If talking the talk is at least half the battle toward improving, then I’m encouraged by some of the comments coming out of Athens about fixing Georgia’s defense.
First of all, at least the players appear to recognize some of the problems. David Hale of Bulldogs Blog talked to Demarcus Dobbs and Rennie Curran about why the Dogs have been successful against the run but unable to generate much pressure on the quarterback. Dobbs said the Dogs’ defensive line has been bad at getting off their blocks on passing plays because they were expecting run, and said the defense has been killed by play action. Curran said it comes down to needing more film study and being better at reading pass formations, while Dobbs said the linemen have to improve on reading the blocks of the offensive line.
Fundamentals, in other words.
At least there’s no question Georgia has a lot of talent up front on defense. They just need to get it done, as Jeff Owens noted in the Macon Telegraph: “For the front seven, we’ve got to get more pressure on the QB. We’ve got to rush more. That’s what our focus should be this week. We know Arizona State is going to throw the football, and as a defensive tackle, I’ve got to pin my ears back and try to get to the QB.”
Meanwhile, back in the secondary, where just about everyone had scorch marks on them after the Arkansas game, cornerback Bryan Evans admits most of the blame belongs with the players. He told Hale: “Some plays we’re in great position to make plays, we just didn’t make them. Other times, we’re just lackadaisical at getting to our positions where we’re supposed to be at.”
That sort of play calls for some bench time, so it’s good to see defensive coordinator Willie Martinez saying he’s going to “get some other guys some more opportunities” back there, specifically young safeties Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings. Martinez said Commings might even see some playing time at cornerback.
Meanwhile, in his Tuesday press conference the head man, Mark Richt, succinctly summed up Georgia’s problem on defense: “It’s always the same answer, a combination of pressure and coverage. Which comes first? What helps the other one the most? … If we put pressure on the quarterback he tends to throw the ball too soon or a little bit off balance, and that helps your coverage. It’s as simple as that. We have to cover better and we have to put more pressure. One area where I thought we might be putting a little more pressure on the quarterback where we really haven’t up to this point on a consistent basis is right up the middle. We need to get more from the inside push. If the quarterback does step up he’s got nowhere to be comfortable or no space and we’ve had too much of that.”
The Dogs have been “stout against the run,” Richt noted, but he doesn’t believe Georgia’s defensive front is only suited to doing that. “I’ve seen Jeffrey [Owens], Geno [Atkins], Kade [Weston], DeAngelo [Tyson], I’ve seen all those guys, and even young Abry [Jones], they all have the ability to rush the passer and push the pocket. We just haven’t done it well enough on a consistent basis. So that’s definitely a big point of contention for us.”
Like I said, at least they’re talking the talk. The bigger question remains: Can Georgia fix the problems on the field when it counts?