) but you have to give Oakland's special team coaches and players credit for calling and executing a play that you wouldn't normally expect on a standard punt. So, lets go to the film and see what happened.
The focus of this play will be on the four players in the yellow circle that I highlighted above. On the left edge is S Jordan Pugh (#32), next to him is LB Perry Riley (#56). Lined up against Riley is FB Jeremy Stewart (#32) and opposite Pugh is RB Rashad Jennings (#27). Looks like a pretty typical punt formation by both teams prior to the snap.
What Redskins Are Expecting (Ball Is Snapped)
With the ball on its way to Rocca, the Redskin blockers are expecting a standard rush attack to the punter that will be the quickest way to reach the punter and the ball (usually a straight line). Pugh has outside contain and expects Jennings to try to beat him off the edge. Riley has two gaps that he needs to contain. The first is the gap between him and Pugh. The second is the gap between himself and fellow LB Darryl Tapp (#54). Riley focuses on Stewart and his attack on the gap between himself and Jordan Pugh.
What Really Happens
The Raiders called a stunt for Jennings and Stewart with Stewart going outside and Jennings inside. Here's where the problems begin for the Redskins. Riley still seems focused on his man (Stewart) and either fails to notice or notices too late that Jennings is breaching the gap between him and Pugh. Pugh on the other hand notices both players and tries to initially block Jennings but sees Stewart coming around and moves to stop him.
There's a few ways to look at this. First, you could argue that Riley missed his read and didn't make the block on Jennings in time. You could also say that there was a miscommunication between Riley and Pugh. Since Pugh chipped Jennings before heading to block Stewart, its possible that Riley thought Pugh was going to take Jennings and didn't make his block until it was too late when he realized that Pugh was trying to contain the outside. There is a third argument and this is based off of watching the game at normal speed. It looks like Riley may have blocked Jennings enough to keep him from reaching Rocca and the ball, but Riley releases Jennings too early to get down field.
Either way, Jennings gets to the ball before it is punted away and you see what happens next.....
The punt is blocked by Jennings and the ball bounces right into the hands of Stewart who grabs the ball for a TD. This play works perfectly for the Raiders as the inside man blocks the ball at a trajectory that the ball goes right into the hands of the outside man who was being blocked to the outside.
Without watching other Raider games, its hard to tell if this standard for them or something they pulled out of the bag of tricks to catch the Redskins off guard. If it's standard, then the Redskins need to do a better job reading stunts and preparing. If it was a surprise play, then kudos to the Raiders. It was well executed and well timed. The point that the Redskins need to learn from this is that you must always protect the inside. It is the shortest route to the punter and the ball. It would have been harder for Stewart to block the punt than Jennings.
Hopefully with the BYE week, the Redskins have had the opportunity to address the issue. Remember, the NFL is a copycat league and if one team has success using a play, then other teams will do the same thing. Expect other teams to try this against the Redskins If they haven't fixed the problem, expect another blocked punt in the future.
Cover Photo Credit: Kyle Terada/USA Today