In the NFL, offenses are winning the battle over defense.
For example, the Patriots and Eagles were both ranked in the top five in scoring defense, yet between the two, they only punted a combined one time in the Super Bowl.
Another example: NFL teams are valuing their offensive players at the expense of their defensive ones. The Rams handed a boatload of cash to new receiver Brandin Cooks and young running back Todd Gurley while star defensive lineman Aaron Donald hasn’t gotten a new contract. Similarly, the Raiders haven’t come up with the cash to pay their best defensive player, Khalil Mack.
Teams realize that, with today’s statistics and analytics, offenses are nearly impossible to stop, so they’ve poured all their attention to scoring. It’s time Stanford follows their lead.
Now, it’s time for Stanford to do the same and ditch their trusty ground-and-pound approach. For years, the Stanford’s game plan has been predictable: dominate the line of scrimmage, run it up the gut, and rely on the defense. Yes, it’s been successful, but this game plan has cost the Cardinal a handful of games, too.
In the past, David Shaw has gone into games thinking: our defense is better than yours, and it will crush you. Now in 2018, he needs to approach every game thinking: our offense will crush you.
There’s a real chance this year’s defense won’t be very good. How do you replace Harrison Phillips, Justin Reid, and Quenton Meeks on a defense that already struggled at times last season? I have my doubts that the team can rely on their defense this year.
On the other hand, the offense is phenomenal. No words need to be spoken about Bryce Love. K.J. Costello avoids turnovers, and his receiving corps is potentially the best Stanford has ever had. Lastly, the offensive line almost all return in 2018.
With this dynamic offense, Shaw must mix it up and be aggressive. He must start passing more on first down, getting Love creatively involved in the passing game, including more trick plays, and maybe go with a no-huddle offense here and there. Heck, I think Shaw should even go for it on fourth down frequently.
Backed by strong analytics of the situations, the Eagles went for it on fourth down more than any other team, and they scored a touchdown or field goal on 13 of the 18 drives in which they converted a fourth down. As a result, the Eagles totaled 85 points (4.7 points per drive) in instances where they went for it on fourth down instead of deciding to punt or kick a field goal, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Super Bowl champions trusted their offense more than their defense and turned the unpredictable in their favor. Stanford must do the same in 2018.
Nerds love analytics; it’s time Nerd Nation embraces them as well.