Let’s face it. Last Saturday wasn’t just ugly. That embarrassing afternoon in Atlanta, GA may have been one of the worst outings in recent memory for the Ducks, and on paper, it looks even worse.
But that’s no reason to lose faith in this team and what coach Dan Lanning is building. Realistically, that’s about as tough of a first assignment as you can be given in college football. It looked like the Ducks tried taking the final exam on their first day of the semester.
Luckily, we have a long season ahead, and there’s a lot to be excited about. Still, tomorrow Our Beloved Ducks have to come out swinging against a vastly less-talented roster in Eastern Washington.
But today, we’ll go through some areas of concern with our Ducks so far, as well as which areas we should pump the brakes on overreacting to.
Ranking My Concern in Three Pivotal Areas of Our Oregon Ducks Football Program
1. Bo Nix, and Oregon’s Quarterback Play
This may come as a surprise to some of you who have just looked at the box score. I like what I saw from Nix in a few flashes.
While we can’t win football games with flashes, we also can’t pin that loss all on Bo. He did have some moments that appeared to give me glimmers of hope, and it was against a tough, tough team. I expect the coaching staff to regroup on this loss and settle down the skill position pieces around him in order to get some more offensive continuity as a unit, rather than just focus on Nix himself.
However, he’s going to have to clean up the decision-making if we’re going to be successful this year. I can see him turning it around tomorrow and showing us why he’s starting over our superstar talents of the future.
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2. The Running Game
To be fair to Oregon, the Bulldogs entered with some serious talent on the defensive line (even after several declared for the NFL Draft this past offseason). This was the biggest test the offensive line will receive all year, and given the score, they had to abandon the run early anyway. I’m not concerned as much about the score right now.
What I was most concerned about is the rotation. It looked like all this offseason preparation amounted to nothing, and we never got to see what this team was capable of on the ground partly because of a poor rotation. Byron Cardwell ended up with four whole carries (and two catches for eight yards), and Seven McGee had two total touches (both catches). While I didn’t expect a “bell-cow back” to emerge by any means, we have to be more creative in getting the ball to our playmakers.
Jordan James cannot lead the backfield in carries again (and especially not Nix, who had eight carries against Georgia, leading the team). That translates to our Ducks’ staff needing better offensive line play, but also more reliance on our emerging playmakers. Spreading the ball around is only great if it turns into points.
Tomorrow, I need to see offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham put his best foot forward with our offense. There are zero excuses for not executing against Eastern Washington in Autzen.
3. The Defense
Entering the season, we expected our defensive line would look a bit weaker. But what was that tackling performance on Saturday? The entire defense looked like they had missed drills for the better half of the last five months. We have to be better in the open field if we’re going to win any football games this year.
I don’t expect a night and day difference tomorrow, but I expect at least an afternoon’s worth. Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe need to play more controlled and take initiative as leaders in this defense. Our pass rush looked like they were giving effort, but turned out to be as ineffective as it gets. Our linebacking core and secondary are going to need to step up in a major way to help this defensive line get their feet under them.
Overall, there’s a lot to improve on, and a lot to learn from. Let’s shape up, Ducks. This is that “tune-up” game that we shouldn’t take lightly. Set the tone early, and let’s see what this team’s capable of this year.
What do you think? Which bright spots will you be looking for tomorrow? How concerned should we be about Nix, the run game, and the defense?
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Tom Corno
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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