Now that Chip Kelly is coaching in the NFC East, the Redskins need to get used to, well, some of what they were doing to other teams this season. At Oregon, Kelly ran an up-tempo zone-read attack. It’s uncertain how much of his offense he’ll be able to run in the NFL, especially in his first season. But it’s easy to guess that he’ll want to play at a fast pace — part of the reason New England’s offense plays at a quick tempo is because of Kelly’s influence.
So how do you stop this attack? I went back to my alma mater to find out. After all, Ohio State’s defense held Oregon to 17 points and 260 yards in a 2010 Rose Bowl victory. (I also emailed coordinators from schools that played Oregon every year, but those coaches are out recruiting).
Former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said of facing Oregon: “The biggest thing we had to do is figure out how we get the defense called and how you get your substitutions because when they run that many plays your defensive line gets tired and you try to rotate guys in and keep them as fresh as you can. But the problem is they don’t give you any time to do that.”
Also in the email report, Heacock said they practiced at a faster pace, something that might be easier to do in college. Here’s why: Ohio State would have one offense run a play, with another one standing behind them. When the play ended, the other offense would line up. It’s tough to do that in the NFL with far fewer players.
But there are things they can do.
“We tried to change it up like crazy and do different looks and give the quarterback some read problems,” Heacock said. “It is the zone read and if he’s reading it, give him some problems. Try to give him different looks. I compare it to option football, the veer and the wishbone. You better be disciplined and have the ability to change it up and then you have to tackle in space.”
The longer the zone read was around the more college defenses evolved. Heacock expects the same to happen in the NFL. Defenses will learn how to change the read of the quarterback on the zone read, for example.
“And then we tried to move the front so we had some loopers and change up what the look will be as far as who has the quarterback,” Heacock said. “We’d pull the end inside and he takes the dive. A lot of subtle changes and a lot goes back to option football.”
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