Make play action great again.

Take a little journey with me.  Mike Bobo’s last three years at the helm saw Georgia’s offense produce the best scoring numbers of Mark Richt’s Athens tenure:  37.8 points per game in 2012; 36.7 points per game in an injury-riddled 2013; and 41.3 points per game in 2014.

That level of production was maintained despite a decline in yards per passing attempt:  an impressive 10.0 in 2012 fell over a yard per attempt to 8.9 in 2013 and fell again to 8.1 in 2014, despite Hutson Mason setting a school record for completion percentage.  The deep ball was falling out of favor, in other words.

The reason the offense didn’t miss a beat was because of the production of the running backs.  In 2012, Gurley and Marshall both averaged more than six yards a carry.  The injuries in 2013 certainly took a toll, but Gurley still managed essentially six yards a crack and J.J. Green showed well at 5.65 ypc.  2014 was amazing, though.  Gurley and Chubb both averaged better than seven yards for every rush and Michel chipped in with almost six and a half yards per carry.

As we all know, the bottom fell out of Georgia’s offense in 2015 and 2016.  The precipitous drop in scoring was fueled by both a decline in yards per passing attempt — 7.4 ypa in 2015 and 6.5 ypa in 2016 (opponents were actually better than Georgia in that regard last season, which is pretty stunning) — as well as a similar story for rush production.  Chubb was performing at a higher level in 2015 before his injury, but Georgia finished that year without a running back besides Chubb averaging more than 5.3 ypc and last season Chubb and Michel produced 5.04 and 5.53 ypc, respectively.

It’s only a minute long, so it’s not a deep dive, but Aaron Murray still manages to identify what Georgia has to recapture on offense if it hopes to improve its offensive scoring.

Play action has been and is still Georgia’s bread and butter.  They can tap dance around with the occasional foray into the Wildcat, speed sweep and five-wide sets to take advantage of defenses, but things work best when the backs are doing enough damage to make safeties commit to the run game and open up the play action pass.  Eason doesn’t have to approach Mason’s completion percentage record to be successful, because he has the arm strength to be more of a legitimate deep threat than Mason was.  Georgia needs that threat this season to make its offense go as much as it needs running backs who can cover more than six yards when they touch the ball.

Yes, Eason’s got to show improvement to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself, but for the umpteenth time, this offense needs better line play to click.  That’s what Pittman’s being paid the big bucks for.

If the play action game returns in 2017, you’ll know the coaches are doing their jobs.  If it doesn’t…

29 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

29 responses to “Make play action great again.

  1. If play action comes back, Eason has an excellent season. If it doesn’t, we probably are looking at another offensive coordinator change.

    I blame Bobo.

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  2. Granthams replacement

    The WR inability to separate with some inconsistencies holding on to the ball are more of a factor than Eason. Eason needs to improve his accuracy and touch, but someone has to step up st WR, preferably 3 or 4 of them.

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    • Lets hope he is doing what Murray suggested–working on his timing with the receivers.

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      • Charles

        Aaron was neurotic about working with his receivers. During the spring and summer of 2011 and 2012, he was on the practice fields with King, Conley, Mitchell, Bennett, Marlon Brown, et. al. throwing to them and working with them on their routes until dusk.

        Just insatiable. DGD.

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  3. The other Doug

    Great post.

    I noticed on the passing heat map from yesterday that Eason had a lot of incompetions along the sideline, but very few over the middle. My guess is he was coached to throw to the sidelines where only his guy had a chance to catch it, and this lead to a lot of incompetions. Hopefully this year they will let him throw more over the middle just behind those safeties who are cheating up to stop the run.

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    • Irwin R. Fletcher

      Or he didn’t have good targets on the outside.

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      • The other Doug

        Yeah, there were a lot of times the WR didn’t get any seperation and the safe throw wasn’t inbounds. Hopefully the WR talent is a bit better this season.

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    • W Cobb Dawg

      A few thoughts: If Eason learned anything last year, it was to throw the ball out of bounds when his target was covered. Not sure I see Eason becoming a master of the ‘dink & dunk’ offense we tried last year. With his arm strength I’d like to see Eason launch a few long bombs a game and let our WRs run under it. We absolutely have to give the kid more time in the pocket so he can do his progressions and hopefully get the ball further downfield. If we’re consistently sending WRs out 6 or 7 yards, instead of 12 to 15 yards, it’s gonna be a long, ugly season for the O.

