In a season of imponderables, perhaps the biggest mystery is why the offense has performed so poorly. Just a few stats:
- Georgia’s scoring average has declined about three points per game from 2015.
- Georgia’s rushing average is about twenty yards lower per game than last season.
- Overall, Georgia averages about four fewer yards per game than it did in 2015.
There hasn’t been a decline in third down conversion rates, red zone conversion rates or explosive plays, but considering how anemic the 2015 offense was under Schottenheimer, that’s hardly progress.
While I get that there are certain structural flaws in the personnel at hand this year, it’s still hard to grasp why a team with the running backs and tight ends Georgia has at its disposal can have the low points it’s had in 2016. And by now, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect to see some progress out of true freshman Jacob Eason. To the contrary, a review of his game log passer ratings shows that his play has stalled.
I never expected Jim Chaney to be a genius when Smart announced his hire, but I saw enough in his background to think he would be at least more competent at his job than what we saw last season. To say the least, that hasn’t materialized.
The question I have at this point is how much of that rests on Chaney’s shoulders and how much of that lies with Kirby Smart. As Seth Emerson notes, some of the in-game playcalling after Georgia took its last lead of the game was beyond comprehension.
Instead, Georgia went run-run-pass – and punt – on its next two possessions. Florida took the lead back. The chance to really put the Gators behind the 8-ball at halftime was blown.
Chubb didn’t touch the ball between the 12:25 mark of the second quarter and the first play of the fourth quarter.
In the second half – a game that remained in striking distance – Georgia ran the ball just six times, while passing it 17 times.
Sure, some of that can be blamed on an offensive line that appeared unable to block its way out of a paper bag, but the lack of creativity in the playcalling from someone with years of experience in the college game is inexcusable.
Then you hear Smart talk and you wonder in what kind of box Chaney’s playbook has been placed.
Georgia was criticized by some for only running the ball 19 times. It went three-and-out in the first half at one point on three of four drives where Georgia went run-run-pass, run-run-pass, run-run-pass. On the other series in that stretch, Georgia began the drive by seeing Jacob Eason get sacked.
“What do we have to do to run the ball better?” Smart said. “We’ve got to give our offensive line a chance by what plays we design and call. Maybe that’s more perimeter runs. We tried that and we had a backer run through on a toss play. More direct runs where we can be more physical and downhill at them and we weren’t able to do that.”
Star running back Nick Chubb is averaging 4.85 yards per carry, down from 8.1 last season and 7.1 in 2014. Sony Michel’s average yards per carry is 4.74 from 5.3 last season and 6.4 in 2014.
“I think they get frustrated, I think it’s tough but I thought Nick and Sony were both very positive to the O-line in the huddle,” Smart said. “They know that’s their bread and butter. They know those guys have got to play better, play harder and we’ve got to help them by playing smarter.”
From an overall offensive philosophy, that boils down to nothing more than same old, same old. Play better and the rest will take care of itself. And maybe that’s true, at least when the day comes that Chaney has a dominant offensive line. In the meantime, it sure ain’t pretty, regardless of who’s planning the trip.