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The Foster Moreau Problem

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Where did it go wrong?

LSU v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The misuse of Foster Moreau has been rampant this season but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until this game and 1 specific play.

I went into the season thinking we had a wild card in our 6’8 veteran tight end. A guy who could block as needed in run or pass protection but could really become a matchup problem in the pass game.

That didn’t happen. Foster will finish the season with a measly 20 catches and 2 touchdowns. 9 of those catches and both touchdowns coming in the last 2 games. 9 catches and 1 touchdown against SEC opponents.

With 2:05 left in the first quarter, the problem hit me square in the face:

All of a sudden, our giant tight end was split out into the slot. This was a rare sight. A very high percentage of Foster Moreau’s snaps this season had him lined up as an inline tight end or as a wing.

Foster Moreau was our 6th o-lineman the whole year.

The staffs reasoning for doing this is 2-fold. One, it’s to help in the running game. LSU, as always, wanted to run the ball on early downs so having a tight end in there to help with double teams makes some sense. Second, they didn’t trust the 5 actual offensive linemen in protection so they kept Moreau and the running back in to help as often as possible.

Our massive matchup problem at tight end finished the season with... 27 routes run from the slot! Absolutely mind boggling misuse of what could have been a great weapon and outlet for Joe Burrow.

Imagine Jimmy Graham finishing a season with only 3 slot routes run per game. Certainly, the use of Moreau as an inline tight end is warranted in more than a few situations but the coaching staff needed to find more of a balance.

11 personnel (3 receivers, 1 tight end, 1 running back) can be a matchup problem based on how the defense will treat the tight end. Will they use a larger Sam linebacker or will they sub out play with a more fleet footed Nickel back. Moreau will be a problem, because of his size and reach, no matter who is covering him.

Against man coverage where Foster is being covered by a smaller defender, you can run inside breaking routes to allow him to utilize him frame to box defenders out. Bigger defenders will get deeper routes run on them where they are not adept at covering down the field.

You’re telling me Foster couldn’t win on in-breaking route here?

Moreau would also be a good blocker on flanker screens and fade routes in the endzone. Think about how Texas A&M used the big Rodgers guy in overtime. Slot fades from the goal line.

LSU tried to run a sort of 3 verts style play a lot this year. Mostly because they needed a downfield concept while keeping 7 guys in protection. This led to a lot of the backshoulder fades that Burrow threw. The Derrick Dillon touchdown against Auburn was on the same concept.

It also led to a lot of incompletions. By keeping so many guys in protection, opposing linebackers could sink deep and take away that dig route. One of the reasons why LSU often ran this play off play action (as soft as the fake usually was) was to hold the linebackers at least a little bit.

What’s better than 3 verts? 4 verts! How did Drew Brees get the ball to Jimmy Graham so much? Up the seam!

If a team is going to put a Sam linebacker on Foster, they are also going to mitigate that match up issue by playing zone. Underneath routes with a giant tight end are great against zone!

LSU might have told itself that they were running a spread offense but this was far from the spread we were promised when O took over.