Downfield Passing (Or Lack Thereof)

Submitted by Raback Omaba on October 25th, 2009 at 1:21 PM

While I can pick about a dozen things about yesterday and our other losses to analyze and criticize, I have chosen one, which I think is really hurting us.

This is our downfield passing game. Where has it gone? I checked the back of my milk carton this morning while eating my wheaties and sa

Last year it was completely non - existent, for reasons that I understand and completely support. Threet and Sheridan didn't have the goods to make our downfield passing game any type of threat.

I completely understand that Tate and Denard are freshman, but they do have the skills (more notably Tate) to pass it downfield. It was refreshing to see Tate and Hemingway connect on a few downfield bombs against EMU......I thought that this was a sign of things to come. But then it all stopped.

We have the WR's to throw passes downfield - Stonum and JR. specifically - and it kills me that we are not utilizing them.

What's the deal?? Is this absence a function of freshmen QB's, or is it simply a function of the run based spread option
offense? I honestly think that it's a function of poor offensive game planning.

In any case, I feel very strongly that RichRod needs to utilize the vertical passing game, at least a little bit.

It'll open up the run and allow the slots to have better success as well.

Thoughts? Has anyone noticed this as well?



October 25th, 2009 at 3:44 PM ^

Yeah. Yesterday it seemed like any pass play that took more than a couple of seconds to develop resulted in Tate running for his life.

Having said that, I do think we're trying too hard to spread the ball around. Two guys I think we've underutilized are Mathews (not so much yesterday, but overall) and Stonum. Mathews is a dependable possession guy, and we should really be looking to him more often when we need to move the chains. And Stonum is terrific in space; we've got to find ways to get him the ball where he has room to run.


October 25th, 2009 at 1:30 PM ^

From what I can tell, a whole lot of this has to do with the fact that our o-line hasn't been doing a great job as of late. Tate's not inclined to hang around in a collapsing pocket when he can scramble for 3 or 4 yards consistently, so if the receivers aren't getting open quickly and the pocket is closing in on him, he's gonna roll out and scramble.


October 25th, 2009 at 1:39 PM ^

I personally would love to see a few more play actions and a few more naked bootlegs. Let Tate get creative and improvise.

But I'm still drunk from yesterday, so what do I know?


October 25th, 2009 at 1:44 PM ^

This is THE major problem with the offense. The QB's inability to pass effectively downfield. All the bubble screens and 5 yard out patterns are nice, but to truly threaten the defense there has to be a downfield passing attack.

Why isn't it happening?

1) Wide receivers can't get open. Can't create separation. Lets face it, No Michigan WR is a burner. They are all in the 4.5, 4.6 forty yard dash time. Either that or they are terrible route runners. Maybe that's a coaching problem, or maybe they just aren't that talented.

2) Tate is too quick to take off and run. He is. Yes, I love his scrambling and play making ability, but he has to realize this isn't high school anymore and he can't do that every time. Why can't he take his 3 step drop and just throw the damn ball?!

3) O-line can't pass block. I don't know. I'm not a o-line coach. But other than Shilling, none of the current starters will be NFL players.


October 25th, 2009 at 2:07 PM ^

"1) Wide receivers can't get open. Can't create separation. Lets face it, No Michigan WR is a burner. They are all in the 4.5, 4.6 forty yard dash time. Either that or they are terrible route runners. Maybe that's a coaching problem, or maybe they just aren't that talented."

I think Michigan's WRs are more than fast enough. A number of them are "burners" and the ones that aren't are still plenty fast.

matt D

October 25th, 2009 at 3:11 PM ^

I don't think any of our receivers are what you would call "burners". Stonum may be listed as a 4.4, but I highly doubt that is true. On his 61 yard TD catch vs. MSU he could not create the seperation despite being in the open field, he was caught and gave a good stiff arm, and had there been another 10 yards or so he would've definitely been caught by the MSU defender. Matthews is a great possession receiver, but is probably around a 4.6, and Hemingway doesn't look to be particularly fast either. We don't have a Manninghan like talent out there that is able to be a big play threat on every down.


