Quick pass plays might help defense
I’m no football coach. At least not anymore.
I used to be. Before I got back into journalism covering McNeese athletics, I was an assistant coach in Miami. I’ve seen the fans praise you when you’re winning and make every suggestion in the world when you’re struggling.
So when you read this column, just know that I realize the McNeese coaches are doing everything they can to win games. And for the most part, it has worked.
But not last weekend against Incarnate Word. And when it didn’t work, it didn’t work in a spectacular fashion.
It was a complete team loss. The offense struggled, which was not a huge surprise. The defense struggled, which was a huge surprise. And special teams were hit or miss.
This is about what I would do to help fix the offense. Again, these are my views from the press box. I haven’t pored over hours of film. I haven’t diagrammed plays. This is just what I see.
First, I will say that the issues on the offensive line and quarterback are directly related. James Tabary can be a very productive quarterback. Just look at the 355 yards and four touchdowns he threw in McNeese’s 51-34 win over Houston Baptist.
The offensive line lost right guard Tyrae Johnson for the season in the win over Nicholls State in the third week. Collin Fountain has missed time as well. Keeping a quarterback upright and opening holes for running backs is tough enough as it is. Losing two-fifths of your starting line just makes it that much tougher.
If the Cowboys are going to continue to start Tabary and give him the majority of the snaps, they need to move away from the deep passing game with five- and seven-step drops. More one- and three-step drops with quick slants, hitches, and so forth. The Cowboys have playmakers at wide receiver. Right now it’s better to get the ball in their hands early and let them do the work instead of having them run deep routes and they waste their breath because the ball never gets thrown.
Another part of utilizing the short passing game is getting the running backs and tight ends involved. Lawayne Ross has proven that he can put up pass-catching numbers. Defenses are going to blitz because Tabary is not a mobile quarterback and the line is struggling to protect. Take advantage of the defense’s aggression with different screens. Help the offense help itself.
Also, backup quarterback Cody Orgeron needs more first-team reps in practice. It’s abundantly clear that he’s going to eventually play, no matter what the situation is in a game. Orgeron had a mixed performance against UIW. His first drive was a three-and-out that lost 2 yards. The next drive, he drove the Cowboys 87 yards for a touchdown. Later on in the game, he threw a pick six.
Point is, you don’t quite know what you’ll get from Orgeron right now. The only sure thing is his running threat. His 22-yard run set up his touchdown throw to Ross. With an offensive line that is struggling, someone with mobility could help the offense. But simply throwing Orgeron in there and hoping he makes magic won’t be effective. It may work for a drive, but once the defensive coordinator adjusts, that’s it.
And the jet sweeps. There were four of them in the first quarter-and-a-half against UIW. Jet sweeps aren’t usually used as a base play because once the defense catches on, they’re not effective. You run up the middle with jet sweep motions to see how the defense reacts. If they bite on the motion, keep running up the middle. If they focus on the middle, then hand off the jet sweep.
I put my coaching hat back on for this. McNeese coaches may or may not see this. Either way, these are things I think they can do that will turn the offense around.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at email@example.com