The Ducks have gotten off to a great start this season on defense, and in the face of major injuries no less. Just because the team hasn't seen Kayvon Thibdeaux in the last two games, players like Verone McKinley and Noah Sewell have stepped up to bring the juice.
Here are three keys to the game for the defense against Arizona.
1. Get Pressure off the Edge
In the last competitive game the Ducks had against Ohio State, the defense didn't get much pressure on the quarterback at all until the very last series of the game. Now, there is a chance Kayvon Thibodeaux could return for the game this Saturday and that would significantly change the outlook in that regard.
However, even if he is available, there's a chance the staff chooses to rest him. In that case it'd be interesting to see players like DJ Johnson and Brandon Buckner try and get more pressure on whichever quarterback Arizona throws out there.
Bradyn Swinson is listed as questionable, so this would be a good opportunity for other players to step up and bring the heat against the Arizona offensive line. Getting a good pass rush is something Oregon has to improve on as big road games loom at Stanford and UCLA down the road.
2. Stay Healthy
Oregon is starting to get healthy on the defensive side of the ball, with linebackers Mase Funa and Keith Brown back and ready to go, and the aforementioned Thibodeabux is improving and is day-to-day. Going into conference play, this is a significant development for Oregon, as the defense has already looked solid in multiple areas, particularly forcing turnovers and stopping the run, two areas it struggled in last year.
Getting healthy has its obvious benefits - it's huge for the depth and long term success of the defense. Also, in a game like this you really wouldn’t want to see any injuries going into a big road game against Stanford the following week. If the Ducks can stay healthy it bodes well for their chances of winning down the road.
3. Continue to Force Turnovers
After forcing three fumbles in week 1 against Fresno State, and a key interception by Verone McKinley III to beat Ohio State, Oregon continued its great start by snagging three picks last week along with a fumble recovery against Stony Brook. "The general" as he's called, has significantly raised the ceiling on this defense and has them playing at a high level and flying to the ball.
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Oregon's defense continues to believe that forcing turnovers can be taught, and so far that's proving true with an added emphasis placed on giving the ball back to the offense as quickly as possible. What's also been impressive is how the defensive backs have continued to thrive in making plays on the ball despite a struggling pass rush.
If the Ducks can continue to force turnovers against Arizona, Jedd Fisch's squad could be in for a long night.
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