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Did Oregon Fail To Develop Justin Herbert?

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Justin Herbert was the NFL’s 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year. His first year in the NFL with the Los Angles Chargers was a resounding success and silenced his doubters. As Oregon fans, we all knew his potential but even we were surprised by just how good he was in his rookie year. Herbert showcased a set of abilities in ...

 

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Thank you for a terrific article.  I hope one day, maybe with this article, that we stick the final dagger into the notion that the Ducks did not up-coach Herbert.

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Great question on developing a supporting cast to help our qb's. I think this question can be moved onto the RB and TE positions too. My big question is why is the use of the TE so spotty.

 

If you watch an NFL game the TE is a critical position as an offensive threat. At Oregon we look at the TE as primarily a blocking position. Every once in a while the TE is a threat with the ball, but too often he isn't part of the play. This needs to change with the talent level of our TE's rising and the need for offensive fire power.

 

The TE creates a unique match up nightmare. The TE overpower a DB and should be able to get separation from a LB. My question, why don't we use out TE's more?! This would also lead into what Cristobal loves, a power game and the use of an offensive lineman.

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1 minute ago, Haywarduck said:

My question, why don't we use out TE's more?!

In 2019 Breeland was absolutely a terror on the field. Then he was injured. The rest of the TE group needed some work and were good in some areas but not others. Kampmoyer was a good blocker but until last year wasn't much of a pass catcher. Webb was/is a good pass catcher but needs developing as a blocker.

 

Last year we saw DJ Johnson really emerge in the first few games then he went quiet. Kampmoyer returned and made some noise briefly.

 

Last year I think it is really difficult to judge the TE group because all but Johnson were injured or just out of commission for the first several games. What will this group look like when they are fully healthy? That is the next major question.

 

I think the Tight End position is probably one of the most complex on the field due to its weird hybrid nature. Having to be a skilled enough blocker to act as another offensive lineman but also have the ability to run vertically (not always far mind you) to stretch the defense and give your quarterback a big bodied receiver. That is a skill set that not every player has and needs developing.

 

Yes, Wide receivers need to know how to block and sustain those blocks on the perimeter but they are taking on more knowns than what tight ends need to deal with as tight ends have to be ready to pick up weird blitzes and take on charging linebackers.

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I think Herbert was a special talent who chose Oregon over other schools because he grew up a short walk from Autzen, and because the Ducks were a phenomenal program when Herbert was in high school. It was a win-win. Cristobal was lucky to inherit him. Herbert wasn't as lucky to play for Cristobal, who's coaching philosophy seemed to be "let's emulate the boring ground-n-pound offenses from the SEC during the 1990s." As SEC schools were evolving their offenses to look more like the modern PAC-12, hiring multiple PAC-12 coaches and offensive coordinators, Cristobal was dismantling the premier offense in the PAC-12, an offense Herbert had looked forward to playing in; had, indeed, developed his entire skill set around. 

Yes, a lot of the offensive regression had to do with Arroyo's playcalling, but it was up to Cristobal to fix that and he didn't. It was the innate talent of 4- and 5-star recruits that kept the Ducks together. Tyler Shough's decision to leave Oregon after the Fiesta Bowl was a big one, as was Oregon's decision to bring in a one-and-done graduate transfer at the QB position, then create a quarterback controversy during the Bowl game.  2021 will determine if Cristobal and the Ducks are for real or if Herbert was the last great quarterback to play for a school that has led the country in NFL draft picks (at the QB position) over the last 20 years. I'm hoping the Ducks are for real.

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We have more TE's than any other position. It seems to be a priority, look at the numbers, but we don't use them. Kind of a quandary if you ask me.

 

DJ Johnson looked like an absolute matchup nightmare, but then wasn't used. If there is a competition for the biggest unanswered question on offense, it would be why don't we use the TE more as an offensive threat?

 

If we want to break in a qb there is no better way than giving him a big body to throw to.

 

This is the way I feel when I see the TE get a ball thrown his way.

 

tenor.gif

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Based on the QB ratings, Herbert peaked in 2017 with Helfrich era skill players (Freeman, Charles Nelson, etc) and the Taggart offense.  Big drop-off in 2018 due to new scheme (Arroyo/Cristobal) and new skill players (Verdell/Dye, Redd/Johnson).  Good to see the improvement in 2019...I think attributable to better play from the WR group (less drops, etc) and more conservative scheming.

