A few more thoughts about the defensive line

Fletcher Page does some interesting speculating about what Rodney Garner’s announcement this week that Justin Anderson is the leading candidate to start at defensive tackle means.

… But here is my take:

I understand that Todd Grantham inherited these players. They’re not the Dallas Cowboys, and there wasn’t time left to grab someone that would fit the bill. Grantham is currently working on that.

But a statement I’ve come to learn and use that applies to everything in life: You just have to make it work.

Nobody cares that these aren’t Grantham’s guys. Nobody cares if Kwame is young and Bean is adjusting. Nobody cares. It’s just going to have to work.

What people do care about is winning and being successful.

In order for that to happen, I think either Bean or Kwame needs to step up to make this line legitimate…

In other words, even if these guys aren’t ready for it, they’re being put into the positions they need to occupy and achieve at in order for this defense to have a chance to succeed this year.  It’s not so much a gamble as it is a realization that this is the best placement of the existing square pegs in personnel in Grantham’s scheme’s round holes.  Which is another good reminder that we need to be cautious about gauging how much he’s going to be able to accomplish in one season.

One minor thing that I don’t think Page gets right is Anderson’s role in this.

… Yes, Justin Anderson did just move to the defensive side of the ball in the spring. But he does have the stereotypical size for a nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme. So I can see Bean starting. And I also could see him struggling. Neither scenario would be surprising.

That’s a fairly common point I’ve seen made often, but it’s not entirely correct.  Georgia’s not playing a two-gap defensive line version of the 3-4, where a massive nose tackle is critical.  The needs at the position are different in the one-gap scheme that Grantham intends to deploy.

… But new Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who imported the 3-4 from the Dallas Cowboys, believes a nose tackle can flourish in his system. He pointed out that Jay Ratliff was an All-Pro and had eight sacks for the Cowboys last season.

The key is whether a nose tackle has to attack one or two gaps in the offensive line. In the Redskins’ new system, for instance, the nose tackle has to attack two, which tends to limit the opportunities to make plays — like sacks.

But in Grantham’s system, the nose tackle only has to mind the one gap and has more freedom.

“You can make some sacks as a nose if you’ve got some initial quickness and some burst,” Grantham said.

The man who’s got the responsibility of making the Anderson move work out puts it another way.

“I guess the 3-4 (scheme) that everyone’s so paranoid about, when you have that two-gap, you need that big 350-pound nose guard that can just sit in there and just hold the point at center and play both of them ‘A’ gaps,” Garner said. “And I don’t have that.”

All we can do is wait and see if the experiment works.

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “A few more thoughts about the defensive line

  1. All we can do is wait & watch as the experiment can & will work. Bean has found a home that will eventually lead him to the NFL. Tyson, Geathers, & Dobbs have bright futures also.

  2. W Cobb Dawg

    I don’t get it. Most teams would be salivating to have the Dawgs D-line talent. Tyson, Jones, Wood, Dobbs, Anderson, Geathers, Lott, Tripp, Longo, and newbees Smith & Thornton. Most of them were 4 star recruits! If Dawgs can’t get at least 3 sec-calibre starters out of this group then something is seriously wrong. But this is more likely yet another aspect of the Dawgs off-season ‘problems’ that is being blown out of all proportion.

  3. smitdawg

    Great point that everyone seems to be missing. Has anyone else gone online and noticed that Jay Ratliff (NT) is actually the Cowboys’ smallest starting defensive lineman. Grantham’s “one gap” 3-4 uses three essentially equal-sized DLs. After Grantham was hired, I watched the Cowboys’ last few games very closely. They do not run the Patriots’ defense where a 350 lb NT simply plows into the three guys in front of him. All 3 DLs do a lot of shifting around as soon as the ball is snapped. Each man is responsible for shooting a specific gap and getting into the backfield, rather than simply clogging thing up. I think our personnel works with the Grantham defense just fine. I’m excited about this thing.

