The only dark cloud on an impressive season so far has been the number of sacks and even more importantly the number of hits to our quarterbacks.
We're leading the league in the number of sacks to our quarterbacks. Even more importantly, while its not a statistic thats recorded, is the number of hits our quarterbacks have taken...some of them have really been brutal.
I began writing about this concern a number of games ago. While its a complex problem which has included missed offensive line assigments, poor blocking at times by recievers and backs, quarterbacks holding the ball too long, and the odd coverage sack the main problem has been the Leos offensive structure, game planning, and play calling to nullify and hurt blitzing teams. Most teams are bltizing our Leos offence at every opportunity in order to minimize the time our talented recievers have to get open. They also have approached our offence knowing that Dickenson can pick you apart, given time, and Printers, if healthy, can hurt you deep if you give him time. Buck Pierce, showed, when the Leos blocking held up against Saskatchewan, what the offence can do with long passes to Clermont and Simon that were a key to winning the game.
What Needs To Be Changed:
Last year our offensive line has less talent and we gave up a lot of quarterback sacks. However, with a line that has more talent and depth we're a lot worse. What's the difference?? First of all Burratto was a very experienced football coach who had been a defensive coordinator, line coach, offensive coordinator, and even head coach. Experience makes a difference. Look at what Ritchie and Roach are doing with the defence. Why are Wally and Mathews the best coaches in the CFL? Why is Joe PaoPao finally beginning to become successful? Burratto was smart enough to know that you can't have your quarterback just drop back to the same spot on each passing down, letting the defence know exactly the spot where your quarterback will be throwing the ball. He used Printers strengths with slide protection, rollouts, semi-rollouts etc. He pulled lineman at times to provide protection for his quarterback. When Dickenson came into games he moved the pocket around and also had Dickenson roll out on occasion. The offence was also less predictable. It was also more dynamic and explosive. Near the end of the season Chapdelaine's influence grew and Burratto was pushed into the background. Some said teams were figuring out Printers tendancies. While that was not said about Dickenson in the Grey Cup game (100 yards passing over the last three quarters) the fact was the Leos offence started to become more predictable and less innovative. Toronto, in the Grey Cup game, blitzed the hell out of us and we didn't adjust. Teams came into this season using this strategy and while we've won our offence is no longer the best in the league, even though we have the most talent of any offence in the league.
Chapdelaine needs to make the adjustments to our offence NOW in this bye week. The best example is one I've given numerous times. The fake to Warren, naked bootleg, has been used in every game. Its caused numerous wicked hits to our quarterbacks, resulted in interceptions, and has been ineffective. GET RID OF IT or block it differently. The offensive schemes need to be relooked at. Chapdelaine has shown he is capable of excellent game plans, as evidenced by the first Calgary game and the Hamilton game, before Printers got hurt...he just needs to do it consistently each game.
Relook at the experiment of using Rasouli at three different positions in a game. Perhaps the time has come to insert Rasouli in the starting lineup instead of Kelly Bates. If the Leos want to get Rasouli some playing time how about alternating him into one position each game. Offensive line's need cohesion and play as a unit. Offensive line, after quarterback, is the most complex position to play. Offensive lineman need to be intelligent and be able to read defences, just like a quarterback, to be successful.
Blitzing defences need to be hurt. There's a saying you live by the blitz and you die by the blitz. Saskatchewan, on the final drive by the Leos, died by the blitz. You hurt blitzing teams who blitz their linebackers with screens, dumps, underneath passes, quick crossing passes, quick slants, hot reads, etc. You hurt teams who blitz their inside halfbacks with rollouts and slide protection away from the blitz. You hurt teams that blitz safetys with deep posts, etc. The key is to hurt blitzing teams short with a lot of plays that take advantage of the underneath area that linebackers have vacated. You hurt teams that blitz defensive backs with longer passes that take advantage of single coverage. You have to hurt teams that blitz defensive backs vertically. The key is scheming and protection to provide time for the longer pass. Maximum protection, semi-rollouts, play action, moving the pocket help the offence do that.
You need to establish a running game. A running game holds back the rush and makes play action work. The Leos often run play action without establishing the running game. Oppositions rarely buy it. An effective running game is a key for the quarterback to have more time to throw in the passing game. When the Leos have had a good running game plan and used it they've played much better offensively. Fifteen yards rushing against Saskatchewan hurt the passing game. The Leos running game is too vanilla and needs more deception, variety, misdirection. A pitch to Warren which enables him to cut back off tackle, more counter action and misdirection, and a few more pitches would help. The Leos also don't trap block very much and against blitzing teams who are penetrating this would be effective.
Look for opportunities to become less predictable each week and not let teams game plan for our tendancies. An example was Burratto's wishbone offence in the Calgary game which had our defence reeling. I don't want to see us use the wishbone. However surprise is an effective weapon. Last year we went to a double tight end set against Montreal and burned them deep all game. They weren't prepared for it and had blitzed the hell out of teams. It's an example of becoming less predictable. The occasional reverse, slotback counter, fake handoff and pitch back to the quarterback, ptich and throw etc. at the right time makes us less easy to defence. We did more of that last year.
It's a good time to get this problem fixed. If we can become less predictable, make the necessary changes to our offence to protect our quarterbacks including moving the pocket more, and begin to hurt blitzing teams more consistently with the right kind of plays we'l be unstoppable.