Call me crazy.

One more thing I wanted to discuss after seeing the replay deserves a post of its own.  I wouldn’t exactly describe me as encouraged and I’m not going to go all Seth Emerson on you here, but I’m starting to come around to the idea this Georgia defense isn’t quite as hopeless as we feel it is.

Hear me out for a sec.

Yes, there are parts of the defense that are bad.  Horribly bad.  Bad enough to overcome what good play there is on that side of the ball.  (Is there a term for the whole is less than the sum of its parts?)  But there is good play, and I would argue that we’re seeing more of that from some of the defense as the season goes on.

Consider this:

  • This year’s defensive line has played itself into an asset.  I think you can make a legitimate argument that it’s better on run defense than last year’s line, despite losing Geathers and Jenkins.  There is true depth across the line.  Ray Drew has developed into a real factor.
  • The pass rush, minus Jarvis Jones, is ahead of last year’s pace in generating sacks.
  • Georgia has three players in the top twenty in the SEC in tackles for loss, including Jordan Jenkins, who, in an off year so far, is eighth in that category.
  • The inside linebackers have been solid in run support.  Both are in the conference’s top five in tackles, and, yes, while some of that is the result of running down busted plays, a lot of it is happening because Herrera and Wilson are doing their jobs.
  • There are other signs of player development, most noticeably with Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins.

The problem for the defense is that there are three areas which are enormously flawed and are dragging down the overall production of the unit.

  1. Safety play.  I’ve already hit on this in my last post, so I don’t need to rehash much here.  But the reality is that a good amount of time, Georgia isn’t playing with eleven men on the field.  This is bleeding into the two other problem areas.
  2. Outside run defense.  Georgia’s been very good on defending runs inside the tackles.  That’s not so much the case when it’s attacked on the periphery.  That’s a combination of several things, but largely because the secondary doesn’t do its job in run support.
  3. Passivity.  The line play isn’t soft, but the secondary plays that way.  It’s rare to see a receiver jammed at the line of scrimmage or to see routes disrupted.  Add to that the uncertain safety play, and it’s pretty easy to see why the defense struggles with third-down conversions and forcing turnovers.  Those may be the symptoms as opposed to the underlying illness, but more than anything, they’re what’s killing the defense right now.

I know Grantham’s not interested in my advice, but he’s got to start taking some steps to neutralize, or at least cut the effect, of the worst of the defense’s problems.  If it were up to me, I’d ditch the 4-2-5, at least until Matthews and Norman can make it back.  Short of that, I’d blitz either Mauger or Moore every single play.  They may not make any more plays than they are now, but they might have an effect on opponents’ pass protection that could allow other defenders to step up and affect the passing game.  Georgia’s coverage can’t get any worse than it already is.  The same goes for the run defense.

Grantham’s also got to force his kids to play with more aggression.  I’m not talking about late or questionable hits.  But more run blitzes and some press coverage might shake some of them loose.

I will also say that I think some of the heat about communication and adjustments may be dissipating.  It was heartening to see the way the defense came out ready to play in the third quarter.  It was even better to see them adjust to take away the option and some of the quick screens that burned them in the first half.  I also saw less confusion lining up against a fast paced Missouri offense than I’d seen in earlier games.  There is some coaching going on, even if it’s not generating results as quickly as we’d like or the defense needs.

I’m not trying to be Little Mary Sunshine here.  Collectively speaking, this is the worst secondary I’ve seen from a Richt-coached team.  Considering what we saw in the last days of Martinez, that’s pretty damning.  And I’m doubtful how much of that can be truly fixed this season.  But I do think with some damage control – and some better health – it’s possible for the defense to be less of a liability.  With what’s left of the regular season schedule and with Gurley and Bennett coming back, that may be enough.  Grantham needs to get to it.

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70 Comments

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70 responses to “Call me crazy.

  1. sniffer

    You’ve spoken the truth, again. Pressure on the quarterback would cover a multitude of deficiencies. If my memory serves me, every qb we face going forward is shaky under pressure. Mobile qb’s are problematic but quick decisions on their part can have less than ideal results. And some aggresive secondary play would be nice, too.