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  4. St. Johns Dawg

    Agree with Grantham’s replacement on WR productivity. True the QB still has to make good decisions (including finding the open guy or 1-on-1 coverage) … But if you honestly look at quality QB play around CFB and the NFL, there’s a good number of those who have very good to great receivers who catch poorly thrown (i.e. behind the receiver or in thick coverage) passes during most games. That kind of production adds up over time.

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  5. Skeptic Dawg

    Play action is predicated upon the threat to complete the mid to deep balll. In order to compete this pass you have to have a solid OL and a solid QB. We had neither last year. The decline in yards per play, yards per rush and yards per completion are a result of several factors, however, none more important than the OL. As fans we knew that our OL was bad last season and in 2015, but those that know the game at a high level actually said that our OL was among the worst in college football. Well, that’s a problem. Yes, Eason has to improve his vision and accuracy. Yes, the WR’s have to improve. Yes, the RB’s need to step up. But none of that matters if the OL is a garbage again this season. I expect us to struggle early on as the OL and Eason make adjustments and strides towards improvement. A 1-3 start would not shock me in the least for this very reason.

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  6. Biggus Rickus

    I remain impressed by what Bobo and Friend were able to do in the running game at the end. The dropoff from ’14 to ’15 when they were running essentially the same system speaks volumes. Last year, I think they were asking the linemen to do things they were simply incapable of doing, which was frustrating as a fan, but was probably necessary if they’re trying to implement a system over time. I guess we’ll find out if the players better fit what they want to do now and whether or not they can coach them up.

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    • Greg

      Bingo….QB that could get the ball to playmakers (high completion percent, reading field, 2nd & 3rd options & etc.) …..OL built for zone blocking and not power. Going to be an interesting year, feel better than last year….but not sure, need to see it. Staff needs to prove themselves.

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  7. Irwin R. Fletcher

    I think there are a bunch of factors here…but part of the issue in my mind was that when we went to Mason in 2014 the offense kept clicking because you had other-worldy talent at RB and solid talent at OL and WR. When you tried to replicate it in 2015 with another QB that had less than plus arm strength, it fell apart. That’s why last year was such a mystery…you had the arm to stretch the field back out again…but I really think oline and wr talent killed us last year.

    Someone mentioned the heat map above…it’s no coincindence that Eason had talented running backs, TE, and a slot WR who is now in the NFL to go to over the middle.

    Think about this…in 2014, you had 3 guys catch 20 or more…all of them were over 6′ and all were WR.
    2015- You had 3 guys catch 20 or more…only one was over 6′.
    2016- You had 4 guys catch over 20…only one was over 6′ .

    I think you have to go back to 2000 to find another year where UGA didn’t have a WR over 6′ catch 20 balls (Edwards and Gary).

    No offense to any of those guys last year…but honestly, the last two seasons we saw how roster management kills a program. The talent on the oline and at WR was abysmal. Javon Wims is a good add….but the fact that you have a JUCO coming to UGA is a byproduct of having a weak WR room to begin with. Kirby adding Ridley out of the blue was huge.

    Sorry long post…in short, play action doesn’t work if you don’t fear the talent at the skill positions and you only have to rush 4 to get pressure. That’s why I’m optimistic about 2017.

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    • Southernlawyer11

      Agreed. Remember we were depleted and green at WR going into 2011 and then Mitchell, Conley, et al. surprised everybody with their production as freshmen. I think having a whole gang of freshmen WRs emerge made recruiting complacent. Then you had a few misses (Hugh Freeze paying Van Jefferson). A few misses following even a single year of complacency and you get a bare cupboard.

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    • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

      I am just not convinced of the fact our wide receivers are as terrible as they are described on the internet.

      There were many plays throughout the season where wide receivers were running wide open, where Eason either missed badly on the throw or never saw them. More experience and comfort helps Eason improve on those plays.

      There are also plays every game where a wide receiver is going to be open briefly, i.e. the QB throws the wide receiver open. Aaron Murray was otherworldly with his timing on those types of throws. If Eason can add that vision and timing, our WRs look much better immediately.

      Lastly, there were many throws where Eason effectively tackled the wide receiver. The throw was low, behind, or high, where the WR loses all forward momentum on the catch, either falling immediately or tackled immediately.

      Eason improves moderately in all three areas, our wide receivers get significantly better, without having to do anything differently. Assuming that they are actually better, more comfortable, and well coached in year 2 of the system, then it’s not far-fetched to see substantial overall improvement by these guys.

