Keeping up with the Joneses
A very good 5 minute feature from Trevor Matich and Todd McShay that breaks down the personnel challenges of defending OU's spread and some of the mechanical issues that Landry Jones suffered from in his late season decline. I have some thoughts in how that relates to our defense this year.
I'm a big fan of Trevor Matich. His breakdown a couple of years ago on how to defend Urban Meyer's spread is one of the best pieces of football instruction I've ever seen (and no, his advice wasn't to wait until Meyer's roster implodes).
Matich's point about OU's ability to use their base personnel to give a variety of looks is right on. They lure teams into playing base defense by showing a FB, RB, TE, line up in an empty set, and put linebackers and safeties into uncomfortable positions. However, the final formations they get into are inflexible. An empty set without a running QB is a declaration of intention. A one back set isn't much better. Good defenses can get hits on the QB and WRs in exchange for yardage. The O is short on protection options, so throws need to come out quickly. Any inside pressure, an overload, or a botched assignment with a free blitzer is disastrous.
Further, if a defense has good hinge personnel who are capable of doing multiple things as blitzers, in run support, or in coverage (Vaccaro, Hicks, Cobbs, Edmond, Phillips), Diaz can play the formation and not the personnel. You don't have to overreact to a spread formation with OU's base personnel by putting in a dime and then getting run on, nor do you have to watch your base 4-3 backers get killed by scatbacks in the flat.
That's the area I'm most optimistic about in Dallas.
As for Landry Jones, I'm on board with some of McShay's points. His end of year deterioration is partially attributable to WR injuries and inconsistency, but he strikes me as more the product of an offensive approach that needs the other cogs in the machine working well in order to do his thing. Read a little about George Whitfield, Jr. I'll venture a guess that most of what he's doing with LJ is fixing his mechanics and getting him more comfortable when he has to go off script.