Schlichter: Previewing Jared Goff and the ‘Bear-Raid’
Oregon’s defense has faced a heavy dose of good quarterbacks throughout the first half of the season. When the Ducks head to Levi’s Stadium to take on the California Golden Bears on Friday night, they’ll have to face another top-end passer in Jared Goff.
Goff has a strong arm and has a good feel for the pocket. He understands Sonny Dykes’ offense and can look like a vintage air raid quarterback in long stretches. Goff averages 354.6 passing yards per game and completes over 64 percent of his passes, with 24 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Goff also exceeds expectations in unfavorable situations. The sophomore completes 73 percent of his passes on third down and is particularly good at converting on third down and long, as the Cal offense is ranked No. 11 in the nation in the S&P+ on passing downs.
This really shouldn’t come as a big surprise to any FBS defensive coordinator. Ever since Texas Tech’s combination of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree put the air raid in the national spotlight in 2007, defenses have been scrambling to find answers to the fast break offense.
Teams that run the air raid typically sacrifice their short and intermediate rushing attacks to run an array of screens and quick passes. Their intermediate and deep passing concepts are usually crisp and polished, making fade routes against one-on-one matchups deadly.
The ball also leaves the quarterback’s hand far quicker than a typical spread-to-run offense, making things even harder for aggressive defenses to manage immediately after the snap of the ball. Conservative defenses might feel safe with seven or eight men in coverage, but the air raid is prepared to pick apart zone coverage as well. Once the air raid is knocked off of its timing, however its effectiveness drops significantly.
Up to this point in the season, pressuring Goff has been the best way to knock Cal’s offense out of rhythm.
Goff has been sacked 15 times for 130 yards this season, ranking the Bears No. 71 nationally in sacks allowed. That stat contributed to Cal’s poor turnover margin (-1), which features six lost fumbles, most of which came when Goff was hit hard while in the pocket. That tendency to turn the ball over cost the Bears significantly in their game against Washington in which nearly every one of their successful drives ended with a turnover.
Unfortunately for Goff, the pressure has come from multiple places on the offensive line, both on the interior and exterior.
Here, Cal’s offensive line misses multiple blocks, giving UCLA’s defensive front a prime opportunity to force a turnover with Goff scrambling for his life in the backfield. Notice how UCLA’s defensive ends used interior pass rush techniques to beat Cal’s offensive tackles.
Here, UCLA only needed four defenders to get to Goff. A pair of missed blocks on the defensive end forced Goff to scramble against his primary read, leading to another easy sack.
Notice how the Bruins forced Goff to immediately pivot away from the plays’ designed direction in the previous two images. This was key for the Bruins as Goff has shown some skill finding hot routes when faced with immediate pressure.
After identifying a five man blitz, Goff kept his poise in the pocket and waited for his underneath receiver to get a bit of separation from the linebacker. This has always been a major part of an air raid quarterback’s skill set. When defenses grow frustrated with the scheme and start sending heavy blitzes, Goff knows where to find the route that is designed to be open against man-blitzes.
This makes things considerably more challenging for defensive coordinator Don Pellum. Not only does the Oregon defense have to apply pressure, it has to play tight coverage against talented Cal receivers. If the Ducks fail to get Goff out of rhythm, they’ll be at the mercy of his decision making, which is far from perfect, but still formidable enough to put up points in bunches against any defense.
Follow Josh Schlichter on Twitter @joshschlichter