The Ducks – Niners Report 9/14/16

THE DUCKS

Last Game: Ducks 44- Virginia 26 (2-0)

Next Game: @ Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-0)

Going into this game we spoke about how Virginia’s size would be a factor and it was. Virginia was a better team than what they showed the first game while losing to Richmond. They still lacked the depth to keep up with Oregon.

Dakota Prukop took a step of maturity in the offense as we saw him scramble a couple of times to get out of trouble and make fairly intuitive and correct decisions. He will never be Marcus Mariota but he can certainly lead the offense. The more time he is the backfield, the more rhythm this offense will get. I believe we will see it start clicking in a smoother way around game 6 or 7 once he is exposed to Pac 12 defenses and adjusts. So far he has 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

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Royce Freeman made up for a pedestrian performance last week as he tore through Virginia for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns. A dark horse for several national awards including being on the radar for Heisman chatter, Freeman will have to have more performances like this one to keep in those conversations.

Pharaoh Brown got his first touchdown back after his injury which was emotional for me to watch as I can fully relate. Check out this video about his journey back.

Devon Allen boat raced the field and then showed off his hurdling skills in the end zone that landed him in the Olympics in Rio.

 

Defensively it seems Oregon was feast or famine. One play they would be in the backfield and creating havoc, looking like world beaters. The next play they would give up huge yardage up the middle and looked lost.

Having played defense for a long time, especially in the 4-3, I can tell you that the issue they are having is a gap control issue. When you switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3, as a linebacker your responsibilities are different. What you are reading and looking for is different. You are going from a defense where you usually have 2 gaps you are reading to one where you have one gap you are reading.

You would think that going from reading 2 gaps to 1 should be easier. Theoretically it is. The problem is that the flow is different. A good linebacker corp is one that is one entity. Wherever the ball goes, they flow together in their respective responsibilities. That flow is different in a 4-3. It is even more important in that scheme for the linebackers to communicate.

So when you see them give up 8 yard runs up the middle and you are confused as to why no one is there at all, someone has read incorrectly and the group has not shifted to cover the middle. You should never have the middle up like that in a 4-3.

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Each of the front 7 has a 1 gap responsibility. For strong side line backer (Sam) they are responsible for C to D gap depending on if there is a tight end or not. Middle linebacker (Mike) is responsible for strong side A. Weak side linebacker (Will) is responsible for weak side B gap.

If the ball goes to the strong side, Sam and Mike attack, and Will should be hedging towards the middle in case of a reverse, counter, or boot. They should be home to protect the middle.

If the ball goes weak, Will and Mike attack the ball and Sam hedges towards middle to hedge.

The other reason the middle can be open is when people make the incorrect read. The number one asset to a linebacker is their eyes. Because they have to cover so much ground so quickly and be versatile enough to attack in the run game and make their drops in the pass game, they have to make the correct read fast. Time equals yardage. If you don’t make the correct read and you are guessing, you end up in the wrong gap, caught up in the wash of moving bodies, and leaving a giant hole where you were for the ball carrier to run to daylight.

From what I have seen, I think the defensive issues are mainly due to the first reason of flow issues.

This is a simple fix but it takes time. It takes time to get the vision down. It takes time to get the communication and flow down. I believe that the scheme is solid and we will see those mistakes go away. They will have to in order to compete in Pac 12.

Next week the Ducks go to Nebraska to play a Cornhuskers team coached by former Oregon State coach Mike Riley. If any Duck fan has ever paid attention it’s that no matter how good Oregon has been, Oregon State was 95 percent of the time competitive no matter what their season had been like. Riley knows the Oregon program very well. I expect him to come out and want to establish the run first having seen the inconsistency of Oregon.

If Oregon wants to be taken seriously as a Pac 12 contender they need to get a win in Nebraska. This should tell us where Oregon is at. Is this a year of overacheiving and contending? Or is it a rebuilding year?

 

THE Niners

Last Game: 49ers 28 Rams 0 (1-0)

Next Game: @ Carolina Panthers (0-1)

The Chip Kelly era got off with a bang. Blaine Gabbert moved the ball and didn’t turn it over. He is not Cam Newton or Tom Brady but he is the best quarterback option the Niners have and he proved on Sunday that he has improved from last year. He was poised and in control.

I would just like to say that I look like a genius right now predicting Carlos Hyde would have a break out year and starting him in my fantasy league. 22 points later I’m a happy fantasy owner. Carlos proved to have great vision and attacked downhill for 8 yards and 2 scores. I expect him to take the bulk of the work at running back.

I was impressed also with Shaun Draughn on his stiff arm touchdown. This thing is absolutely beautiful. He should be a great change of pace and 3rd down guy.

 

Defensively the Niners played solid as well. They got pressure on Casey Keenum who looked awful. The linebackers flowed well and made plays. They held Todd Gurley to 47 yards on 17 carries. That’s 2.7 yards a carry which is not very good. They held the rams to 185 total yards.

Being a defensive minded person and missing terribly the dominating defense the Niners had in 2013, it seems like a promising start. I had mentioned last week that we needed to get our swagger back on defense and I think we saw some of that edge.

Now it’s hard to tell how good this defense is because let’s be real, the Rams looked awful. If Keenum is their guy, they are in trouble. He made poor reads. He can always improve in that area but even more concerning was their inability to get Gurley going. They used to thrive when they had Steven Jackson as a workhorse even when they didn’t have a passing game a few years ago. It’s going to be interesting to see if Gurley can be that guy because he is going to have to be in order for the Rams to do anything this year.

We should find out more about the defense when the Niners travel to Carolina. Cam Newton is beat up and the Panthers just lost a game to the Broncos that they really were the better team in. Will the Panthers be emotionally charged and frustrated and take it out on the Niners in their home opener? Probably. If the Niners can make it competitive it will say a lot about the change in culture from last year. Win and watch the starved fan base start to get excited.

For some fun check out this hilarious call by Kevin Harlan as a Niners fan ran onto the field mid game. It is absolute brilliance.

 

 

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