Scott Turner should be no different than every coordinator or coach watching the NFL playoffs from home. The offensive coordinator for the Washington Football Team should be taking notes on how playoff teams give themselves a winning edge.
Fortunately, the league’s so-called “Super Wildcard Weekend” has already offered plenty of inspiration for Turner and his staff. Three plays in particular showed a blueprint for how Turner can make more creative use of his personnel next season. If he follows the blueprint, it’ll be good news for Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas.
Scott Turner Can Learn a Thing or Two from WC Teams
Sunday’s Wild-Card games offered three plays Turner must add to his playbook for 2022. Two of those plays can help unlock the versatility and dynamism of wide receiver Curtis Samuel and tight end Logan Thomas.
Both are hybrid playmakers. Samuel is a wideout by trade, but he is also a capable running back. Receivers attacking defenses as ball-carriers from the backfield has been one of the trends of this season.
Nobody has perfected the tactic like the San Francisco 49ers and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. The man who ran the offenses in Washington for four years has turned primary receiver Deebo Samuel into a dual-threat menace.
Samuel has become feared for his ability as a de facto tailback. Shanahan is not afraid to put #19 in the backfield and run him inside or outside. Samuel took the latter route for the 49ers decisive touchdown to beat Washington’s NFC East rival the Dallas Cowboys 23-17 on the road:
That's 'Wide Back' @19problemz for the tuddy 💰
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 16, 2022
What stood out most about this play was the power aspect. This was no mere jet sweep designed to gash the Dallas defense with pure speed.
Instead, it was more akin to the old “Packer Sweep” designed by Vince Lombardi in the 1960s. Notice how both 49ers guards pulled around the corner to lead the way for Samuel.
Tight end George Kittle helped blocked down the other way so the line would not lose any strength after releasing two pullers. Running back Eli Mitchell also played a key role. He went in motion from the slot, taking linebacker Kyle Vander Esch away from run support and giving Samuel a soft edge to attack.
Now imagine this play with many of Washington’s current personnel. Antonio Gibson or J.D. McKissic could line up in Mitchell’s starting position. Both are converted wide receivers, whose pass-catching skills have to be respected by defenses whenever they align in space.
Kittle’s role could easily be performed by John Bates. The latter impressed as a rookie in 2021, particularly as a blocker. He would secure one edge while imposing left guard Ereck Flowers and whomever starts at right guard in place of Brandon Scherff pull around the corner.
They would surely give Samuel a lane to showcase the explosive, open-field running Washington fans saw too seldom this season. Injuries prevented the former Carolina Panthers multi-task weapon from showing his worth, but Samuel still offered glimpses of the player who gained 8.1 yards per carry for Turner and Ron Rivera in 2019.
Logan Thomas’ Talents Going to Waste
Curtis Samuel is not the only versatile player Turner needs to make better use of next season. Logan Thomas also qualifies after a season similarly plagued by injuries.
Even when he has been healthy, it’s fair to say Washington has not taken full advantage of the many ways Thomas can beat defenses. Those ways include his talents as a former quarterback.
Thomas has thrown just one pass in a Washington uniform. He has also only run the ball three times. All of those contributions came during the 2020 season. The lack of utilisation is a needless waste of an athlete who was a running and passing sensation at Virginia Tech.
Obviously, Logan Thomas’ main value will continue to be at tight end, but that does not mean Turner cannot incorporate some Wildcat packages. Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are not afraid to do the same thing with Travis Kelce.
The latter threw this touchdown pass during Sunday’s 42-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2022
There is no reason Washington cannot replicate the same play. Put Samuel and DeAndre Carter either side of Thomas, with Terry McLaurin and Cam Sims as the wideouts. Turner could even remove a traditional quarterback altogether and have either Gibson or McKissic go in motion from deep, the way Patrick Mahomes did here.
Washington’s offense is loaded with the right type of players to execute these gadget plays. Turner even appears to know there’s room for more scope.
After Mahomes threw a TD pass to tackle eligible Nick Allegretti, Turner joked with Washington left tackle Charles Leno Jr.:
The exchange was in jest, but there is no reason why Scott Turner’s offense cannot score a few thicc-six touchdowns from the goal-line next season.
More creativity from Turner will increase the numbers of the most interesting athletes on his unit. Creative plays catch defenses cold and make life easier for whomever is playing quarterback for Washington in 2022.