Here is our Mid-Season report card on the Irish.
The area many felt would be the team's strength has not lived up to expectations so far. While showing promise, there are still areas of work needed across the board. You see a glimpse of what is ahead but this is not Brian Kelly's offense working on all cylinders.
As expected the Irish use of the forward pass is the main weapon of choice for Kelly and for good reason. With great talent at the tight end and wide receiver positions, Kelly just needed to have a quarterback to deliver the goods.
The Irish average 284 passing yards per game but should be expected to average over 300 yards a game. Dropped passes, poor throws from the quarterback position and misreads are the main reasons for the difference in production. The past two games have shown some improvement in this area but only on a few drives. This is not the Kelly offense fans will see once things are in place.
The running game is also down from what should be expected in the future by about 30-yards per game. Some of this comes from shovel passes being counted in the passing stats, not running stats, and the fact almost seventy yards have been subtracted from sacks. Overall, Armando Allen looks to be solid but another back must step forward and help pick up some of the load.
As we have stated in the past, the poor performance of scoring touchdowns in the Red-Zone (52%) has also played a major role in the team's success overall. This must improve or the Irish will find themselves losing a game they should have clearly won.
QUARTERBACKS: Grade: C
Dayne Crist continues to grow in Kelly's system while starting to show some of the signs that should be expected. He is hitting a good completion percentage, but at times makes the wrong throws.
The lack of Red-Zone touchdowns rest on Crist shoulders and he must improve for the Irish to have the success expected this season. Quarterback in a Brian Kelly offense is responsible of getting the offense into a good play or getting them out of a bad one. Crist is still working on mastering both of these areas.
RUNNING BACKS: Grade B
If this was a grade for only Armando Allen it would be an A+, but it is as a group and right now, there are still things that need to be worked on by the other running backs.
WIDE RECEIVERS / TIGHT END: Grade B
This should have been at least an A in my opinion; there is a lot of talent at this position. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the star so far and in the future will be Theo Riddick. He still makes a few mistakes, but he has the tools to be special and play the role Mardy Gilyard filled for Kelly at Cincinnati.
Michael Floyd is a stud but still has moments where he loses concentration. He must continue to improve on catching the short hard throws that come in this offense and not just live by the great catches he's capable of making. While there was talk of him going to the NFL early, I feel he would be best served if he stayed another year and work on the finer details of his position. However, everyone sees the potential and the lure of NFL money is hard to pass up.
TJ Jones is also going to be special in this offense in the years to come. While Jones still has work to do, the strides he is making should continue to make him a major target in this offense.
John Goodman has been solid and will continue to fill his role in the offense making the sure handed grabs and doing the right things. Nevertheless, this position will continue to see player upgrades in the coming years.
This unit as a whole still has work to do in making key blocks and reducing the number of mistakes they have made this season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Grade B
This was a hard grade to give out, as I am always harder on the offensive line. This was a major concern prior to the season and overall I have been surprised. Has the play been great? No, but it has been solid as the team has seen some injury in the first six games. I also look at the fact at least one player along the line is not the perfect fit for the scheme. Right now, I am giving a higher grade than what I would give if this were not the first year of the system, but continued improvement should be expected as players continue to learn more about what is expected out of them.
After six games, I feel running back Armando Allen has been the team's offensive MVP with wide receiver Theo Riddick pushing him for honors. Allen has 609 total all-purpose yards so far this season and has played steady football each week.