I went into this season saying that if we got "B-" play out of our QBs, we would have a very good season. Up to this point, this has not happened. In roughly half of our games, we have seen pathetic QB play. We have seen games where the pass is not even close to a threat. In the latest game, we saw a 2.6 yards per attempt average. There is no way to sugarcoat this. There is nothing that can make this redeemable. This was one of the worst passing performances turned in by a team, and helped lead to poor 3rd down conversion rates. We have seen, at best, average play. And we've also seen awful performances.
So, the real question is, where do we go from here? I am under no illusion that Jeremiah Masoli will magically become a great QB, despite his claims of "rebirth." Meanwhile, we have Justin Roper, who has not shown good instincts with our most lethal running play, nor the ability to make plays down the field, and in his last full game couldn't average over 5 yards per attempt while throwing costly interceptions. We also have Darron Thomas, who displayed a short burst of brilliance against BSU, but has not performed all that well in his incredibly limited opportunities.
On top of all this, our Wide Receivers have been a great disappointment across the board. As much as we want to rag on J-Will, he hasn't been very bad, but hasn't been given chances to go down the field. I am more disappointed with the rest of the corps, who have typically dropped more than 5 passes per game. When you have QBs that don't hit every pass, grabbing the passes that are made well is a must. This has not happened. Scott, Dickson, Maehl, Davis, et al are all culpable.
As we go into the Stanford game, something must happen. I have no idea what that "something" is, but if our Ducks are going to win any games in the remainder of the season, they must somehow develop a competent passing game.
But at this point, there is no right answer.
Playing Masoli is hoping that he will improve as a decision maker on the field, learn to stay in the pocket, and throw the ball down field. Playing Roper acknowledges that we need a competent passing game, and shoot for that. But this is no sure thing, as we saw against a bad Purdue team, and it sacrifices the running game in the process. Playing Thomas will be a move to the future. He gives the team a decent chance to win now, but also more chances at spectacular defeat due to mistakes and inexperience.
Whatever the choice, in my opinion, there are a couple keys that will lead to the success of the offense:
- We must develop a deep threat. This would most likely include Jaison Williams/Chris Harper on the edges, and Ed Dickson down the middle seam. But this has not happened all season long. The deep threat is non-existent, and the safeties are rarely respecting the deep pass. Because of this, the running game can suffer, and good defenses will take advantage of this. I have been very disappointed that this has not been pursued in any significant way this year. We have the most physically talented WR in the Pac-10, and this is not being taken advantage of.
- We must run the spread option effectively. This does not mean that every time the QB takes the ball, he goes for 20+ yards. This does mean that decent yards are gained on every play. Any of our QBs can do this. However, Masoli has developed a pretty good read ability on this play, something Roper has not done effectively. He has handed off many times when he should take it, and we have gotten into many 3rd and longs due to this fact.
If both of those things can be done, this offense will be a success. From last year's Stanford game, here is an example of the type of play Oregon ran so well last year.
On this play, there was both a RB run option, as well as a QB run option. And there was also a pass option if the safeties came up. Right now, even if the safeties came up, I don't think that any QB could execute that pass, even if they made the right decisions to get into a favorable position.
So for now, I just hope that one of our QBs can step up, and make a few plays, and bring a tiny amount of respect to our passing game.