    • gastr1

      I thought the same. Blitz Mauger and Moore…yes, I’ve thought this too. If they’re going to be spectators in the back may as well put them in a place where they can actually do something positive.

    • Dboy

      Senator, i agree with your less tan apacolyptic assessment of the defense. One mor observation: by far the weakest part of our defense is the safety play. The past 2 games (where we all have been aghast at the defensive play) we have been playing our backup safetys… And I’m talking backups to the starters who are a true freshman and a former walk on. That ain’t good. Now that the MNC hopes have been set aside, lets get our defense and offense healthy, dial back the collective hysteria of the UGA nation and let these young players improve, try to win out and see what happens. I think JHC, Drew, Floyd and possibly Matthews are beasts in development and I’m going to enjoy watching them them going forward.

  2. fuelk2

    Shush, the pitchfork crowd has already decided CTG’s fate. He’s not doing a good job so far, but increased experience and decreased quality of offenses is bound to help us out going forward. Most of us knew what to expect coming into the season. It’s been worse than expected, but it’s still not a complete shocck.

    • Bulldawg165

      It’s a pretty big shock. I expected us to be on par with where we were at the first half of last season and beneath where we were during the second half of last season (SECCG excluded). It’s shocking to me that every QB we’ve faced so far has had their coming out party against us. It wasn’t just Boyd and Mett that had good days. It’s been every QB we’ve faced.

      I also find it shocking, and not just merely disappointing, that we’re near dead last in the conference in various defensive statistics. There’s really no excuse for it. I’m not one of the ones wanting to put the nail in Grantham’s coffin just yet, but I will say that I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we ever have an elite defense with him as DC.

      • fuelk2

        I don’t disagree with anyone who isn’t sold on Grantham (or is sold that he sucks), but I’m not giving up on this defense’s future. I expected us to play like the 2010 defense, and, given the overall quality of the offenses we’ve faced, I find this effort to be very disappointing rather than shocking.

      • PatinDC

        I keep thinking that, but looking at the stats, every QB has played UGA in the middle of their stats. I think the high visibility of the games warps our perspective.
        Tadj Boyd- Not best game of the season- middle
        Connor Shaw- not best game- middle
        Derek Thompson-not best game-in the middle
        Zach Mettinger, not best game-in the middle- better than against AU and FL
        Justin Worley-not best game, but better than against Oregon and UF
        James Franklin-worst game of the season.

  3. The other Doug

    I’d like to see some creative blitzes and schemes out of the DL and LBs. We need to have their QB a little unsure about what’s coming when the ball is snapped. Maybe a little more dropping DLs into pass coverage as all the LBs blitz or a lot of shifting on the DL right before the snap.

    • William

      Throwing stuff like that out takes guys who know where to be and why. Our two ILBs I have faith in. However, I don’t trust Floyd or Jenkins that much right now. Also, dropping big boys back into coverage isn’t going to get much headway. Can you imagine Drew trying to cover a TE or slot WR?

      • AusDawg85

        I agree. May be the right strategy, but we don’t have the kids where they need to be right now. Some safety and corner blitzes and hope that limits the time or DB’s need to be in coverage, plus some possible turnovers from rushed throws and more QB sacks. We’re gonna get burned, but we play better from behind.

      • Joe Schmoe

        I do not trust Wilson in coverage. He has been terrible in that regard.

      • Dboy

        Agree with William

  4. Bulldawg165

    Do we know when, if ever, Norman and Matthews are expected to be back? Please, PLEASE tell me they will be healthy and ready in time for the Florida game.

    • William

      Matthews practiced in a limited capacity just yesterday. The telling point will be what happens today and tomorrow. If he continues to be limited going into thursday, I don’t think we see him. Same goes for Gurley, sadly.

    • Connor

      It’s telling how much we now want Norman back. He was the fanbase’s whipping boy after Clemson. There’s probably a lesson there; No matter how bad you think things are, they could be worse. I’m far from happy with what’s happening on defense, but it’s possible Richt and Grantham are right not to go in for drastic changes. As long as there is still something to play for we can’t afford for the defense to be worse than it is now.

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        He has one thing none of the other kids have at safety…experience…he may not be the most physically talented person on the field, but he knows where he should be, and if he can get to you he will knock you into the cheap seats…to think that people bitched about Norman simply stupefying.

