Having watched the replay yesterday, I’ve got two troubling points to make about how the defense played.
First, Paul is spot on about this:
Our young, unproven defensive backs had not participated in any contact of any consequence for most if not all of the summer drills. If you don’t practice tackling, you don’t tackle well. And here’s a news flash for the tone deaf…if you’re in green you’re not practicing tackling. Even our proven DBs were missing MASSIVE amounts of time in non-green jerseys. Of course they weren’t going to tackle well.
Think about two crucial non-tackles – Swann’s whiff on Watkins’ 77-yard TD reception and Matthews’ failure to wrap up Peake on the fourth-and-one conversion that immediately preceded the wheel route TD pass. How different is the game if those two plays are made by the Georgia DBs?
That’s stuff that can be fixed over time. Far more worrisome because it seems to be more of a structural problem was Georgia’s failure to stop Clemson’s running game. Grantham came out very aggressively on the Tigers’ first series, but had to dial it back once Clemson established the run. If you predicate your defensive strategy on pressuring the quarterback but have to hold that down out of respect for the run, bad things are bound to happen. Which doesn’t bode well for this week’s opponent.
Two points for optimism, though.
One big reason it will be nice getting Josh Harvey-Clemons back this week is because that will allow Grantham to play Leonard Floyd closer to the line of scrimmage where he belongs. Floyd played much of the game at the star position, which is remarkable when you think about it, and acquitted himself fairly well there. But he was a much more disruptive factor when he lined up elsewhere.
Secondly, and it was probably bound to happen once Cornelius Washington left, the defensive line did a markedly better job with outside contain than I’ve seen in a while. Of course, it would have helped on more than one occasion if once the play was turned inside, the defense was there to bring the runner down. But keeping Shaw from beating them with his feet on outside run plays could be big this Saturday.