Vernon Adams' return elevates Oregon offense
Vernon Adams arrived in Eugene to much fanfare this summer. A high-profile graduate transfer, Adams was expected to ease the program through any post-Mariota slump.
Not that it could ever have been so straight-forward. Mariota had mastered the Oregon offense and ran it about as well as possible. Adams had less than one month to learn it before being thrown in to start against his former team, Eastern Washington, then promptly suffered a broken finger. He played through that injury in Oregon’s defeat to Michigan State, but appeared to be out of sync with his receivers. In his absence Oregon turned to Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie, but neither of them were able to get the offense going. Adams made a short-lived return against Utah, but it wasn’t until the game against Washington that he was truly ready to lead the offense and show precisely what it is he can do. Adams earned a +2.8 overall grade against the Huskies, which was easily the best grade posted by an Oregon QB this season.
Adams is mobile, capable of hurting a defense with his legs as a runner, and perhaps more importantly, using that mobility to elude pressure and buy time to spot an open receiver downfield. It’s unclear how much of his play is based on following the play call, and how much of it is off-the-cuff, but it is effective. Mobility is a trait shared by all Oregon’s QB options, however — what sets Adams apart from Lockie and Alie is his ability as a passer.
With Lockie or Alie under center, the Oregon offense has had little success pushing the ball down the field, completing just a 21.4 percent of deep passes (those that travel 20 or more yards downfield in the air) and averaging 6.53 yards per passing attempt. With the big play threat much reduced, they were reliant on receivers making plays after the catch, gaining 64 percent of their passing yardage that way.
With Adams under center they have completed 59.1 percent of deep passes, averaged 8.89 yards per passing attempt, and were less reliant on yards after the catch, gaining 41.1 percent of their passing yards that way. Adams makes the Oregon offense more dynamic and a little more unpredictable.
One thing that helped Adams against Washington was the timely return from suspension of WR Darren Carrington. Carrington led the Ducks’ WRs in 2014 with a +10.0 overall grade, despite only having the fifth-highest snap count of the group. Against Washington he caught all five catchable passes that came his way for 125 yards and two touchdowns, earning a +1.7 overall grade. Carrington averaged 4.31 yards per route run, and impressive figure given it was his first game with Adams.