NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take one: West coast spread
That was the phrase that popped in my head immediately when describing this LSU offense after watching the tape. Back when the west coast offense was in it’s prime, many referred to it as the ‘nickel and dime’ offense with a lot of short, high percentage passes.
There was a lot of that within the LSU offense only in a spread, shotgun formation. Some of that was because of the opponent, I get it. But it’s also a core principle of this offense.
There were a lot of curls at different depths, slants, crossing patterns and flats with calculated shots downfield. Burrow’s second completion to Thaddeus Moss was the only route that appeared to be a double move that resulted in a completion. Though it wasn’t completely clear on tape, it looked like Moss was running a seven/corner route then turned it upfield when Burrow hit him.
At the end of the day, Burrow looked like a quarterback in a system that suited his skillset perfectly that allows him to make quick decisions. He knew exactly where to go with the ball at all times.
Take Two: Running backs running routes
The other west coast aspect of this offense is the utilization of running backs in the passing game. From an overall philosophical standpoint, this is the biggest similarity to the Saints offense.
There’s an old saying, that the difference between a 55% passer and a 65% passer is the ability to hit the checkdown. Burrow did that beautifully Saturday. LSU backs accounted for 12 of the team’s 30 completions. The execution of the screen game was particularly impressive. Burrow, the backs and the line all seemed to be in sync with the timing of a play that seems so much easier than it actually is.
But in this offense, the backs catching out of the backfield is also used a big-play weapon. Clyde Edwards-Helaire demonstrated this perfectly when he caught the option/angle route out of the backfield in the second quarter for 15 yards.
As the evolution of this offense takes shape over the season, look for the development of the running back route tree. In particular, the wheel route where the Tigers have the backs that can run it and can be effective.
Take Three: Lay off of Myles Brennan
It was a little annoying to hear the criticism of Brennan after the game. Brennan finished 7-12 for 72 yards. The only stat that really mattered was he was 3-4 when he had the first team offensive line and marched right down the field for a touchdown. He nearly had a touchdown pass to Trey Palmer on a fade. On the play before, Racey McMath drew an interference flag, but he also turned the wrong way on the back-shoulder throw. Had he turned the right way, it could have been six.
In fact, the Tigers used more downfield concepts when Brennan in the game. Overall, he had one of the best passes of the night when he connected with Derek Dillon down the sideline on another back shoulder throw.
The production started to slip when the second team offensive line, in particular center Charles Turner, was in the game. Turner’s snaps were incredibly slow back to Brennan and threw off the timing of the play.
Overall, it’s been a while since LSU has had this kind of stability at the quarterback position.
Take Four: Keeping it in perspective
I don’t blame anyone for being enthusiastic about this offense. It looks so much different than in years past, and the results Saturday spoke volumes.
But caution, this was Georgia Southern. There was A LOT of space between LSU receivers and their defenders for Burrow to throw the football. Plus, there was ZERO pass rush from their defensive line. We can all agree that it won’t be so easy against Texas. Still, I expect to see an efficient offense once again in Austin.
Take Five: Other Observations
- Twitter went nuts on Terrance Marshall’s first touchdown. Immediately, it brought back memories of Michael Thomas on the goal line. It’s called the ‘tunnel screen’ in the Saints playbook. Simply put, the outside receiver does a mini motion and the two inside guys block downfield while Marshall catches the screen and essentially walked into the end zone.
- The Tigers got away with an illegal man downfield on Jamarr Chase’s early touchdown in the first quarter. Justin Jefferson’s touchdown was a great read and pass by Burrow to hit Jefferson on the slot fade.
- I was hesitant about the idea of Tory Carter as a tight end at first but then I saw the fourth down run by Lanard Fournette. Carter demolished his defender on a block. It’s safe to say, he still has a role on this team.
- Burrow’s underthrown pass to Marshall on the deep post is the one he’d likely most want to have back. He simply put a little too much air under it.