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Chalk Talk: Dissecting the Duck, Skins Tie Ins (GRANTLAND Article + Discussion)

McKissic for the win

KDawg

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Going to try something different here. I'm going to utilize an article from Grantland on the Chip Kelly "Duck" offense, dissect it and apply it to what we currently have going on. The article in Grantland is great, so I highly suggest checking it out here: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id...elly-oregon-ducks-offense-more-familiar-seems

Everything that I put in the quote boxes is strictly from Grantland. The material before and after is my editorial. So please keep that in mind.

"We spread the defense so they will declare their defensive look for the offensive linemen," Kelly explained at that same clinic. "The more offensive personnel we put in the box, the more defenders the defense will put in there, and it becomes a cluttered mess." Twenty years ago, Kelly's high school coach ran the unbalanced, two–tight end power-I, so he could execute old-school, fundamental football and run the ball down his opponent's throat. Today, Kelly spreads the defense and operates out of an up-tempo no-huddle so he can do the exact same thing.
This is the classic "new school" approach to football. Keeping teams from stacking the box to defend the run. We use a similar concept. The more receivers there are, the more players that can't be inside the box to play run. This works extremely well with elements of zone read and play action. Play action passes can be lethal from spread looks because some defensive players are hell bent on stopping the run, so they fly with the run fake because they're out of position to stop the run. And that's when you hit them over the top.

For all of the hype surrounding Oregon games, Oregon practices might be even better. Oregon practices are filled with blaring music and players sprinting from drill to drill. Coaches interact with players primarily through whistles, air horns, and semi-communicative grunts. Operating under the constraint of NCAA-imposed practice time limits, Kelly's sessions are designed around one thing: maximizing time. Kelly's solution is simple: The practice field is for repetitions. Traditional "coaching" — correcting mistakes, showing a player how to step one way or another, or lecturing on this or that football topic — is better served in the film room.
The up-tempo, no-huddle offense ends up benefiting in practice as much as it does in games. Without time wasted huddling, players get many more practice repetitions, leading to increased efficiency on Saturdays. As Sam Snead once said, "practice is putting brains in your muscles," and Oregon's up-tempo practices are all about making Kelly's system second nature.
This is a sound approach. More reps means easier recognition. Which means you play "faster". Not necessarily how fast you run, but how fast you process information. When you practice a situation many times, it becomes second nature to react to it with a mastery level of repetitions. Chip Kelly opts to gain a mastery level of tactile experience. One thing I've experienced when watching practices at any level of football is that when there is "down time" (time that a portion of players not doing anything) you tend to see less focus. The players start talking about their personal lives, their love life... Whatever. But you lose focus. Even if a coach gets after them and tries to get them back into practice, their focus has already shifted.

Kelly's practices don't allow for that focus to shift. It's really a great way to get the most out of your athletes.

When the games do begin, there's no question that the no-huddle makes Oregon's attack more dangerous, but it's a common misconception that they have only one supersonic speed. The Ducks use plenty of their superfast tempo, but they actually have three settings: red light (slow, quarterback looks to sideline for guidance while the coach can signal in a new play), yellow light (medium speed, quarterback calls the play and can make his own audibles at the line, including various check-with-me plays), and green light (superfast).
This is an excellent point. That said, even their "red light" is somewhat quick even though the author uses the word "slow". I think that word was put in within the context of the general Duck offense. They don't give you a lot of time to think about things. And by utilizing the "green light" from time to time, they make defenses hurry to the line of scrimmage, thus tiring them out. So it's kind of a slap in the face when you make them hustle to the line and then take your time to call a play and execute it. That also prevents defenses from subbing. If they see that the defense is tired and needs to sub they "green light" it now and fly around the field. It's an exhausting pace to keep and something that their personnel's athletic ability dictates.

It requires a specific type of player to execute. But, that said, I have to admit my own error here. I was under the impression that their linemen were all somewhere between 265 and 285 through assumptions and clinic talks. That is actually quite false. Taking a look at their roster, they have several linemen that sit at 300+ pounds. The up tempo "green" light offense is a lot of moving for a team to take part in. Those guys have to be in great shape to do it.

If you're interested on viewing their roster, go here: http://www.goducks.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&SPID=233&SPSID=3378

"If there are two high safeties [i.e., players responsible for deep pass defense], mathematically there can only be five defenders in the box. With one high safety, there can be six in the box. If there is no high safety, there can be seven in the box," Kelly explained at the 2011 spring Nike Coach of the Year Clinic. The easiest case is if the defense plays with two deep defenders: "With two high safeties, we should run the ball most of the time. We have five blockers and they have five defenders."
As Vanderbilt's excellent offensive line coach, Herb Hand, recently told me, "I tell my offensive line that if the defense plays two safeties deep, it's like spitting in your face — it's a lack of respect for your run game." Oregon's run game doesn't suffer from any lack of respect; as a result, they rarely face two-deep defenses except on obvious passing downs.
When a team brings that extra defender into the box, the calculus for the offense changes. "If the defense has one high safety and six defenders in the box, the quarterback has to be involved in the play," Kelly explained. "He has to read one of the defenders, in effect blocking him. We can block five defenders and read the sixth one." Marcus Mariota, Oregon's dynamic freshman quarterback, has been an excellent blocker without hitting anyone at all.
The middle quote was put in, because as an offensive line coach, it made me smile. ;)

