Editor's note: In this week's blog, Marty Coleman analyzes some of the early trends from the Clemson offense...
Two games into the 2013 season the deepest route run by Sammy Watkins (that didn’t involve a penalty) has been 13 yards.
Last Saturday, when Martavis Bryant and Germone Hopper were seen going long Watkins furthest target from the line of scrimmage was 6 yards. True, Watkins played less than half the game, but out of the 4 times he was targeted 3 were behind the line of scrimmage and the other the aforementioned 6 yards downfield.
Even Adam Humphries, the possession receiver of all possession receivers, caught a ball 20 yards downfield Saturday, but not Watkins.
Clemson receiver numbers (through 2 games)
It’s early, but 50% of Watkins targets have been at or behind the line of scrimmage and while Tajh Boyd explained Tuesday that teams are playing the Tigers in a way that limits the ability to throw the deep ball that hasn’t stopped other receivers from going deep on occasion.
I like to think of the short passes as an extension of the running game. They’re high percentage, low risk, get the ball in the hands of your playmakers and let them do their thing. I get it, it works, many times to perfection and you want the ball in Sammy’s hands as much as possible. The short passes are easier to complete and there’s always the chance that Watkins will break a tackle and score (see Georgia game).
Tigers turn focus to N.C. State
But occasionally I’d like to see Sammy go long, or at least longer than 6 yards, and you have to believe that a shot or two downfield to Watkins would affect the chances of defensive backs playing No. 2 tight at the line.
We all remember the failed fourth and 1 failure against South Carolina State, but how many of us remember that on the third and 3 on the prior Boyd hit Watkins with a short pass and Watkins was stopped short of the first down by a defender playing right on him, seemingly not worried about Sammy doing anything but catching a short pass.
Obviously that play didn’t impact the outcome of the South Carolina State game, but a similar play may impact a game at some point this season.
Success Means Elevated Standards
Pre-Chad Morris Clemson fans would have been thrilled to average 5.7 yards per offensive play, but success creates new standards and the standards have risen for the Clemson offense over the last three seasons.
Clemson has been successful in improving the number of plays through the first two games thanks to a 95 play barrage against South Carolina State, but one area where the Tigers are not keeping up is yards per play. While 5.72 yards is nothing to sneeze at, it’s noticeably lower than last year’s 6.28 mark and that was good for only 24th place in my efficiency rankings.
There are several reasons for this drop, most notably dropped passes and inconsistency from Boyd leading to a 60% completion rate through 2 games. It also shows that perhaps the Tigers are missing DeAndre Hopkins a bit more than anticipated.
Clemson offensive efficiency (through 2 games)
Boyd has also not been as crisp in the first two games as he was last season and his best games of 2013 are ahead of him. Assuming Boyd is on his game on the September 19th this is good news for Tiger fans.
Despite perhaps not performing up to the standard he himself has set, Boyd’s refusal to lose is still there, strong as ever.
When Tajh plays his last game at Clemson and all the touchdowns, highlights and records are tallied the thing I will miss most about having #10 at quarterback is Boyd’s heart. While we repeatedly measure quarterbacks in endless categories with seemingly endless numbers, one thing not on any stat sheet shines through at the end of the day: Tajh Boyd is a winner.
Check out more on Boyd's year thus far here.