How Can Oregon Reclaim Its Offensive Identity?

Joshua Whitted Editorials

Under Mario Cristobal, Oregon began to lose the identity that put it on the map not too long ago. Speed, innovation, and most importantly, exciting offensive football, are the elements that nearly brought the Ducks to a title in the early 2010s. Cristobal, conversely, championed toughness and physicality — traits that sounded good in theory, but resulted in a bland, unimaginative product.

New Oregon head coach Dan Lanning seems to have a better understanding of modern offensive football, and it appears that he will be more willing to open up the offense. That’s a welcome sign for many highlight-starved Duck fans, but what exactly does “opening up the offense” look like?

It’s obvious that change is needed; Oregon’s offense ranked inside the top 40 just once under Cristobal. But what changes specifically need to be made under current offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham?

Many might point to an improved drop-back passing game. Cristobal criminally underutilized now NFL star Justin Herbert, despite him flashing elite potential from day one. After Herbert graduated, the passing game plummeted. Neither Tyler Shough nor Anthony Brown were consistent enough to threaten defenses through the air, and as a result, the offense stagnated whenever defenses were able to bottle up the running game.

Brown had his share of struggles as a passer in 2021.

Certainly their struggles weren’t entirely due to a lack of skill. Did their coaches really put them in the best position to succeed from the pocket?

Others might want the offense to be more explosive. We saw a glimpse of what a fully unleashed Oregon offense looks like in the Alamo Bowl, particularly in the second half, when Joe Moorhead took the reins of the offense and let Brown take deep shots aplenty. Is that the biggest change the new regime needs to implement?

Finally, Lanning and Dillingham have both emphasized the importance of playing with tempo — something the Ducks originally popularized. Oregon has gotten progressively slower as an offense, failing to reach the top 50 in plays per game in each of the past three seasons. There are a number of benefits to running plays quickly, as it limits defensive substitutions and often simplifies their looks. Will this shift back to playing at a breakneck pace be the most impactful change to the Ducks’ offense?

Everyone who has watched the Ducks under Cristobal knows Oregon is in danger of losing its reputation as an offensive innovator. What is the most important change that Lanning and Dillingham need to make to ensure the Oregon brand of offense is here to stay?

Joshua Whitted 
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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