The Oregon Ducks are known for their high flying offense, but as of late their defense has become the focus. Oregon will lose some key components heading into this fall and will try to overcome struggles that have lingered over the past few seasons.
There are improvements that have to be made as this program develops into a complete package. The defense has to get better against the run, and the scoring defense has to continue to improve.
This unit has gotten very proficient defending the pass, and it led the nation in turnovers a year ago, so making plays is not an issue.
Those things have to stay, but the improvements have to come in spring.
Attack the Run
The Ducks have been shredded on the ground consistently with no easy answer in sight. They have found ways to be out of position and allow for big scores to happen easily for their opponents.
This is a look at a goal line attempt by USC in last year’s contest. Notice Silas Redd getting off balance and almost falling into the end zone as two defenders look on outside of the play (marked by scarlet arrows).
You will also notice the defender completely out of the play with his body turned in the wrong direction (marked by yellow arrow). This is why the Ducks struggled against the run last season.
This is a look at a separate run that shows a lane so wide open that a Suburban could slide in sideways.
This is just one game with two plays that show how bad this team can be against the run. They finished No. 44 in the country last year against the run—to win titles they have to make it into the Top 20.
Replace Dion Jordan
Jordan is one of the premier pass rushers heading into the NFL for 2013 who will leave behind a huge void at Oregon on defense.
He finished 2012 with 44 tackles, five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
They were modest numbers for a star of his status, but his raw talent and athleticism make him tough to turn down for NFL teams and tough to replace for the Ducks. Draft guru Matt Miller said, “With his length, speed and raw athletic ability, Jordan can be a difference maker at the outside linebacker position.”
He puts him at No. 4 in his latest mock draft.
Tony Washington is the lead candidate to replace Jordan but it is no easy task. Oregon defensive coordinator has his expectations in line with the loss that his unit is taking. He told the media (h/t oregonlive.com), "Tony Washington will have a great year this year. Now, I'm a realist. If I'm losing a first or second pick of the draft, it's pretty hard to replace that guy."
Washington is talented, but the battle will not be over as the Ducks head into the fall. Showing that he is ready in this game will be huge for the defense and important for the fans to see progression at the position.
Get to the Quarterback
What used to be a dangerous defense that rocked quarterbacks took a major step back last year. The Ducks have been consistently pounding quarterbacks for the past half-decade, but last year finished tied No. 50 in sacks.
That trend has to change.
This is a look at the Oregon sack numbers since 2008:
For Nick Alioti, defenses this is a major point of emphasis. I would expect a return to that trend to happen as early as the spring game. Look for multiple blitz packages to be ran and for the defense to return to normal this fall.
Getting to the quarterback is a major focus in the pass happy Pac-12.