  4. Chuck

    I also don’t get the angst. Square pegs? Round holes? What team has better basic talent? The angst is that it is all new and the results are unknown, but honestly, I expect the defense to be markedly improved, but also to get mixed up early in the season on some assignments and get burned once in a while. If we aren’t smart enough (and smart seems a bigger than sheer physicality in this defense) to get our scheme worked out then it is going to be a tough season. But I don’t see us not learning the system, and physical talent should not be an issue. From what I can tell from the reports, the players are loving it and embracing it enthusiastically. I see some butt-kickings coming from this D.

    • Macallanlover

      Pretty much where I am Chuck. We will make some mistakes with blown assignments, and these will be partially offset by the plays that get blown up by the “new and improved” penetration. The 3-4 scheme may have an inherent weakness against the straight ahead, power running game some college teams employ, but we have enough talent on hand to run it in 2010.

      I think the mass blubber of Cody has confused the issue about the role of the nose position. Cody’s ability to cause a traffic jam in the center was impressive, but he didn’t bring much else to the party. I think GTG sees more for this position, and is willing to give up the congestion-factor for the other advantages. As everyone agrees, we won’t know until we see it; but I don’t think we are personnel strapped going into the season.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        Cody did block that field goal in the Alabama/Tenn game last season. Unless I’m mistaken/

        • Macallanlover

          No, you are correct. If I recall Cody is actually pretty tall, and the kick seemed low to me (believe he had two blocked that day) which made me question why Junior didn’t try to get closer by trying another pass play before the kick. They had just completed a long one down the middle a couple of plays earlier.

          I saw Cody at the Senior Bowl practices and was sitting among some NFL scouts who were laughing at his lack of mobility and conditioning. He looked horrible, but still got drafted. I have to admit, that surprised me. Cody seemed more athletic his first year at Bama. Shows a 1st year player in that system can play that position!

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            Cody only played the first 2 downs (and sometimes only 1st down if there was a big loss causing an obvious passing situation on 2nd down) or on short yardage 3rd and 4th downs and then would come out of the game. He did not really need to be in shape and was not. I thought UT had them dead to rights but the kicker was injured and could not kick it high enough and far enough to make it from that distance. After the game Kiffin said he was afraid that if he ran another play that would give the refs a chance to flag UT and move them out of field goal range. That was the only thing Kiffin ever said that I agreed with. Everybody in the SEC seemed to know that the fix was in for FLA in the SEC East last season (just ask Bobby Petrino) but if coaches said so they got hammered by Mike Slime (so much for free speech).

            • Mayor of dawgtown

              P.S. The Cody discussion in this thread made me recall that immediately after he blocked the second kick Cody ripped off his helmet and began running around like a wild man as the ball was still rolling around in UT’s backfield. There were still a few seconds left on the clock, too. I have always wondered why Bama didn’t get flagged for 1) Excessive Celebration; and/or 2)Unsportsmanlike Conduct (automatic, as I understand it, if a player takes off his helmet on the field). As a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, UT should have been given 15 yards and a chance to kick again. Am I wrong?

  5. Dawgpa

    A little off topic but anytime we can laugh at the Gators, life is always good.

    • NCT

      If they’d thrown a UF reference in there, I would have made it a point to force at least a little bit of routine Bud Light consumption into my beer regimen.

  6. Just Saying: I agree with all of the comments above.

  7. baltimore dawg

    i don’t discount anything page says about this, and i think that interior d is likely to be a source of some problems for a while.

    but, but. . . . all that matters is how it nets out. even with inexperienced personnel ill-suited to the scheme, i still think the dogs’ d can realize measurable (and more-or-less immediate) gains from the sort of renewed emphasis on matters that were apparently ignored under the previous regime, like tackling, pursuit, and coverage technique.

    i guess this is just another way of saying that last year’s d sucked so much ass that even allowing for personnel problems with the new scheme we can still expect to notice net improvement by addressing the fundamentals.

    well, at least that’s my optimistic view of it all until facts disprove reason for optimism.