However, the first and third quotes are quite pertinent. When a team is playing two deep safeties Chip Kelly explains that there can only be five defenders in the box. Here's how: The two safeties are deep. They are not in run support at the snap of the football. The two corners will be out on receivers. The two end men on the line of scrimmage (in a 3-4 it would be your outside backers. In the 4-3 it would be your defensive ends) are always outside of the box. They are your edge defenders. A defensive coordinator could kick them inside to play the inside run, but that's dangerous if you don't have a guy that can play sideline to sideline VERY quickly in the middle because it exposes the perimeter of your defense and a well coached team like Oregon would love for you to give them that look. They're far too fast and athletic to be caught on a regular basis running off tackle.

The third quote is interesting as well. When the strong safety drops into the box, you're essentially adding another guy to block. In most spread looks, there are five blockers inside, and it's your linemen. In a traditional look with a tight end and a fullback you have seven men to account for defenders, but with those guys in the defense can also pack it in, so that advantage is somewhat negated.

So since Oregon only has five linemen in these looks, how can they block the sixth defender in the box? As the article explains, the zone read comes into play. This is where RG3 has had some success for the Redskins, and how Chip Kelly's "Duck" offense makes its money. The quarterback will read a defender, generally the end man on the LOS. If that defender crashes hard to chase the running back, the quarterback will keep it and attack the perimeter. If that defender sits down, the quarterback hands the ball to the running back. Either way, that end man on the line of scrimmage (3-4 OLB or 4-3 DE) is accounted for or "blocked" by the quarterback without the quarterback ever touching him. You should be familiar with that concept, the Redskins have shown it quite often.

Chip Kelly's scheme is not traditional, and one of the areas where Kelly is a master is in messing with a defense's efforts at gap control. Coaches have long used a variety of methods to manipulate a defense's keys and assignments (Jim Harbaugh is an example of a non-spread offense coach who has always done an excellent job of this, both at Stanford and now with the 49ers), from using unbalanced sets to extra tight ends to lead-blocking fullbacks and pulling linemen who can "remove" and "add" gaps that must be defended. Kelly uses those tactics, too, and they're blended into a mix of deadly spread concepts and old-fashioned, excellent blocking.
There are excellent images at Grantland to augment the above point. Again, I highly recommend going to the link and checking them out. Here it is again: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id...elly-oregon-ducks-offense-more-familiar-seems

Defenses try to account for every traditional gap. Gaps, for those who aren't as demented and into football as I am, are the areas between linemen. Between the center and guard to either side is the "A" gap. Between the guard and tackle on either side is the "B" gap. Between the tackle and where the tight end would be is the "C" gap. And outside the tight end is the "D" gap. Those are traditional gaps. Kelly screws with teams ability to defend UNtraditional gaps.

One way he does it, as the article at Grantland shows, is the "Zone Read Triple Option". Again, there's a great explanation posted in the article, go check it out.

But the concept of the play, while complex, has a simple purpose. Take what the defense gives you. They are creating an "E" gap essentially in this play, and rendering the backside defenders somewhat useless. The first "handoff" is designed to test the D's traditional gap control. The option aspect of the play makes the quarterback the C/D gap attack man and the tailback the "E" gap attack man.

here are some defenses — like Cal's last weekend — that decide the best way of slowing down the Ducks is by completely selling out to defend the run. Kelly has an answer for this, too. As he has explained, "If there are seven defenders in the box, there are only four defenders to play the pass. It is difficult to play man-to-man without help all day long." The first thing Kelly does if a defense entirely loads the box for the run is to recall the lesson he (indirectly) learned from his old high school coach — make the defense cover the spread receivers, typically by throwing them quick passes and screens.
You see a major aspect of this in our current offense. When defenses decide they want to load the box, we do exactly as Kelly sells, throw quick passes and screens. Some media pundits have been a little hard on RG3 due to all the short passes he throws. This is why he does it. Our receivers are one on one at times and the best way to attack is the short pass.

Eventually, the goal is to make the defensive backs and linebackers fly up to stop the run and the quick pass and then hit them over the top. This is an element to our offense that has yet to really see success. RG3 has an accurate deep ball, but we're not giving him enough opportunity to hit it. It could be due to the defense's we've faced playing sound coverage and not falling into the trap the Redskins are attempting to set. Or it could be play design. Who knows. The only thing we can really understand is that we haven't gotten this element of the offense rolling yet, but we're also in year one of RG3.