  5. Wes

    Great post. I feel like I’ve been on a see-saw every week where I’m thoroughly disappointed with what I see in the D, but then when I think about it later in the week I feel like there’s room for optimism. I also always wonder why we don’t jam receivers at the line every single play. Get in their face, jam them, and maybe throw off the route even a little bit and it could disrupt the play.

    • William

      Someone can correct me if I’m wrong here, but doesn’t jamming require either safety or LB help? If you jam them up, but they get a clean break away from you, there has to be a back line of defense. Does anyone here have faith in our Safties or LBs to do that? Hell, for that matter, does anyone have faith in Swann to jam and not still get beat?

      • DWH

        Speaking of Swann, what on Earth has happened to this kid? He was a playmaker last year. Looks like a completely different person. Really thought he was going to be the veteran leader in this secondary. Reminds me of Rambo post-headshot. Hopefully he’ll come back around the way Rambo eventually did.

        • William

          I think a small part of Swann’s problem is that he has no faith in Safety support. He knows he is on an island, but can’t release WR because he just knows there won’t be someone back there to help out. I’m not saying that is his main issue, but one that probably factors into a bunch of the others.

        • The Lone Stranger

          If you want to look at the net-positive maybe this tire fire of a season causes him to reassess whether to leave in ’14. I can’t imagine all the communication fiascos next year.

    • Dboy

      Wes,

      we don’t jam receivers because we don’t trust out DBs ability not to get burned by the receiver and we DEFINITELY don’t trust the safety’s to recognize and react appropriately if a WR slides a jam an runs down te sideline uncovered.

  6. What’s most problematic to me is that there is in fact good play happening, yet the results are so bad.

    Not included in your post (but in others) is JHC, who is turning himself into the player we hoped he could be.

    If before the season, you were told that our defensive line would really start coming together with depth, the run defense would be substantially improved, and JHC would begin to blossom, coupled with a prolific offense, wouldn’t you have assumed we’d be in the driver’s seat right now?

    I get really worried that despite our talent, and our talent is mostly 4 star plus on defense, we’re underperforming. That’s not because of injuries, and our top 3 players are regressing. My point, I suppose, is that it’s almost more maddening that good things are happening with individuals but the defense as a whole is a hot train wreck. That seems to suggest coaching issues, but I’ve never been a gladiator.

  7. Miguel

    I agree. Pressure, pressure,pressure from here on out. When Maty Mauck came in, we should have had 6 or 7 guys in the box on each play. I don’t get not dialing up blitz after blitz after blitz when a Freshman steps in there and the only thing that has worked for us, all season really, is to apply a LOT of pressure on the QB. Leonard Floyd was awful in pass coverage, but when you turn him loose to pressure the QB, he makes some pretty strong plays.

    • DWH

      Couldn’t agree more. At some point you’d hope CTG could see the writing on the wall and realize that. The D might continue to get burned with the big play but at least you’re going down swinging. Enough of all this passiveness.

  8. FitzDawg

    So, basically, we’ve come to the conclusion that the very unit Grantham has the least control over (d-line) is the best coached unit on the field. That is telling. Also, the weak areas that were identified in the post have been the same glaring areas we have struggled in all year. Leads one to believe Grantham is unable produce any progress there.

  9. Bright Idea

    Every offense has used motion with a back forcing the ILBs to abandon the middle of the field. Seeing Wilson near the sideline in man coverage on a back in space is scary enough but here comes the deep in route behind it. This has created most of the 3rd down problems. Either CTG never anticipates it or has no answer. Franklin’s TD run also exploited an empty middle defense in the red zone. Mathews at SAF will be better but I fear not enough better.

  10. charlottedawg

    Isn’t this the sentiment every year under Grantham? There’s talent assembled on the defense and there are some neat individual performances but the unit as a whole is underwhelming or in the case of this year flat out sucks. Hence why I’m skeptical that Grantham is the right answer as our DC or that we’re going to improve as defense, ever. Dude’s been here 3.5 years and he’s had one good year, 2011. It’s also worth noting that in that year Grantham got abused by every decent offense he faced saved Michigan State.