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      • 69Dawg

        Amen. Eason has the arm but so did Jeff George and Jay Cutler. Quarterbacking is more than just throwing the ball. How many times did Eason not take the easy dump pass to his RB safety valve but kept looking for the big shot. He was terrible over 20 because 1) the WR couldn’t get separation, 2) the oline was a bunch of matadors but 3) he could not hit open WR’s deep and he still could not at the end of the year. I don’t care if he can throw the ball 70 yards if the WR is 55 yards deep it isn’t going to get caught. Our whole season was a case of the opposing DC looking at film and determining that while Eason had a great arm he was not going to hurt you on a regular basis certainly not as much as the RBs would so just load the box and play man.

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        • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

          I don’t think he was as bad as you describe here, but he did struggle with a lot of things as a true freshman, with a ineffective OL, and an offensive design that wasn’t always suited to his experience.

          In year 2, I expect him to improve in all those areas, which is why I think all Dawg fans should expect to play in Atlanta in December, and be disappointed if we don’t make it.

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  8. DawgFlan

    My view:

    -Years with a rookie HC are typically tough
    -Years with a completely new OC, playbook and O staff are typically tough
    -Years with a freshman QB are typically tough
    -Years with a make-shift OL are typically tough
    -Years with multiple freshman starters at WR and TE are typically tough

    We had all of that, with the complicating factor of trying to change the physicality/identity of the offense.

    We have the talent, and I’m looking at the coaches for one hell of a second-year bump.

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    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      I like your post and Irwin’s. In games I watched last year we ran a good bit of play action, just not very effectively because defensive lines were blowing it up before we could sell it. Even play action needs a little push from the O-line; it’s mainly designed to freeze linebackers. More than anything, I think we’re going to get an idea of how good Sam Pittman is. I like what I am hearing so far, but…..well, let’s play the game and see.

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      • Southernlawyer11

        Yep. All you need is a second of hesitation to have Isaac Nauta open 8 yards down the field. Who wants to tackle him in space with a full head of steam ? (Answer: nobody) That kid could play in the NFL today.

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  9. Cojones

    In the last couple of games and in the bowl game, play action began to show up. We (gtp) noticed and thought that was a good thing while some opined it was a preview to this year that was being exhibited. The bowl game was most noticeable for the rollouts exhibited by Eason. All those instances lead me to believe that Jason will indeed be the rollout play-action passer we wish for on some plays when the line caves inward.

    Fromm is certainly capable of making those linemen tired of chasing him and LBs backpedaling to cover more people than they can handle in the secondary. If any team has a D-line that’s making hay on our O-line, put Fromm in for a couple of series of play action and then Jason for a few long shots or handoff to those glorious RBs to rumble their juices.

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  10. Minnesota Dawg

    The key with a successful play-action pass game is timing…in two respects.

    The first is the willingness to call play-action passes on first and second down at ANY point in the game. The third-and-ten OR down-by-two-scores in the second half play-action pass is basically pointless. The D knows you’re going to pass and doesn’t really have to seriously respect the threat of the run. (As a side note, the supposed need to “establish the run” in the first quarter on first and second down is a myth. Years of UGA football and having Chubb in the backfield is establishment enough. In Georgia’s case, demonstrating the willingness to throw on first or second will actually open up the run game on these downs).

    The second is the timing of the throw from QB to receiver. A good play-action pass will take advantage of that small one-second window created by a LB’s or DB’s indecisiveness/uncertainty about run or pass. This is when separation is created and when the decision to throw (and who to throw to) needs to be made. You wait too long and you give the DBs/LBs the opportunity to recover and the benefit of the fake is lost. Even for the PA long throws, the DB is beaten (or not) within the first 2 seconds of the play.

    Think the coaching staff and offense can greatly improve on both these aspects of the PA pass this season.

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  11. Red Cup

    My hope is that by the end of January I am tired of all the winning.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. 69Dawg

    Just remember on passes over 20 years Eason was 14%, the worst in the SEC. He must improve on this or the DC’s are going to blitz him on every down run or pass because they know he will not hurt them.

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  13. Macallanlover

    I agree with Salle’s (sp) comment that UGA may not have a strong #1 receiver, like AJ, but we have a lot of #2s. Not sure his estimate of 10 is right, but a lot of speed and talent at receiver before you get to the TEs. I don’t think our problems will be at receiver, opposing defenses will have a lot to deal with if we can get the ball to the receivers because our runners can deliver the mail if there is any respect for our passing game.

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