This misunderstands Kelly's attack. "I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw. I want a quarterback who can beat you with his arm," Kelly explained at a coaches clinic in the spring of 2011, emphatically adding, "We are not a Tim Tebow type of quarterback team. I am not going to run my quarterback 20 times on power runs."
This quote could make many Redskins fans giddy. This phrase 100% accurately describes our quarterback. Griffin is better than any quarterback that Chip Kelly has ever coached, and he's definitely as Kelly describes his ideal quarterback, "a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw".

Time will undoubtedly tell whether Kelly's offense can work in the NFL, but my vote is that it will. It would require Kelly finding the right players, but a Chip Kelly–coached NFL team would win for the same reasons that the Chip Kelly–coached college team wins. Behind the speed, the spread, the Daft Punk helmets, and the flashy uniforms, Oregon ultimately wins with old-fashioned, fundamental, run-it-up-the-gut football. I think everyone, even fans of the spread offense, can appreciate that.
I absolutely think Kelly could be successful in the NFL. I think the "Duck" offense will run into some road blocks along the way, especially considering that the speed of NFL defenses is a lot faster, and, around these parts, the zone read has become somewhat passe in regards to how many times Griffin has taken hits. Our fans haven't been happy with that aspect of the offense because of the clobbering Griff takes.

Whether or not Kelly is a fit for Washington is something that could be debated ad nauseum. We still have a head coach, and for my money I think we'll have the same guy at the helm next year provided no catastrophic ending to our season. But there are certainly elements of the "Duck" that we could utilize in our scheme.

So which is it 'Skins fans? Do you want RG3 to be allowed to run around, use the zone read and short passes to set up the bomb? Or do we want RG3 to be a more traditional quarterback? He can succeed doing both, he has the physical gifts and the mental prowess. But where do we as fans want to go? That's the real question behind this, not Chip Kelly vs. Mike Shanahan. But the answer to that question will begin to show which direction our fanbase leans.
 

Lanky Livingston

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Very nice write up, K. I would like to see Griffin developed as a more traditional QB, who can kill teams with the run on occasion, personally. If he hands off to Morris 30 times a game, I will be very happy. :)
 

KDawg

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Very nice write up, K. I would like to see Griffin developed as a more traditional QB, who can kill teams with the run on occasion, personally. If he hands off to Morris 30 times a game, I will be very happy. :)
To be fair, Oregon's running backs DWARF their quarterbacks carry totals.

RBs:
Kenjon Balmer: 199 carries
De'Anthony Thomas: 66 carries
Byron Marshall: 79 carries
Ayele Forde: 27 carries
Kenny Bassett: 14 carries
Bill Chimphalee: 9 carries

QBs:
Marcus Mariota (starting QB): 78 carries
Bryan Bennett (back up QB): 38 carries

But I see your point. I'm on the fence about an offense that is immersed in the option as well.
 

Lanky Livingston

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He's too good as a runner to totally abandon that - but I think the less they run, the better chance of catching a defense off-guard and killing them with it.
 

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He's too good as a runner to totally abandon that - but I think the less they run, the better chance of catching a defense off-guard and killing them with it.
It's a two sided thing though right? I mean, the more he runs the more the defense has to think about it, plan for it and account for it on the field, all of which should reduce the defenses effectivness against Morris and the receivers.
 

Lanky Livingston

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It's a two sided thing though right? I mean, the more he runs the more the defense has to think about it, plan for it and account for it on the field, all of which should reduce the defenses effectivness against Morris and the receivers.
Yeah, my statement assumes they can get other stuff going. But if he's running 2-3 times a game for big-gainers, I believe the D will be thinking about it just as much if he's carrying it 10 times a game for 8-10 yards a pop.
 

servumtuum

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The thing is, Lanky, the scheme we're using with packaged plays includes a run/pass option on almost every snap-depending on how the defense reacts after the snap-there don't seem to be all that many exclusively pass or exclusively run plays being used. The idea of confusing the defense rests less on how the running and passing plays are sequenced on any particular drive but in each individual play from scrimmage. I'm wondering how one could designate a particular "number" of carries for Griff given that scenario.
 

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The Redskins still need better personnel. While Griffin can 'block' that outside gap and with the two high safeties Morris has shown one defender rarely gets him down, the other side of the equation is that set up for the deep ball.

With these other aspects of the offense working Griffin should be getting better protection and more time to hit the deep ball and our receivers have to do a better job of getting separation and ensuring they hold onto the ball.

Garcon and Davis going down devastated the big play potential of this offense, but only to the degree it has because the other WRs and TEs have not stepped up to be counted when they are needed.

I agree about the 300 pounders. Shanahan CAN find traditional linemen to run a spread scheme that are prototypical NFL size. We don't need to consistently start an undersized unit to try and be effective hitting those gaps.
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