    • Lorenzo Dawgriguez

      But, but…..he shut down Auburn last year, left his starters in almost the whole time to do it. Now we’re young on defense is his excuse. I know CTG wants to do better, I don’t think he can and there goes his NFL DC job dreams for the immediate future

      • adam

        We have the youngest defense in the conference. 6 freshman or sophomores starting on defense. 3/4 of the secondary (4/5 if we go nickel), both OLBs, and 1 DE (Bailey is a sophomore).

        Kentucky and Ole Miss both have 5. No one else has more than 3, if I’m remembering correctly.

        LSU has 8 new starters but only 3 lower classmen. We have 7 new starters and 6 lower classmen. That is brutal.

        • Joe Schmoe

          I agree that youth is an issue, but I also blame Grantham for that since it is his responsibility to manage the roster better.

          • adam

            He has signed 3 classes now. The 11, 12 and 13 classes. He had little hand in the 2010 class. These are the DB’s who signed with UGA based on class:
            2010 (like a month of recruiting tops):
            Marc Deas – 3 star recruit, senior, 4 career tackles, blocked a punt in 2011
            Jakar Hamilton – 4 star recruit, barely played, then took a medical RS and transferred to South Carolina State. Weirdly, he is apparently on the Cowboys’ practice squad
            Alec Ogletree – 4 star recruit, switched to ILB
            Derek Owens – 3 star recruit, transferred to Alabama State

            2011
            Devin Bowman – 3 star recruit, played some as a freshman, but has disappeared
            Quintavious Harrow – 3 star recruit, gone
            Chris Sanders – 3 star recruit, kicked off the team
            Nick Marshall – 4 star recruit, kicked off the team, QB at Auburn
            Malcolm Mitchell – 4 star recruit, offense
            Corey Moore – 4 star recruit, playing but isn’t playing well
            Damian Swann – 4 star recruit, good sophomore year, really struggling this year

            2012
            Josh Harvey-Clemsons – 5 star recruit, star in the making at safety/star
            Sheldon Dawson – 3 star recruit, played some as a freshman, has since disappeared

            2013
            Brendan Langley – 4 star recruit, started at the beginning of the season and struggled
            Shaq Wiggins – 4 star recruit, our highest rated recruit, looked decent.hurt in camp, but starting now
            Tray Matthews – 4 star recruit, lots of hamstring issues but looks promising
            Paris Bostick – 3 star recruit, injured, possibly switching to ILB anyway
            Shaquille Fluker – 3 star recruit, redshirting because of injuries and illness
            Kennar Johnson – 3 star recruit, no impact so far
            Quincy Mauger – 3 star recruit, has like 2 starts but definitely isn’t ready for big time yet
            Reggie Wilkerson – 4 star recruit, won the starting CB spot in spring, torn ACL out for the year
            JJ Green – offense

            Maybe Lakatos isn’t a very good recruiter at DB, because this is not very pretty. I gotta think that that plays a part in our performance back there

            Let’s see who we got committed for next year:
            2014
            Shattle Fenteng – 4 star recruit, JUCO
            Kendall Gant – 3 star recruit
            Malkom Parrish – 4 star recruit

            That’s it. Let’s just say that if Lakatos could recruit like Bryan McClendon, our secondary would look a lot better.

            • AusDawg85

              Great job with the summary…and frightening to read. Someone should have hit the alarm button in 2011-12 and gone JUCO hunting. And I’d think they really want to let Malcolm Mitchell know how much he’s needed on D…fewer celebration injuries, right?

            • W Cobb Dawg

              Terrific post Adam. Six players are returnees – Deas, Bowman, Dawson, JHC, Swann & Moore. Are we truly as young and inexperienced in the secondary as coaches would have us believe? One would think these returnees would know the scheme and be contributing – and we wouldn’t be so dependent on true freshmen. Seems CTG & Lakatos have totally given up on 3 of these guys. Deas was talked out of transferring – and for what? So he could sit on our bench for the rest of his college days?

            • IveyLeaguer

              ["Let’s just say that if Lakatos could recruit like Bryan McClendon, our secondary would look a lot better."]

              You can’t count the 2010 class, IMO, that was done when Grantham arrived. No coincidence that 3 of the 4 bombed, as Martinez was a poor evaluator.

