This post isn’t directly about Cassel or Charles (I think we’ve covered that ad nauseum). Rather, it’s about how our offense is built and what we should expect when it gets “opened up”. And, yes, it will also cover how Cassel and Charles fit the system and how they both can succeed in it. For a quick summary, we are not going to go vertical very often. Instead, we will have to OWN the 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. It will hardly be exciting to watch and won’t wow the fans or the media, but it should work and help us win games.
First, let’s take a look at our offensive playmakers. Our biggest weapons are our RBs (including DMC as a hybrid RB/WR). We have a shiny new TE that shows a lot of promise in the short to intermediate passing game. None of our WRs (with the exception of DMC) are exactly scary fast, but can win some jump ball situations and are dependable blockers. Our QB’s arm is weak and not overly accurate, and he has trouble quickly identifying targets downfield, but he does have dependable nerves and a solid head on his shoulders as well as a reputation for watching game films obsessively. Our offensive line is improved over the last few years, but still can’t hold their blocks for extended periods, which exaggerates our QB’s tendency to hold the ball too long.
Now let’s take a look at our offensive speed. Our fastest players seem to be our RBs (especially Charles and DMC). We have very limited speed at WR, and our new TE isn’t going to burn too many people either. The one speed threat we have coming out of a WR spot is DMC, and he needs to get more pro experience running routes and finding his way through traffic before we can ask him to be our only deep threat. So, we have few players that can consistently stretch a defense by offering a reliable target downfield. Which is fitting because, even if we did have targets that could get open in the defensive secondary, we don’t have a QB that can accurately throw deep.
So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with our biggest playmakers unlikely to run routes deeper than 10 yards; which is fine because our line can’t hold blocks that long and our QB has trouble throwing farther than that. So, we need a system that can get the ball out quickly to players who can make yardage once they get the ball in their hands. Meaning we will lean heavily on our RBs. Not only to run the ball on handoffs but to catch a number of screen passes and routes to the flats; these quicker routes, that rely on allowing defenders to get up the field, will help Cassel get the ball out quickly to players who can run with it. We’ll be looking to get our RBs one-on-one with a LB in open space and hope they can make that first guy miss.
With this system, defenses are going to cheat up and stack the box to corral our RBs as best they can, or assign safeties to cover our RBs coming out of the backfield. Once defenses have shifted to the cover 1, it should help Bowe, Chambers, and Tony M get open. But they still won’t go deep very often because, with the “free” LB in the cover 1, defenses are going to send more blitzes and try to take advantage of Cassel’s slow decision-making. So our WRs will be limited to routes that are around 10 yards deep. Routes that Cassel can hit reasonably accurately.
This system takes advantage of the skill sets of the players we have. It relies on getting Jones, Charles, and DMC the ball in short routes to help defenses focus on those guys and possibly open up some intermediate routes with our TE and WRs. It helps Cassel get the ball out quickly and compensates for an O-line that still has trouble maintaining blocks. It will depend heavily on DMC and Tony M continuing to develop as reliable receivers and on Cassel finding a way to complete over 60% of his passes. It won’t be exciting to watch, it won’t gain yards in bunches, and it won’t get a lot of national media coverage. But if Cassel can get his completion percentage up, it will be effective. Sadly, right now it looks like that a very big IF. Too bad, because Cassel has the tools to make this offense work, he just needs to make his decisions quicker.