Boy — the concerns by Mr. FishDuck about this team written on this website seem about as probable as a victory by SUU on Saturday. Yet, the Pac-12 Network and Mr. FishDuck have pointed out some new observations that are worth pondering.
While there are still some questions lingering about with the Ducks, it is evident that when they score 77 points, something special is happening that portends a fun football season about to unfold.
First, the offense is way ahead of where FishDuck expected. This is due to much better blocking in a new scheme than Mr. FD thought would occur in early season, and due to the resurgence of Charles Nelson becoming the playmaker as a receiver that we had seen in years past. Nelson’s stepping forward to be “the man” was a factor in doubt going into this game, and I am delighted for him and for us as fans to see his skills back at a high level.
As for the other components of the passing game, Mr. FishDuck nailed it as Jacob Breeland shined as a new star. But that only makes two receivers of note going into a crucial contest with Nebraska. All this talk about Brendan Schooler at receiver? His two receptions were hardly an impact, and while Johnny Johnson made a seniorescue type of catch in garbage time, he and all other the newbie receivers have a long way to go before seriously helping the Oregon offense. We only had one receiver and one tight end with proven experience going into this game, and it showed.
We need the newbies to develop quickly to create more balance in the passing attack, as we cannot depend upon the run game for the majority of our offense. There were tons of missed tackles by opposing linebackers who were either late to their gap, or were deficient in their strength or technique tackling Oregon’s running backs. The big runs in this last game will not be as easy to make against the Huskies, Cardinal or Cougars — Pac-12 defenses won’t give up those kind of yards. We must have the balance with the passing attack, and need additional targets to develop more rapidly. (Like … we need them now for the Cornhuskers.)
I mentioned recently how many pundits and journalists have claimed that Taggart’s offense is similar to what Oregon had before and how FishDuck disagreed. The Ducks do have some of the same plays, but the philosophy and fundamental premise of the offensive attack is different from before. No one explains that better than Nigel Burton of the Pac-12 Network in the short one-minute video clip below.
Retired College Coach Ken Woody has joined FishDuck.com with articles on Fridays (like this one). In a recent public presentation, he explained how we as fans will not see Oregon’s offensive linemen make the same “bucket steps” (lateral movement) at the snap of the ball to enable hooking of defenders, or move sideways to gain position to shield them.
For years we rarely saw a Counter play at Oregon. That was a source of frustration for Mr. FishDuck, and he was not shy to write about it. Yet now this Jet Sweep with Counter Trey play is the foundation play of the new offense that Mr. FishDuck calls the “Oregon Power Spread,” as he does not wish to mix the Gulf Coast with the West Coast.
The bread-and-butter of the old offense, Oregon’s new offense and every offense around around the country is still the Inside Zone Read, but Oregon will block it now with the new premise in mind. (BTW..when you Google the Inside Zone Read, look at the number of links that come up and who is the No. 1 link listed.)
Above you see the classic Inside Zone Read, which can be run with the running back to the side of the quarterback, or behind the QB in a Pistol formation. Note that during the mesh Justin Herbert (yellow arrow above) is looking right at the unblocked DE/LB (blue circle above) to read him, and since the defender is “sitting,” the correct actions are to hand off to Royce Freeman as Herbert is doing. (It goes for a touchdown.)
Note how with a defender not needing to be blocked, the Ducks now have a hat-on-hat, or a blocker to take on each of the remaining linebackers above (dotted green lines/arrows).
The basic components of the Spread Offense remain intact (above). Oregon seriously threatens a Bubble Screen at the bottom of the screenshot, and thus pulls three defenders away from the box to open up the running lanes that much better. If the Thunderbirds only place two defenders below and position the other in the box, Oregon throws the Bubble Screen and has the superior numbers.
Admit it — you held your BREATH …
We all figured the offense would at least be adequate, but we were crossing our fingers when thinking of the defense, since they will determine how far the Ducks go in post-season, if at all. But the whoosh you heard in the second half yesterday was thousands of Duck fans exhaling in relief at what they saw the significant defensive improvement. The run defense could have been better at times, but this was not like the Cal-Davis opening game last year, giving up eight to ten yards on many running plays.
I was delighted that the defense seemed to know what they were doing, when to do it, and why, unlike last year throughout the season. We also saw some physical hits on defense that were also a contrast to the majority of the ones last year. The defense is not there yet, but there was as good or better improvement than Mr. FishDuck possibly could have hoped.
Now before the howls at Mr. FishDuck begin, he notes how there were too many tackles missed, and how the secondary gave up some passes they would like to have a second crack at. The massive difference is that receivers were not running free in the secondary, and corners were not starting with a 10-yard cushion on plays. This was a world better. The upside of this defense is significant and will be better yet by the time the Cougars come to Autzen.
Do look for my Sunday afternoon game FishWrap articles through the season, as Coach Jeremy McGuire will be joining me for football feedback about our beloved Ducks.
While not perfect — no team or game ever is — that was a heck of a start to the 2017 Oregon football season. Saturday can’t come soon enough!
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Top Screenshot from Pac-12 Network