It was another dud of a home opener for Navy this past weekend against the Delaware Blue Hens. For the third straight season, Navy opened its season at home and failed to score eight points.
The Midshipmen scored three points versus BYU in 2020. That was a pandemic season in which a bad opener could easily be forgiven, but failing to score eight points in each of the next two seasons – last year against Marshall, this year against Delaware – is a big, flashing red light for the program.
In the 2021 offseason, Navy heard nothing but one thing for eight months, from January through August: The offensive line needs to be better. The offense needs to be fixed. Navy needs to regain the functionality and fluidity we are accustomed to seeing from Ken Niumatalolo’s triple-option offense.
Then Navy got demolished in the opener against Marshall, and the Midshipmen struggled on offense for most of the season.
The 2022 offseason was a repeat of 2021: The offensive line needed to improve. The offense had to find a higher gear. This was the entire focus of the coaching staff: Return the offense to its expectedly high standard of performance. No, a complete display was not to be expected in Week 1, but scheduling Delaware was supposed to give this offense an on-ramp toward improved performance and increased rhythm.
Nope. It didn’t happen. Navy’s offensive line once again got stuffed, but this was not BYU in 2020. This was Delaware, an FCS program the Midshipmen should regularly be able to solve. Scoring only seven points is a brutal way to start the season. As the focus shifts to Memphis, there’s not a lot of mystery about the things the Mids need to do better.
1 – Offensive line
We don’t really have to explain too much, do we? Navy won’t get better as a program, and won’t return to the Keenan Reynolds, Malcolm Perry, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada standard of performance on offense until the offensive line starts pancaking opposing defensive fronts. Memphis is the opponent this week, but the opponent doesn’t really matter. The offensive line has to do its job. Period.
2 – Tai Lavatai
If the offensive line can’t block, Navy is in trouble, but Tai Lavatai needs to find ways to make plays in the passing game, which might force defenses to back off just enough to set up the run. If there is one less man in the tackle box, that could be the difference between a running play which works and a running play which gets smothered. Lavatai has to change the equation for the Navy offense while the offensive line works through its problems.
3 – Formations
Navy uses the triple-option, but with the offensive line failing to carve out running lanes for ballcarriers, the Navy staff needs to provide formations opponents aren’t used to seeing, so that defenses can’t get as good a read on what Navy will do. We’re not talking about changing the run-versus-pass mixture in the offense; giving a different pre-snap look might simply make defenses more indecisive. Navy has to find some way to get defenses on their heels. It can’t just do the same thing every play and expect different results … at least not until the O-line elevates its level of performance.