Oregon’s bye week brings a chance to assess how it has performed in all facets of the game. The No. 9 Ducks will enter Week 6 with a 4-1 record and have plenty of soul-searching to do coming off their first loss of the season.
Throughout the week, ScoopDuck will be evaluating each Oregon position group and providing: overall grades, players whose stock is rising and stock is falling, and breakout candidates for the rest of the season. Next up, the offensive line.
Overall Grade: C-
I won’t pretend to be an expert on offensive line play. Gonna leave that to Geoff Schwartz.
So, to evaluate how Oregon’s offensive front has played this season, I’ll turn to the Pro Football Focus grades. Here is how the publication has graded out Oregon’s tackles, centers, and guards through five games.
Oregon OL grades
- George Moore: 52.9 overall in 234 snaps (40 PBLK, 60.8 RBLK — No. 313-ranked tackle)
- T.J. Bass: 82.7 overall in 334 snaps (72.7 PBLK, 84.2 RBLK — No. 6-ranked guard)
- Alex Forsyth: 73.1 overall in 259 snaps (73.4 PBLK, 71.1 RBLK — No. 18-ranked center)
- Ryan Walk: 68.7 overall in 314 snaps (51.9 PBLK, 71.9 RBLK — No. 82-ranked guard)
- Steven Jones: 59 overall in 258 snaps (74.4 PBLK, 53.7 RBLK — No. 252-ranked tackle)
- Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu: 51.7 overall in 149 snaps (60.7 PBLK, 54.3 RBLK — No. 325- ranked tackle)
Notable players under snap count minimum
- Dawson Jaramillo: 57 overall (53.9 PBLK, 56.7 RBLK in 115 snaps at tackle)
- Jackson Powers-Johnson: 70.2 overall (86.1 PBLK, 65.4 RBLK in 79 snaps at guard)
- Kingsley Suamataia: 65.5 overall (73.3 PBLK, 63.8 RBLK in 11 snaps at tackle)
Make of those numbers what you will. They at least provide a jumping-off point for evaluating Oregon’s offensive line play and they match the eye test. Mario Cristobal wants his team to be a smashmouth bunch that punishes opponents in the trenches.
So far this season, the Ducks have not consistently done that.
The pass-blocking has been flat-out bad. That doesn’t get Anthony Brown off the hook entirely for his sub-par performances, but it’s certainly been a factor. Oregon has been a bit better in the run game, and their dynamic backs have made the most of clean lanes when they get them.
But the play at tackle has been really bad. Oregon will have to quickly find a way to solve that problem if it wants to improve its passing game this season.
Stock rising: T.J. Bass
T.J. Bass has been an unheralded hero for the Ducks this season.
Oregon’s mulleted left guard is one of the least flashy players in the starting lineup in terms of recruiting pedigree. But the former JUCO transfer has been the Ducks’ best linemen this season and one of the best linemen in the country, full-stop.
For all of Oregon’s recruiting success, it’s significant that an underrecruited player can still come in and make a major impact. Bass has made some major improvements as both a pass- and run-blocker after grading out at a 66 overall in 2020.
Bass was the Pac-12’s lineman of the week after Oregon’s win at Ohio State. He’s taken a massive leap forward this season and has been Oregon’s best offensive lineman by a wide margin.
Stock falling: Steven Jones
George Moore may be the more obvious candidate here. But Moore was not particularly good last season — PFF graded him at 56.4 in 2020, and he has only played slightly worse than that this season.
Jones, though, was expected to take a major step forward after a strong 2020 campaign. He graded out at 72.2 in 290 snaps as a redshirt sophomore. That’s not a small sample size, and it seemed to indicate that he was due for a huge 2021 season.
But Jones’ performance has plummeted this fall. He was Oregon’s fourth-highest graded offensive player at any position in 2020 but has been one of its worst linemen through five games this season.
It’s a head-scratching regression for a player who has looked so solid during his abbreviated debut season. It doesn’t seem like replacing him with Aumavae-Laulu is the answer; he has been even worse in 149 snaps.
Breakout candidate: Jackson Powers-Johnson
Oregon’s highly-touted freshman has played his way into the o-line rotation and might be the player best-suited to quickly improve the Ducks’ play up front.
Powers-Johnson has been really solid while slotting in at guard this season. That’s not necessarily what he was expected to do when preseason camp broke; he has been listed as Oregon’s backup center since Week 1.
But when Alex Forysth missed out on the Stanford game due to injury, Ryan Walk slid over to center and Powers-Johnson slotted in at right guard. He played well there and has been looking brighter and brighter each week.
Powers-Johnson has an 86.1 grade in 40 passing-block snaps this season. It’s not exactly a small sample size anymore, and he may force his way into the starting lineup before long.