    • i guess this is just another way of saying that last year’s d sucked so much ass that even allowing for personnel problems with the new scheme we can still expect to notice net improvement by addressing the fundamentals.

      Bingo. I’m working on a post exploring that very tradeoff. But it seems to me that that’s going to wind up being the overarching story for the Georgia D this season.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        +1. UGA won 8 games last year (and got screwed out of at least 1, maybe 2 more) with a bad D. If the new D just doesn’t suck the Dawgs will be in good shape.

        • SavDawg

          But Mayor, how many games did UGA get screwed out of by the old AD? Did you forget that? Isn’t that your favorite topic?

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            Bad scheduling (i.e. opening at Okie State) caused 1 loss. Yes, you are correct that such was the fault of our previous (now departed) AD.

  8. shane#1

    Does anyone else see the chain of events that led to Grantham being UGA’s coach being a bit strange? First Brad Johnson retires from the NFL after being back up QB at Dallas and moves to Lake Oconee. Then Johnson’s buddy, who happens to be the DL coach, visits and decides to build a house there, in time to be hired by Brad’s brother in law at nearby UGA. From everything I have read about the NFL offense and defense are two seperate camps and most defensive guys barely know the QBs. Could it be that Richt had known for some time that Willie had to go and everything that has happened was put into motion before last season? Richt is like the millwheel of justice, that grinds slowly but grinds fine.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Call me a skeptic on this one, though I don’t get why sooo many coaches, players (Rothlisberger?!), etc. have homes at Lake Oconee.

      I sure hope CMR put a lot more effort/research into the CTG hire. Don’t want to see any more unqualified former players, CMR’s old buddies, or unknowns hired. UGA shouldn’t be o.j.t. for youngsters interested in coaching. It’s a top school and should attract the best assistant coaching talent. Hires Grantham, Lakatos & Belin are experienced, qualified & have proven track records. Replacing BVG’s position with Jancek was mind-bogglingly dumb.

      • NRBQ

        Agreed. Compared to some of the other Georgia lakes, it’s a muddy hole most of the time.

      • Dawg N Suds

        With Lake Oconee, it’s more about the off-season golf and the privacy than it is the lake.

        I believe our front has a great opportunity to get the rushing defense transitioned in time for the better attacks on our schedule.

        Look at how the NCAA Division 1 rushing rankings shake out in our schedule:

        La-Lafayette: 72;
        South Carolina 92;
        Arkansas 81;
        Mississippi State 9;
        Colorado 113;
        Tennessee 54;
        Vanderbilt 49;
        Kentucky 21;
        Idaho State N/A
        Florida 10;
        Auburn 13;
        Georgia Tech 2.

      • smitdawg

        Hey, nobody interviewed for that job. Just some guy named Smart. “Let’s have him coach the running backs.” Possibly the stupidest move ever by Richt.

  9. Supposedly CTG is recruiting players to fit his 3-4 scheme. Excuse my lack of knowledge because I still believe the starting front 7 (the 3 & the 4) are much better suited for the 3-4 than what they recruited for (the 4-3). I see nothing but good things happening for the DL & the LBs. We all will see if it works. GATA.

  10. shay11

    I don’t know why people optimism is low on our d-fense,we will not blow coverages from our line..And our d-backs are hella better this year..last year we had alot of d-back bust plays and we won’t have those this year..our d-line was ok last year but better this year …p.s.14 days to go lets get it dawgs!

    • SavDawg

      With you on the D-Backs this year. Seth Emerson (Hale’s old blog) had the penalties from last year, and I would think, just the new emphasis on playing the ball back, and not playing the man will reduce the number of PI penalties, and hopefully lead to more interceptions.

      On the NT problem, I think Grantham mentioned when he was hired (probably already brought up here), that his 3-4 doesn’t require a “typical” 3-4 nose. I’m still more worried about Murray than I am the defense (and I’m not really worried about him). That, or I know what to expect.