              And that seems to be part of Lakatos problem (with Grantham & Co., of course). I’d say it’s eval more than recruiting. But I now suspect the biggest thing is lack of development .. they don’t seem to be developing under Lakatos. It took the last bunch 3 years and they never really ‘arrived’, IMHO, though Commings and Williams got pretty consistent.

              I’m just beginning to think it’s more of “if Lakatos could develop his guys like Ball does the WR’s” kind of thing. But the other part of it is evaluation. It starts there.
              ~~~

        • Dboy

          Adam, the voice of reason.

  11. paul

    Well, I’m still of the “Grantham ain’t the guy” mindset but you have indeed spoken truth and identified what little we are doing well. The problem is, elsewhere we are not simply under performing, learning our way or even learning from our mistakes. We are sucktacular. Four years into the defense with guys Grantham recruited there really is no excuse for how embarrassingly bad we are at this moment. This is not a case of guys playing their hearts out who simply don’t have the skills. This is not guys playing in a scheme they haven’t had time to learn. Nor is it guys being plugged into positions they should never really be asked to play. This is our guys, our coaches, our scheme and it simply isn’t working. In a lot of instances we can legitimately complain about McGarity not spending money the department has. The defensive coordinators salary is not one of them.

    • The Lone Stranger

      I like “sucktacular” almost in proportion to how much I detest ginormous. I’ll use that if it’s alright with you.

  12. Ben

    One thing I didn’t remember until reading Emerson’s “letter” this morning is that we’ve had some off-season attrition in the secondary with Jordan Love’s transfer and Chris Sanders and Nick Marshall being asked to leave the team. That would be three upperclassmen in the secondary, and that would be huge for this group, especially since the D-line is playing as well as they are (thank, Chris Wilson, and thank you, Gus Malzahn for calling Coach Garner home). Lakatos has his hands full back there, and those guys are just going to have to grow up. Hopefully they do and we’ll be in a good place for the next few years. For now, though, it’s tough. I hope they get it going soon.

  13. Rebar

    I’ve kept my mouth shut about the defense because of its youth, but we did stop Missouri on the first two drives of the second half, made them punt and then our offensive line went to sleep! I swear, its always something with this team. Let’s just win out and support the players and worry about the coaches at the end of the year.

  14. doofusdawg

    Ban the nickel… why didn’t I think of that.

  15. IveyLeaguer

    I think you have it right, Blutarsky. I’d be a little more critical with the ILB’s, and Ithe sluggish play of Jordan Jenkins deserves mention. Both those positions should be spelled more. And Swann, of course.

    But you have it right with the positive aspects of the defense that are improving. I would point out, once again, that the run defense was horrible until we got Mayes back in there vs. North Texas. Since then, we’re better even when he isn’t in there.

    Getting Matthews and Norman back will help the safety situation, but even then it hasn’t been what we need. Norman is limited somewhat by ability, and I haven’t been impressed at all with Matthews. He has never looked healthy to me, and I hope it’s because he wasn’t. Either that, or he just doesn’t know the defense well enough to play fast. Could be a little of both. If none of those explains his play, he isn’t the answer at FS,

    The thing is, any one of those issues, is enough to trouble a defense. The safety issue alone is enough to get you beat. Total all 4 or 5 issues together, and you get the disaster we now see.

    But that doesn’t keep the good things from going on and continuing to improve. And that’s important. Kudos for pointing them out.
    ~~~

  16. Andy Richards

    I think you’ve nailed it. The answer is usually somewhere in the middle. In this case it’s in the middle of the Disney Dawgs and “The Sky is falling, fire everybody” Dawgs. Our run defense is pretty good, like you identified. Our safeties are clueless, most of the time. Our cornerbacks are young in most cases, and regressing horribly in Swann’s case. The cornerbacks playing like they are shouldn’t be a shock to anybody, they’re not used to going up against guys 3-7 inches taller than them that are stronger and more athletic.

