Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees assumed Tyrod Taylor would be mimicking Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in practice this week.
After all, Taylor’s fast and elusive like RGIII.
That was until practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon spoke up and informed Pees that he actually may be the man for the job.
Dixon ran the option offense during his college days at Oregon. That knowledge is helping the Ravens defense prepare for RGIII and the Redskins’ unique offense.
“[Dixon] gets in there yesterday and started riding [the play] down, and I am going, ‘Holy Smokes! You’re doing a great job for us! Tyrod, move over, Dennis is up,’” Pees said with a laugh.
It’s not easy to replicate and practice against an option offense because no other NFL team uses it nearly to the extent of the Redskins, and thus there aren’t many players who know it.
For example, last week the New York Giants used wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to simulate RGIII.
While those players can pretend to make decisions like RGIII, they may not make the same ones because they’re not used to running the system. With Dixon being familiar, it poses a tougher test to the Ravens defense, and thus prepares them better.
The quarterback in an option offense makes reads based on how the defense reacts.
If he’s running a double option, it means the quarterback either hands the ball off to the running back or keeps it himself and runs. In a triple option, the quarterback either hands off, runs or pitches to a trailing player. It all depends on how the defense reacts (or overreacts).
This week in practice, Pees has called the offensive and defensive plays without instructing Dixon whether to hand it off, run it or pitch it. It’s up to Dixon to expose the defense as best he can.
“It’s like second nature to me,” Dixon said. “It’s taking me back to my Oregon days. I love it. I’m giving the defense a good look, showing them the things that I’ve known as far as reading the zone read and who I’m reading and all that. I’m just trying to give them the best advice.”
Dixon’s best advice to the defense is to “be patient.”
So how much does it actually help the Ravens defense to see Dixon running around like RGIII?
Pees called it a “blessing.”
“I can remember when we played [former Titans quarterback] Vince Young,” Pees said, harkening back to his days in New England. “I think we took [former Patriots wide receiver] Troy Brown and made him the quarterback. It didn’t look quite the same.”