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STL Roundtable: Diagnosing the Offense's Issues

Yes, we are going to solve everything right here and now.

Joe Robbins

It's two games into the season, and new OC Steve Fairchild is already taking on plenty of criticism for the offense's performance to date. We all know things are bad...but how would you fix it, fellow Monday Morning QBs? What is the best offensive identity for this team?

Paul "Tiki" Guttman: Honestly, I don't know if there is a fix. The OL isn't going to suddenly get better. The left side of the line has been solid, but the right side is basically a disaster. Of course, it may not be fair to judge them on 2 games against pretty good defenses. Texas couldn't run the ball on BYU either, but they had 313 yards in the air, because they have two good, experienced QBs.

Until Watford (or Lambert, or somebody else) develops into a capable QB, things aren't going to get appreciably better. We aren't going to beat anybody with WR screens and 8 yard outs. We have to be able to complete some passes to guys in space. Have we hit a single pass this season to a player who was moving upfield when he caught it? Not that I recall. Where is a post route or seam route to a TE? Everything to the TEs has been hitches and outs. We tried a couple of deep balls this week, but none of them were anywhere near complete. As a true freshman, Watford completed barely 40% of his passes, but averaged almost 4.7 ypa. This year, he's completing almost 65% of his passes, and averaging 3.7 ypa. Again, two pretty good defenses. But so far, Watford has been babied. If he isn't going to get a chance to use his legs to make plays, then Fairchild has to give him a chance to use his arm.

Related: Check out Tiki's full postgame analysis here

Paul Wiley: Handoffs out of the shotgun need to change. This may seem like a very minor thing, but it actually changes the entire dynamic of the offense. On several "read option" or "zone read" looks, there was no reading going on. With Watford in the gun and a RB lined up to his right, he would take the snap, assume the zone read stance, and just hand the ball off to the RB crossing in front of him-even with the backside defensive end crashing down the line of scrimmage.

If the play is actually a read, Watford is supposed to pull the ball back out and pop around the corner left by the DE losing contain. If it's a power left or a stretch left or any other designed RB take, then the "read" moment is just slowing the play down and allowing the DE to catch up from behind. I can't tell whether it's design or execution, but those plays didn't work once.

Brian Schwartz: Paul, 100% agree on that. If the coaches want to commit to running the read option, they should go all out and do it. Running the option "halfway" defeats the whole purpose. Like you said, there were times when Watford would see the crashing DE and hand it off anyways for a loss.  It's just not a serious system to employ.  Unless we are going to run this legitimately, let's go back and use a pro-style offense and give Watford free reign to tuck the ball and run. He looked at least capable throwing the ball downfield, and this would get our talented RB corps a little more breathing room when we do run the ball.

Screens and three yard crossing routes don't open up the run game. Deep passes to Jake McGee do. (And any ball thrown near McGee has a success rate approaching 100%. It looked like he and Watford were developing a bit of chemistry, which is encouraging).

Also, as a big fan of playaction, if I were calling this game in NCAA 14, I would probably throw in a few of those, considering how often we are running the ball.

Brian Leung: There's a lot of talk about running the ball, but as Schwartz alluded to, I think the only way to open up the running game is to throw downfield. I think Watford has a fairly decent arm, even if we haven't gotten the chance to see it entirely in action yet. I am also a big fan of play action and want to see more of those.

Even if our line isn't giving Watford enough protection to let a play fully develop, if there's one thing we've seen of Watford so far this season, it's that he's actually fairly decent at scrambling and ending a play without too much damage, so let's give him the opportunity to do that. Screens are not the solution. I'm really looking forward to using the next two weeks to tune up before ACC play, and to show the Cavalier faithful that our offense has some life in it.

Brian S.: Yeah, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that we feel way better about our offensive attack after playing VMI than we do now after playing BYU and Oregon.  The only consolation about "wasting" a bye week before the VMI game is that at least it's early in the season; we could use it.

Feel free to join the discussion: What do we do about fixing the offense?