Before I get into the grades, I need to quickly address the growing debate in the comments section of the post-game thread. The reason I don’t post during the game and generally avoid specific criticism in the first post-game thread is that it lacks perspective. I watch the games back to see what I missed the first time around and because I also have the added benefit of a few hours to cool off. Perspective is also why I feel it is way too premature to predict how the Jags era will play out. It is also too premature to start saying if this season is over or a failure. Let’s let it all play out a bit before we start saying who is to blame and what needs to be done.
As for this game. The added perspective I spoke of was disheartening. Chris Crane was actually worse than I thought watching it live. The offensive line was also worse than I thought. The D has its problems, which I’ll get to, but wasn’t terrible. The special teams was what you saw. Now onto the grades.
First glance at Crane: No picks, 1 TD. Yeah! But not really. He had atrocious incompletes. Only four of those were drops. 12 were really poor throws. Now I am glad he threw it away a few times, but his decision making on a whole was not good. I think many of his problems are coming even before the snap. When he gets to the line he is not taking it all in, because when the pressure comes he rushes the throw to the side from where the pressure is coming. Clemson must have picked up on this because they basically left the other side of the field alone. Crane never adjusted to take advantage of the easy completions. The spread/option run (something he used to do well) was also blown up when he kept the ball. His downfield throws were way off target. Even a few of the bright spots like his runs were probably missed opportunities to put the ball downfield. Our line didn’t do him any favors (I’ll get to that in a minute) but he’s got to be more accurate in general. His best moments were when they were playing zone and he had time. Clemson wisely moved away from that. I am in the get Davis on the field camp. I don’t think Crane is the sole reason we are losing but he is a big, big part. Can he play well enough to win the division? Sure, if the other teams play into our hands like NC State did. However, I don’t have much hope now.
The offensive line had their worst game of the season. Prior to this game my only complaint about Matt Tennant’s great season was his snapping. Saturday he gave me a lot more to complain about. In addition to more errant snaps, he had multiple miscues in his pass protection and when we ran the ball. Clemson waited for him to engage and then sent someone, leaving Tennant a step behind the rusher. Castonzo did well in pass protection and our best runs were behind him and Ramsey. However, there was an awkward screen pass where he was just left standing around. Block someone! Ramsey remained consistent. Claiborne wasn’t as bad as he’s been but still wasn’t good. Lapham really struggled, including a killer holding penalty. The lines attempt at a counter was also poor. When Crane gets good protection he can be serviceable. If we are going to win any of our remaining games it comes down to this unit.
Josh Haden is coming on which is encouraging. He looked good at reading holes and hitting them hard. He’s also proving tough to tackle. His TD was purely from his own second effort. Harris didn’t have as many good carries, but the blocking in front of him was not great. He also had a drop. I do think Harris is the better of the two at picking up the blitzes. McCluskey remains reliable. I think we should get him in the passing attack earlier in the game.
BRob had a solid game although his fumble hurt. Gunnell had a drop but remains our best run after the catch guy. Momah was solid and the fade route in the end zone (that drew a flag) might be our best red zone play. Megwa looked good. I hope he makes it back next year. Purvis did not have a great game. I am glad he is getting involved, but he had two drops and hasn’t turned a short catch into a long run in a few games.
Get your knives out because I am going to be an apologist for Logan. Live, I didn’t feel he called a good game. Watching back I think the issues were more about the line and QB. He stuck with the run (which we all wanted). Combined they rushed 30 times for 120 yards. Not impressive but certainly not impatient or abandoning the run. I think he mixed up the type of passes (screens, roll outs, short, deep). Not much of it clicked but it wasn’t because Clemson played so well. Now the part that he deserves criticism for is Chris Crane. Crane has been suspect since this summer. That’s on Logan. Crane still has decision making problems. That’s on Logan. They’ve tried different approaches and the results are not changing. That’s on Logan. Now for whatever unstated reason, they are not making changes with Davis or in the offense they run with Crane. That’s on Logan and Jags.
Ramella lost Harper on his TD run and couldn’t close a few other times. He was good against the run. Giles played well. Brace continued his strong play. He was probably the best performer on the defense. Raji played well again. Hat’s off to Rossi. He was moved over to DT for this game and made a few plays. Scafe looked good. Newman played well. Ramsey was decent. The defensive line lacks a great pass rusher, but they are pretty good and the only unit where the second teamers don’t represent a major drop off from the starters.
The linebackers were more inconsistent. All three starters made some big plays (McLaughlin and Herzy’s INTs were huge). But they also struggled at times. In fact, when in zone they are good in pass coverage. When they get into man situations, they are getting exploited (especially Herzy). Francois filled in well for Toal and was fairly active. Spiller gave them all problems and they all took bad angles. I am assuming the troubles making tackles and taking bad angles is because these guys are getting gased. They never come off the field, which is not how we’ve used LBs the past few years. Saturday I found out why. When the backups got on the field, big plays happened. On Spiller’s first big pass catch (the wheel route) he came out of the backfield and Thompson didn’t even breathe on him. That allowed Spiller to reach the secondary in full stride and kept Davis out of position. Clemson got into the red zone and scored. The drop off in play is scary. We need fresh legs and we need to develop some future LBs.
Paul Anderson had another decent game, although he did miss a few tackles on Spiller runs. Davis struggled, but deserves credit for stopping Spiller on one of the long runs. Bowman played well. Fletcher got overly aggressive trying to stop the run and got burned for a deep route. Gause is looking better.
Spaz actually called a decent game. We brought pressure nearly 20% of the time. My only problem with the blitzes is that too often they fail to surprise or get true pressure on the QB. The biggest problem with the D was giving up the big play and that was because we kept missing tackles.
Special Teams: D-
The punt block was good. They design it well and have the right mix of guys.
The punt return didn’t do much but I think Gunnell does a good job of judging when to run and when to fair catch and doesn’t let it roll.
The punting was decent. Quigley got a good bounce on one. There wasn’t a ton of distance, but they get off clean and have good coverage. The Flutie directional stuff isn’t working. Might as well have Quigley do that.
Aponavicius…do I really need to write anything? At this point you might as well try Flutie there. Or Quigley or pull another SuperFan out of the stands. Great kid. Great story. Really, really below average kicker.
The kickoffs were well intentioned but not well executed. The one that went out of bounds. Bad. The Spiller return after we took the lead was terrible. I understand using Quigley for short directional kicks, but the tackling and lanes and containment were terrible. What’s going on there? FSU is going to be drooling watching our special teams film.
Jeff Smith wasn’t the main problem on kick returns this week. The blocking is terrible. Another situation where they don’t seem to be on the same page. Clemson guys ran down the field untouched. Unacceptable.
To Jags’ credit the team was down 17-0 and came back. The fake punt and the block were great rolls of the dice. I appreciate going for it on fourth and also think keeping Aponavicius on the bench after the misses were the right calls. The problems were not in game planning or in-game adjustments. The problems that are on Jags is we have been pathetic on kickoffs and kick returns for a year a half. That’s on him. Crane is bad, but through three quarters of the season, they haven’t figured out a way to turn the lemon into lemonade. That’s on him. Most disconcerting, is the play of the offensive line. That’s Jags' baby. Last year he and Bick did a fabulous job with the line. This year they’ve been very inconsistent and the right side hasn’t been very good. In fact everyone is focusing on a QB change when maybe we should be talking about reshuffling the right side or trying some of the bench guys.
Things are now off track. Jags needs to get it back on track. Stay tuned.