Missing you

Chris Low posted something the other day that made me think of a question.  Here’s what he wrote:

3. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford: As great as running back Knowshon Moreno was, strong-armed quarterbacks like Stafford, who’ve started since their freshman season, are invaluable. His leaving early for the NFL draft also means Georgia will be going with somebody at quarterback (whoever it is) that has little or no experience in SEC competition. With Stafford’s ability to make every throw, he kept defensive coordinators honest. He could beat you a number of different ways. Some of the Georgia fans got down on him at times because of untimely interceptions, but he led the SEC with an average of 266.1 passing yards per game last season and was second with 25 touchdowns, while completing 61.4 percent of his passes. Those numbers won’t be easy to replace…

So what I wonder is this:  who is Georgia going to miss more in 2009, Moreno or Stafford?

Low makes a good point about Stafford’s ability keeping defensive coordinators honest.  Gary Danielson, he of the admittedly severe man-crush on Stafford, gave a clinic during last year’s broadcast of the LSU game about how Stafford’s arm forced a complete change in the Tigers’ pass coverage.  Matt’s quick release and just-enough mobility in the pocket also saved his team from a few sacks.

But Moreno’s ability to turn nothing into something – Mark Richt talked constantly about Knowshon’s great three and four yard runs – can’t be underestimated.  And it was he, not Stafford, who provided the spark in 2007 when the team went on its run beginning at Vandy.

Low’s point about Stafford’s arm keeping defensive coordinators honest notwithstanding, I can’t recall a defensive game plan last year deployed against Georgia that didn’t start with trying to slow down Moreno.  Some of that was due no doubt to the Georgia offensive scheme which relies on the run to set up the play action pass.  But some of that was also a tribute to Moreno’s skill set.

But what those two brought to the table is only half the story.  The other half is what Georgia is able to deploy at quarterback and tailback this season.  And that’s a much tougher question to evaluate at this point.  Certainly on paper there’s plenty of talent at both positions, but it’s relatively inexperienced and it’s never been counted on to carry the team over the course of a season.

The X-factor is the offensive line.  Does it stay healthy and stable enough to allow the offense to coalesce around it?  Give Cox or whomever else may get the chance to play time to execute and you can make up for a lot of what you lose from Stafford’s off-the-charts arm.  Give the running backs solid blocking and you won’t miss as much Moreno’s uncanny ability to turn a two yard loss into a four yard gain (and maybe you can also pick some of what you lose from Moreno’s skill in blitz pick up, too).  With the emergence of a solid offensive line you also put the tight end position back into the passing game and provide Bobo and the quarterbacks with an option that was sorely lacking in 2008.


Filed under Georgia Football

11 responses to “Missing you

  1. Senator, that is one point that many pundits already discounting Georgia in the SEC race next year are missing (That, and the fact that Florida returns it’s entire two-deep on defense). By all accounts, the offensive line should be ten times better due to returns from injury as well as all the experience earned by freshman and sophomores over the last two years. A good O-line can take a team with an average QB (see: Wilson, John Parker) a long way in this league.


  2. The Realist

    Accurate assessments. The o-line can make up for a lot of ills. I fully expect it to pick up the slack… and then some. I think the offense will be more complete because it will have more weapons at its disposal. If Cox can make the throws he has to make, then all should be well. If the o-line is struck by the angry-OL-hating-god again, then all bets are off, and both Stafford and Moreno will be sorely missed.


  3. LawDawg

    Moreno will be missed so much more.
    1. Stafford only kept defenses honest on the run to the extent that he could actually execute completions to downfield receivers. Don’t get me wrong. I love Staff, but his long ball and fade left a lot to be desired.
    2. Personally, I don’t expect a drop off on the stats between Stafford and Cox. For all of Stafford’s praise for his arm strength and quick release, his accuracy and consistency weren’t all that great. Cox has a good head on his shoulders, has game experience under pressure (Colorado) and I think can match Staff’s completion percentage.
    3. I have yet to see any RB on the team show any of the spark that Moreno had. This is the one position that I am hoping that the refreshingly non-freshman and experienced OL can carry through the season.


  4. DawgDawg

    My only issue with this analysis is that I felt like the line did a pretty good job last year, despite the injuries. Yes, there is plenty of room for improvement, but we didn’t give up too many sacks and KM was able to run well most of the time. Like you said, some can be attributed to Stafford’s release and decision making, and KM’s sick ability. But at the same time, I just don’t know that the line can improve as much as our QB and RB production will suffer. It’s almost as if I wish the line were worse last year so I could feel better about this year’s possibilities.

    Go Dawgs.


  5. 69Dawg

    To believe that we could lose two 1st round draft choices and we would not have a drop off in O is just crazy. CK and RS have not shown game breaking ability at all. They will gain some and lose some but not change the game ala KM.

    Joe will be a good QB not great. Love or hate MS’s long throws at least the DC’s were worried about them. Joe not so much. The keys to next season are D, D, D. The OL will, if not injured, be good, but all of our East competition have great D’s. I don’t see us winning many shoot-outs in 2009. D D D D is our only hope.


  6. HackerDog

    Our OL did fairly well in the passing game, but not the running game. Most of KM’s yardage came on outside runs because our OL could not open holes between the tackles. That’s why our red zone offense was mediocre. You can’t get down to the goal line and keep running sweeps looking for cut-back lanes. You have to knock the other side off the ball.

    Also, those complaining about Stafford’s accuracy sure are spoiled. Stafford had a 61% completion percentage while attempting several long passes with a low chance for completion each game. If we had run a Texas Tech style dink and dunk offense, Stafford probably could have completed 80%.

    As for who we will miss more, I will say that Moreno was more important for our success last year. And we performed worse in games where he was limited. But it’s a team game and we will have to see what the supporting cast can accomplish in conjunction with the new stars.


  7. GreenvilleDawg

    agree with 69Dawg – next year is completely about D. To answer your question though … we’ll miss KM more. And when, we play Auburn next year and it’s cold and the wind is blowing 30+ consistently, I bet JC or LG don’t throw 5 (drive stunting) deep balls. Here’s hoping that Carlton Thomas is the next great offensive weapon for the Dawgs.


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  9. Wes

    I think Knowshon. Not that Stafford wasn’t good, but Knowshon was a special, special player. He ran for nearly 1400 yards behind a bad/mediocre offensive line, and the year before was the undeniable spark that rocketed the team out of the doldrums. And, if we had continued to feed him the ball in the 07 South Carolina game, we’d have been in the SEC championship game last year. If he’d stayed one more year, or played as a freshman, he’d be compared to Herschel. Stafford will be missed for some of the incredible things he could do, but he’s not going down as a program hero.


  10. sUGArdaddy

    The interesting thing is that with Stafford, we would have returned the 2nd best QB in the league. Without him, we will return the 3rd best. You’d be hard pressed to pick a QB in the SEC you’d rather have besides Cox than Tebow and Snead. That alone will win us more games than most.

    Don’t assume the long ball threat won’t be there. Matt can throw it 70 yards, but who throws a long ball that long? Joe might just be able to throw it 40 accurately. That’s really all that matters. I expect Cox to surprise the heck out of people. I also think we’ll give him a lot of easy throws and be more creative on offense because we have to be. I hope I’m surprised by our RBs. That’s got to be the biggest concern.


    • The interesting thing is that with Stafford, we would have returned the 2nd best QB in the league. Without him, we will return the 3rd best. You’d be hard pressed to pick a QB in the SEC you’d rather have besides Cox than Tebow and Snead.

      You might want to keep an eye out for Ryan Mallett at Arkansas.