The offseason is officially in full swing with the NFL culminating in a Rams’ Super Bowl victory yesterday. We now can prepare for spring football, focus on the new faces on Our Beloved Ducks’ roster, and set expectations for the 2022 season. Today, let’s hone in on a big question mark for the defense: what’s going to come of a Thibodeaux-less defensive front?
Who steps up?
Oregon will be losing a top-five pick to the NFL Draft in just a few months. Kayvon Thibodeaux is not simply a player you replace, but you can try to replace his production. In 2021, he totaled nearly 20 combined sacks and tackles for loss (TFLs), ranking first on the team in both categories. This is going to require a step up from players on the interior to generate pressure, like Brandon Dorlus, and edge defenders to take another step as well, like Mase Funa.
Is this likely in 2022? Considering how the roster is turning out with transfers and decommits, I am liking our chances less and less. In turn, this is going to put a great deal of pressure on the secondary.
Will the secondary be able to elevate?
In contrast to the Ducks’ pass rush in 2022, I love the team’s chances to become elite in the secondary. There have been some fantastic pieces growing and developing over the past couple of seasons, most of which however are going to the next level this offseason/transferring out. Luckily, the Ducks have a wealth of riches at safety and cornerback, which should develop quickly.
Overall, there are a ton of questions that will hopefully be answered as soon as the spring. I am hesitant at this current moment to have a ton of faith in Oregon’s 2022 pass rush without Thibodeaux, but I think the interior stability along with great linebacker play will be a good enough foundation for players to develop around. Our fearless leader Noah Sewell will hopefully have Justin Flowe alongside him all season long, becoming the dynamic tandem we’ve hoped to see since day one of their respective commitments.
What do you think? How does the Ducks’ pass rush adjust without Thibodeaux? Will elite linebackers play a bigger factor, or new faces in the secondary?
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Kevin Cline
Alex Heining is an Oregon alumni from the graduate class of 2021. After studying sports business and media studies, he has moved into the field of digital marketing as a copywriter and content manager in the Los Angeles area. Still, he loves his Ducks and goes to local high school games all over the Los Angeles and Orange County area to check out new recruits of the future (and a SoFi game or two with the pros). On any given Saturday, expect to find him doing martial arts, playing the guitar, or screaming at the tv over a missed holding penalty.
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