    Wiggins’ play this week was very encouraging. Yes, he got burned on a couple passes in favor of the 6’5″ receiver (7 inch difference) he was matched up with, but he broke up several passes and made some very important solo tackles in space. Those were something we haven’t seen a lot of this year from our secondary. So that is very promising. That says to me he is being coached up, and the kid is a natural player. The ceiling is high for him. Swann I’m not sure what to say, but I think he may be worrying a bit too much about what the other guys in the secondary are doing and not focusing on his role. I’ve seen him many times throw his hands up in the air before the snap like “Oh God, someone help, or I hope these guys know what they’re doing.” He needs to stop worrying, and just play his assignment.

    I think we’ll know a lot more about this secondary in about games 8-12. That’s pretty much all the improvement we’ll get this year. The rest of the improvement will come as they get bigger in the weightroom in the offseason, and as they know the playbook better so that they don’t have to think, but just do.

  17. The Lone Stranger

    The operative plan should commence to be Total Mayhem. Simply create FUBAR all across the playing surface.

  18. DC

    Leadership is lacking. Badly. Who would you say is the onfield leader of the D? I can’t find one.

  19. Sanford222View

    Great write up. I was thinking a lot of this during and after the game.

    I messaged a buddy during the game about The Reverend. He is living up to the recruiting hype now in my opinion. He really has come on lately. He and JHC have been the bright spots of the D to me this year. Floyd has been good too but he is too one dimensional at this point. Great rushing the passer but his coverage skills need lots of work.

  20. DC

    All manner of pass defense — that’s our biggest problem.

  21. Brandon

    And the 2013 “Disney Dawg” award goes to …GTP!!!! (((((Applause)))))

  22. Macallanlover

    You rightly point out that our DL play against the rush between the tackles has been significantly better than last year, and that is no small factor when it comes to GT and Appy. And we looked less confused lining up against Mizzou’s offense before the play. I am out of defensive positives beyond those two for the unit.

    JHC and Ray Drew have been excellent in their individual efforts, and we have some others who show flashes of great potential, specifically Floyd, Johnson, Bailey,and Wiggins. We know what Jordan Jenkins is capable of but are all mystified when he will show up again and wonder where he has been (a step or two shot in several situations).

    CTG has not shown the consistency in managing this defense, nor in making adjustments in scheme to the personnel package he has. He got a pass the first two years from most because they loved the blustery bravado so many think makes a person a great coach, now it has worn thin. All hat, no cattle. In addition to embarrassing the program with bad defense for two years, he also did so with childish behavior in Jacksonville and Nashville (I agree that Franklin was wrong first, and made a bigger ass of himself in Nashville. Grantham was right in defending our player (s) when CJF attacked them verbally, but he chose to get in the gutter with Franklin which made him look just as bad.) He has proven a bad fit at UGA in multiple ways, imo.

  23. hunkerdowndawg

    Do you guys want Bryan Evans back?

    Another thing missing from this defense talent-wise is great inside-out sideline speed from the linebackers. Ogletree and a few years earlier Curran could alsways flash outside to contain plays or make tackles at the boundary near the LOS. Our LBs now are making sideline tackles 7-10 yards downfield. I think that is a because of less speed. Fortunately, they are stout between the tackles. Some corner and safety support rolling up on outside runs is needed now more than ever.

  24. 69Dawg

    It amazes me that UGA fans, given our history since 1984, get so high on a team with obvious flaws. Once the flaws are exposed we do a 180 and want to fire everybody. Maybe we should just quit drinking the damn off season Kool-Aid. We’re GEORGIA and we can beat anybody or lose to anybody and we usually do both. Other teams in the SEC have not lost to Vandy or Kentucky in 20 years, while we don’t make it a habit we do lose to them in years when we are much better on paper. That’s the problem with GEORGIA we aren’t playing on paper we are playing it on a field and for whatever reason we can shot ourselves in the foot better than any team I know. We have not won the East the last two years because we beat everybody, we won it because South Carolina lost it. This year Karma is going to catch up with us and beating SC will be a moral victory but we will get to see them play in Atlanta. This team has at least two and maybe three losses left this season. I know on paper we are better than all of our opponents but guess what we were better on paper than Mizzou and that paper didn’t tackle anyone.

    • Macallanlover

      Just don’t agree with this assessment at all, but don’t care to spend time debating it. Some of the points are correct but the overall take is just off, imo.