First, there’s no point in calling for Willie Martinez to be fired. Even if Mark Richt were to conclude a change is in order, he’s not going to do it three games into the season. If the situation is the same at season’s end, that’s the time for a change.
Secondly, as awful as the Dogs looked on pass defense the past two games, they’ve been pretty good against the run, pretty good in the red zone and decent on third down.
Against South Carolina, they simply gave too much of a cushion on receivers, allowing the Gamecocks to dink and dunk their way down the field. Against Arkansas, the problem was bigger: susceptibility to the long ball. And what made it worse was that so much of the time the receiver was virtually uncovered.
Macon/Columbus beat writer David Hale has an extremely lengthy but insightful dissection of the Georgia defensive problems at Bulldogs Blog. Essentially what it boils down to is poor fundamentals in pass coverage and lack of pressure on the quarterback.
As I said the other night, even if Martinez calls the right scheme, if the players on the field don’t execute it properly, you’re sunk. So it’s not all on the coordinator.
But as my brothers pointed out while we were discussing all this yesterday, when players are repeatedly not getting into the right coverage or don’t seem to know whether they should be playing the run or the pass, that ultimately means they’re not very well coached. And that falls on Martinez.
Obviously, Martinez and his staff need to figure out:
1. Why can’t Georgia consistently mount an effective pass rush? More specifically, why couldn’t the Dogs’ defensive front get to a fairly traditional stationary passer like Ryan Mallett? If the linemen we’re playing aren’t capable of getting more pressure on opposing QBs, do the Dogs need to shake up their lineup?
2. Why are so many receivers going uncovered?
It’s been suggested that instead of going with a stop-the-run-first mentality, that Martinez needs to drop more players back into coverage. It was notable that late Saturday night when Georgia did just that, they not only frustrated Mallett but they got to him. Yes, they gave up more running yards in the fourth quarter, but not enough to matter that much.
As a fan, I don’t know what the answer is. But I assume that, at least in a theoretical sense, the Georgia coaching staff does.
Now they need to not only institute whatever changes are in order, but light a fire under some of our underperforming defenders. Or perhaps bench a few folks. Could relatively inexperienced but eager backups do any worse than what the Dogs are getting now?