Remember all the screaming at former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti about the three-man rush? How it drove fans crazy, and how the message boards would lampoon Nick on a regular basis about this defense? Well my friends, the defense where the Ducks rush three and drop eight defenders into coverage is back under defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. Let’s take a look at why Oregon has returned to this oft-maligned defense, which I call the 3-Duck-Chuck.
In today’s spread offenses, speedy receivers and running backs can easily get open on passing downs against linebackers placed out in pass coverage. This is why defensive linemen and linebackers will often come out of the game and be replaced by defensive backs. The best known of these defenses is the “Nickel,” where there are five defensive backs in the game, instead of the customary four. There’s also the “Dime,” where the defense has six DBs out on the field, with four defensive linemen, and one linebacker.
While Oregon (above) would overtly rush just three at times in the past, most often it was disguised so that pre-snap, the opposing offense would not know just how many were coming.
This is a good example (above) from the past. The Ducks threatened a six-man blitz, but dropped back with eight in coverage for good results. It was a 3-Duck-Chuck!
Above we see Oregon threaten a blitz with five on the line of scrimmage, but drop into a 3-Duck-Chuck. Sometimes Oregon would do the opposite as well, beginning in a 3-Duck-Chuck look and morphing into a delayed linebacker blitz. They would show a three-man rush, but ultimately rush five.
This makes it extremely hard on the opposing offense, as they must keep at least five and usually six in the pocket to block (five offensive linemen and a running back). When you add the quarterback to the equation, the end result is only four receivers going out on patterns against eight defenders in coverage.
The key to this defensive approach is mixing in blitzes with the three-man rush from similar pre-snap looks, as Aliotti so often did. Obviously it did not always work, as Oregon’s opponents are talented, but these coaches — Leavitt and Aliotti — know the percentages and their personnel. They would not employ something unless they felt it could help the team to win, and we fans in the stands do not have all the information needed to make these decisions.
Above is one example in the 2017 Spring Game where the Ducks used a three-man rush (the 3-Duck-Chuck!) and the offensive play went nowhere, due to an absence of open receivers and eventual pressure. The “Jimmys and Joes” determine success as much as the “X’s and O’s” in football. You need the horses to win up front with a relentless pass rush, as well as guys who can stick in coverage on the back end, to bust up third-and-long scenarios and get off the field.
Remember the glorious end of this game against USC and Mark Sanchez (above)? I remember the thrill at Autzen when it happened, and nobody noticed the Ducks only rushed three to force the pick. It is harder for a quarterback to connect on a “must-complete” down against eight in coverage.
What is the weakness of this defense? When you take that many defensive lineman and linebacker big-bodies out of the game, you are vulnerable to teams running the ball to get the first down. Chip Kelly drove the conference crazy by doing precisely that on third and long during those glory years.
Now, what is up with the name I gave this defense? For many of you, this goes back to nearly five years ago, when I made the videos about the Oregon defense: one explained a particular blitz and how the “3-Duck-Chuck” was a part of it. You do need to have some fun with this, and it is much more entertaining to use this name than the boring “rush three and drop eight” defense.
Where did I get the name? Trader Joe’s sells an inexpensive wine ($1.99) called “Two-Buck-Chuck” from the vineyards of Charles Shaw in California. That was just too tempting to pass up! Hence we get to bring back my name for this defense (which has been quoted in other places now), the 3-Duck-Chuck, in the Leavitt defensive era.
If nothing else, it will be fun to say it before a play at Autzen!
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