October 25th, 2009 at 1:47 PM ^

I was wondering the same thing. We're having trouble
completing the 5-10 yard pases, mainly from drops.
Tate should have enough time from the shotgun to get
to receivers downfield. I also think that the swing
pass play should be removed from the playbook and
shredded. I've rarely seen that play, at least the
way we run it, ever go for more than 2 yds., most of
the time it's for a loss.


October 25th, 2009 at 1:47 PM ^

I think it might also have to do with Tate's lack of comfort in the pocket. To hit those downfield bombs you generally have to stand in there and wait for the routes to develop. Even when the O-Line could get some decent pass protection, Tate is still far more apt to freak out and start dancing or scrambling. Which I get, he's a Freshman and he's tiny. It's something he will simply have to grow out of.

Raback Omaba

October 25th, 2009 at 1:49 PM ^

I forgot to mention the pass blocking by the O - Line. Thank you for pointing this out.

Nevertheless, this is THE major problem with our offense.

I hope it improves.


October 25th, 2009 at 1:50 PM ^

of poor pass blocking, ie no time. poor route running, both from youth and inexperience never seems like the WR's get open on their own. Mediocre route design, something I think RR really needs to upgrade. And a QB who with a bad shoulerd I just don't think can make the long throws consistently.

Put it together and you have a below average passing game.


October 25th, 2009 at 2:03 PM ^

Stonum's really the only one who is able to stretch the field vertically. Greg Mathews would be able to if he had elite (or even good) speed, but the dude's just a good possession receiver (who doesn't see the ball enough IMO).

This is why I'm hoping DJ Williamson turns out to be a solid receiver for us in the coming years. The kid has the speed to do what the current receivers cannot do.


October 25th, 2009 at 2:11 PM ^

Forcier's shoulder injury probably plays some role. That INT at the end of the PSU game was underthrown and had very little zip. That's a ball that he was not underthrowning at the beginning of the year.


October 25th, 2009 at 3:11 PM ^

I dont question whether his shoulder has affected his throwing, but the last play is probably not a good example. It was fourth and goal from outside the 15. Penn State had like 7 guys in the end zone and Forcier had zero choice but to force it in there. They were just staring it down.

The King of Belch

October 25th, 2009 at 2:57 PM ^

Right now I believe Tate's shoulder is too injued to allow him to consistently pass the ball downfield. And as others point out--he takes off too early at times and the receivers seem to stop in their tracks when that happens.

The offensive coaching, supposively a strength of this staff, has been atrocious since Notre Dame. WHen the other guy has them figured out, Tate bails them out on his own, or it's Death by No Adjustments.

I believe Tate's comment to The Mighty Godriguez, overheard by Lisa Salters at the Iowa game, probably sums up much of the other players' feelings as well.

You know, this one: "I'm not really sure I know what you want me to do" (paraphrased).

Durham Blue

October 25th, 2009 at 7:13 PM ^

the vertical game is decent for Michigan when the opposing D line is average or worse. But when we face teams with strong D lines it's "run for your life, Tate" and the vertical game is gone. We saw this against MSU and Iowa. And big-time against PSU.


October 25th, 2009 at 9:00 PM ^

@ the OP-

I've also been concerned with the lack of downfield passing, but as others have said, the O-Line and scheme seem to be keeping us from doing it consistently.

one thing I would say, and I e-mailed brian about this, is that I'm not sold that we have good downfield threats. We've had some guys show brief flashes of brilliance (JR and Daryl), but I have to believe if there was a go-to downfield threat, we'd be exploring that more.

also, I'm not all that convinced of Tate's downfield armstrength. I see a lot of risk in setting up downfield throws with the lack of time he's had, and his propensity to underthrow guys.

we'll see. it's a work in progress and will take time to develop. I'm hoping RR can bring in a legitimate go-to #1 receiver that teams actually have to gameplan for. I'm not sold that we have a guy on the depth chart that will develop into that. Maybe Stonum realizes some of the hype he was given... I don't know.