 

QB Rating

2016: 148.8

2017: 167.5

2018: 144.7

2019: 156.8

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David, this is a very thoughtful and insightful article that certainly altered my mind-set about the development of Herbert.  My thanks!

 

LOS_Pac-12 Video.jpg

Mr. FishDuck

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Herbert is a special talent, the fact that Oregon couldn't max his talent out is an indictment of the scheme and the coaching.  You can blame the receivers all you want but I'd take a great QB over great receivers any day of the week. QB Coaches John Beck & Pep Hamilton, and OC Shane Steichen get a ton of credit for getting the most out of Herbert.  

 

If Shough goes off at Texas Tech, that will be another indicator of lackluster coaching.  

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Herbert went from one of the best offensive lines in college to arguably one of the worst in the NFL. Luckily Herbert is very mobile and can get the ball out quickly when pressured. Herbert’s talent didn’t just happen because he worked with a different coach. Personnel makes a big difference at elite levels of play. 
 

I my opinion he was probably two very good receivers and a top running back from a legit shot at a National Championship at Oregon. 
 

Congrats to him for everything he has achieved. 

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4 hours ago, Haywarduck said:

Great question on developing a supporting cast to help our qb's. I think this question can be moved onto the RB and TE positions too. My big question is why is the use of the TE so spotty.

 

If you watch an NFL game the TE is a critical position as an offensive threat. At Oregon we look at the TE as primarily a blocking position. Every once in a while the TE is a threat with the ball, but too often he isn't part of the play. This needs to change with the talent level of our TE's rising and the need for offensive fire power.

 

The TE creates a unique match up nightmare. The TE overpower a DB and should be able to get separation from a LB. My question, why don't we use out TE's more?! This would also lead into what Cristobal loves, a power game and the use of an offensive lineman.

Just a note...In 2020 the Ducks totaled 11 TD's from the receivers.  Six went to the the two tight ends, Kamp and DJ.  Only 5 went to all the rest of the receiver group.

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8 minutes ago, Mudslide said:

Just a note...In 2020 the Ducks totaled 11 TD's from the receivers.  Six went to the the two tight ends, Kamp and DJ.  Only 5 went to all the rest of the receiver group.

 

We had very good receivers too which just goes to show the conservative nature of the offense and the lack of development in Shough.  

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39 minutes ago, Mudslide said:

Just a note...In 2020 the Ducks totaled 11 TD's from the receivers.  Six went to the the two tight ends, Kamp and DJ.  Only 5 went to all the rest of the receiver group.

Top NFL passing team used the TE on 40% of their completed passes. The TE caught 25% of the TD's.

 

Oregon the TE caught 25% of their completed passes. The TE caught 40% of the TD's. Travis Dye led all players on TD catches, by the way.

 

Seems to me when Oregon needs a catch, for touchdown, they look to the tight end. Oregon ranked 41st on 3rd down conversion, and might want to look to the TE.  The leader in 3rd down conversion Alabama at 59%, Oregon at 43%, a critical stat!

 

LSU went from 6th in 3rd down conversion to 100th, last season.

 

I do think most Oregon fans would trade a couple of the runs up the gut on critical 3rd downs, for a short pass to DJ .

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1 hour ago, ptdduck said:

We had very good receivers too which just goes to show the conservative nature of the offense and the lack of development in Shough.  

I would say the lack of consistency in the availability of our recievers was quite troubling this last season. 

 

Pittman was sidelined for quite some time after the first game. Then williams had a couple of break out games and was sidelined for a few games. 

 

In a year with a new quarterback Shough really wasn't given enough of an opportunity to really get in sync with his receivers as the cast was always shifting. 

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One of the things holding Justin H back was not being able to fully utilize the run/pass option.  Oregon felt that he needed protection from injury and kept the run aspect under wraps for almost his entire career.  What he did in the last game ...the Rose Bowl...showed just how multitalented he actually was.  

Was protecting him a mistake?  Probably, but he certainly did develop as a wonderful passing QB.......thus developing that aspect to the fullest and getting him ready for the Pro ranks.  Receivers he now has working with him have made a huge difference.  Way too many dropped passes while in college.  

Feel privileged to have watched both him and Marcus in the Oregon Glory years.

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