Oregon Football Analysis: Is it A Blitz?

On to Boulder! Questions remain as to how the Duck defense will surprise the Buffaloes. This analysis looks at one way in which Oregon might do just that: with a well-timed blitz from the secondary.

Oregon’s success in stopping opponents hinges largely on defensive back (DB) play. One play we may see this this weekend is the safety (S) blitz.

The safety blitz is rare in the Ducks’ scheme, though not quite as rare as the cornerback (CB) blitz. So how do we know when Oregon might be dialing up a little DB pressure?

A typical defensive set that results in zone coverage.

From Video

A typical defensive set that results in zone coverage.

In the picture above, the DBs and inside linebackers (LBs) are more than five yards from the line of scrimmage, save for one DB. The DB circled in red is in press coverage, as he is close to the line of scrimmage.

Typical DB blitzing comes from a player positioned in press coverage. Having a nickel package, with five DBs on the field, makes this a little easier. However, on this play, the Ducks drop into zone coverage. So onto another play …

Could this be a DB blitz?

From Video

Could this be a DB blitz?

The Ducks are playing a “nickel” package in the image above. There are also four LBs and two defensive linemen. Georgia State has lined up all of its receivers to the right, with three wideouts (‘trips’) in addition to a tight end.

The Ducks have two DBs in press coverage positions. Arrion Springs is two yards off the line of scrimmage. Across from him is Georgia State’s best receiver. Will Springs blitz this play?

With the mesh about to occur, the far safety is on the move.

With the mesh about to occur, the far safety is on the move.

In the photo above, Springs is stepping out with his left foot, so he isn’t blitzing. Georgia State‘s speedy receiver, #18 (orange circle), is moving out for a bubble screen. Georgia State’s left guard is pulling to the right.

This looks like it could be ugly, as the Panthers appear to have a man advantage on either a bubble screen or a run between the tackles.

The mesh (red circle) still hasn’t begun and yet Reggie Daniels, the safety, is on the move (green circle). Either this is a called blitz or Daniels reads this play from the snap.

Reggie on the move

From Video

Reggie on the move.

Above, Georgia State hands off to the running back (red circle). The blockers create a large gap to the right. Daniels is on a beeline for that gap. He is also getting some help from DeForest Buckner, who is  in hot pursuit of the running back.

Contact!

From Video

Contact!

Daniels and Buckner combine to bring down the running back for only a short gain as seen above. This play was surprising in that the deep safety, Daniels, committed to the run the moment the ball was snapped.

As the above play illustrates, the young Duck secondary is learning fast. Sure, not fast enough for our liking, but fast. The motivation to succeed will drive the players and coaches to perform ever better.

Ultimately, effective defense is contingent on surprise, as any predictable defense is ripe for exploitation by a good offensive coordinator.

And while all schemes have predictable components, it is the mixing and matching different looks, along with some rare or exotic concepts, that keep an offense from picking on those inevitable weaknesses consistently.

Disguising coverage is a major tool in the Duck defensive tool box. Disguises allow them to spring surprises, such as a DB blitz.

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Jay MacPherson
Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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