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#W2W4: Syracuse Orange

This week's What To Watch For pumps the brakes a little on the expectations.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

WILL SYRACUSE SPY LAMAR JACKSON?

Lamar Jackson is obviously a dynamic running quarterback and he has really shown his ability to take over a game in his last three outings. Syracuse didn't have to face Jackson last year but I'm sure they've been prepping all summer for how they will slow Jackson down. One way they could look to do that is by employing a similar strategy to what Houston did last season. Houston utilized their safeties to spy and contain Jackson. With the added pressure from blitzes and natural pressure, Houston held Jackson to 16 yards rushing.

Syracuse could (and probably should) use Antwan Cordy at nickel to to work as a zone/contain man while weakside linebacker Parris Franklin spies from the opposite side. Teams shouldn't really be playing man against Louisville in the first place so it shouldn't be a major scheme change this early in the season. What it really should be for Cuse is a shift from a normal zone approach to one that is built on containing Jackson and pressuring him in different ways. If the Orange can get penetration with their front four, Jackson would have much more limited avenues to run and Louisville's offense would be much different than it has been over the last 3-4 games. Based on Charlotte getting pressure on 16 of Jackson's 28 dropbacks last week, I would assume Syracuse should be able to force some pressure.

HOW DOES UOFL'S OFFENSIVE LINE IMPROVE IN PASS PROTECTION?

The first way that Louisville's pass protection can improve is by it's quarterback identifying pressure better. Charlotte (and every decent defense last year) blitzed from the second level well and Lamar Jackson failed to identify the blitz and adjust his protection or the routes being run. Jackson has to recognize alignment and body language from linebackers and corners/safeties. If a safety is cheating over towards the slot corner, there's a good chance that the corner is blitzing. If the middle linebacker is lined up in the middle of the field when everyone else is in man coverage, he might be coming on a blitz or will likely be rushing after the running back stays in to block. Identifying the pressure is the first step in pass protection.

The other issue with Louisville's pass protection is simply communication and technique with the linemen. There are too many times where teams are able to twist, stunt, and delay to get pressure up the middle against the Cards. At times the linemen have had issues with getting "fooled" by angled rush paths and they end up turning their body to chase the block. When you do that you leave a gap which is exactly what you need to perform a tackle-end twist right into the face of the quarterback. Those angled rushes, or "slants", have also been pretty successful against Louisville. They've led to good pressure as well as holding penalties because guys haven't moved their feet well enough and ended up grabbing or getting beaten. The biggest issue that this is causing is that teams are figuring out that you can get pressure without blitzing and it's shrinking the passing lanes for Jackson. Syracuse might not be a team that can exploit this but you can put money on FSU doing so.

WAS WEEK ONE FOOL'S GOLD?

Louisville looked great in many facets of the game last week against Charlotte. But it was Charlotte. Syracuse has a new coach for a reason so it's not like they are a team that Louisville should fear and I don't think they are in any danger of taking a loss to the Orange. But I think it's fair to wonder if the performance in week one was overblown. Lamar Jackson put on a show and made some really nice runs and one of the best passes I've seen a UofL quarterback make since Teddy was here when he found James Quick in the back of the endzone. Some of those plays are what I call "universal" plays. Plays that would be outstanding no matter who you're playing. However, some of the plays that were made by Jackson and others were plays that were made because they were the far superior team on the field. Louisville's defense will have to adapt this week. Can they be a defense that doesn't rely on pressure and chaos? The Cardinal's offense won't likely be able to rely on Lamar Jackson to be the only running threat. Can the offense stay disciplined enough to had the ball off to the running backs even when the yards are tough? I don't think that the Louisville win last week should be diminished because they prepared and they executed, but I do think there could a concern that the expectations are getting a little too high over a game against Charlotte.