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Navy football: Bye week thoughts — New defense, Jasper on the field, kicker anxieties

There’s lots to digest this week after the first game of a season with lots of question marks.

Holy Cross v Navy Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

How about that new defense

Let’s start with the biggest question mark coming into the season. The new Brian Newberry-led defensive coaching staff was bringing in a style entirely unfamiliar to a Navy defense, and that was clearly evident in the match-up against Holy Cross. Navy fans are used to the conservative bend-don’t-break approach where opponents are allowed to dink and dunk, but end up struggling in the red-zone. This new defense is designed to punch an opponent in the mouth and constantly keep them guessing by mixing up schemes and zone blitz’s.

Not a blitz, but more of this please:

I was very cautiously optimistic about the new approach, because I am always a proponent of being aggressive on either side of the ball. That’s bad business on defense when the result is just allowing big play, after big play, but that was not the case at all against the Crusaders. The mix of play-calling prevented Holy Cross from having any idea what Navy was bringing, effectively preventing their guests from stringing anything significant together throughout the course of the afternoon. Even following a fumble in Navy territory the defense provided a quick stop and the result was a missed field goal.

The real challenge lies ahead with conference play starting next week. Navy never has the luxury of sleeping on any opponent, but the schedule is very favorable in terms of scaling up with the competition getting progressively harder.

Calling plays from the field

There’s lots of new things on offense as well with the Midshipmen, not least of which is Ivin Jasper calling plays from the field for the first time in his career as offensive coordinator at Navy. One of the main reasons for this decision was to give Jasper the ability to do face to face coaching, specifically with his quarterbacks, and — from where I was sitting — it paid off. After Malcolm Perry fumbled to start the the second quarter, the big question was how he would respond, which was pretty awesome — if you ask me — as he ran the option as well as it has been executed in the last few years. He also went 6-for-9 with 103 yards through the air and he looks prepped for a great season.

Especially if he keeps feeding the slots like this:

It’s too early to say whether or not Coach Jasper’s presence on the field had a direct impact on the offense’s performance, but it certainly didn’t hurt. This is something to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.

Holy Swing Pass Batman! That’s all I have to say about it, I just can’t remember ever seeing Navy throw a swing pass. Little things like that add up to an eclectic playbook that will constantly keep defenses off balance, opening up room for the option to roll.

Minor injuries were a blessing in disguise

It was fortunate Navy had the opportunity to rotate in backup quarterbacks for game reps. Thankfully the injury Malcolm Perry sustained was only minor, and there was no reason to keep him in there with the game well in hand. I was thrilled to see both Dalen Morris and Tyger Goslin get the opportunity to run the offense. It was interesting to see them swap out every other play, but the coaching staff still needs to determine who gets the greatest job in all of sports: backup quarterback! I think they both made solid cases, as the offense continued to roll:

No more kicker anxiety

Holy Cross v Navy Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Losing Bennett Moehring was a huge deal, and there was a protracted battle to take his spot. Luckily for the Mids, freshman Bijan Nicols made a solid case and delivered quite a show last weekend by nailing a 44 yarder and going a perfect 6-of-6 on extra points. It was a very strong debut and hopefully that remains the case so we don’t need to have this discussion for another 4 years.

As I mentioned previously, the Mids have a very fortuitous schedule this season and get to gradually ramp up the level of competition. The coaching staff got to exercise the new defense in a game-time environment with smashing success. The offense was rolling as well as it ever has and it appears the passing game will once again be a factor opponents have to plan for. I’ll feel more confident about the rest of the season after Navy faces Memphis (who looked terrific last week against Ole Miss) in a few weeks. Overall, if this is where Navy is starting this season then indications suggest a bounce back season for the Men of Ken in 2019.