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Defensive Ramblings

Now that the Georgia game is in the books, and proper time has passed, we can now begin to break down the units. Up first, the defense:

  • All in all, a pretty good performance for the defense. We gave up only 20 points in regulation to UGA, generated a couple of turnovers for the offense, and made several key stops. The stop to open the second half -- after the Lowe muffed kick return -- was particularly impressive. We couldn't pull out the victory, obviously, but the defense certainly played well enough to win. The loss doesn't fall on their shoulders.
  • The game-ending touchdown pass by Matt Stafford was a disappointment, of course, but Lionell Mitchell had good coverage on play. He was manned up on the outside, and did quite well. You have to give Matt Stafford a lot of credit, it was about a 35-yard throw and he threw a perfect strike. A half-yard shorter and it's defensed / intercepted, and a half-yard longer it's incomplete. It wasn't a coverage breakdown on our part, just a great throw from Stafford.
  • On the opening drive we played quite well, but gave up three first downs on third and long via the screen pass. That was quite frustrating to watch, but again you have to give Georgia credit. As mentioned earlier, it was third and long and we were blitzing in an attempt to force and quick throw under pressure. The screen was a great call, and Georgia simply out-executed us. We didn't read it soon enough, and the defensive backfield couldn't come up in time to make the tackle. Moreover, the Georgia offense timed it perfectly in terms of the release and the pass. As with the touchdown pass in overtime -- frustrating as it was -- it was really more of a good job by Georgia than it was a breakdown by the defense.
  • At the end of the day, our defense netted zero sacks despite Georgia calling over 35 passing plays. Obviously, that's a major disappointment. A good bit of credit goes to Stafford, who did a nice job of getting rid of the football quickly when he saw pressure coming, but a lot of it is the deficiency in our own right. At the end of the day, we'll sack the quarterback more than we did a year ago, but we really don't have a lot of very good pure pass rushers on this team. Gilberry may well be the best of the bunch, and honestly his specialty is run support. That's a talent issue and Saban and co. can't fix that overnight. Again, we'll sack the quarterback more this year than last year, but we're still going to have some troubles, particularly against teams with smart quarterbacks who know when to throw the football.
  • The run defense had a pretty good night, no two ways about it. I was really worried about their rushing attack against us, especially with Mustin out of the line-up, but we really did well. Georgia run the ball 38 times, but only had 17 successes. That's a Running Back Success Rate of only 44.74%. Again, very impressive stuff from our defense.
  • One of the major weaknesses of our defense is lateral movement. For whatever reason, we look very slow moving laterally. Though our run defense did well, our biggest problem was when Georgia would run inside and then their back would quickly bounce to the outside. We were slow in moving laterally, and couldn't chase like we needed. Actually, that is how Georgia had a good bit of their success in running the football. I don't know if it's a lack of team, improper pursuant angles, or what, but we're pretty slow in terms of moving laterally.
  • I think the loss of Darren Mustin definitely hurt, but we weathered it relatively well. Prince Hall came in and played pretty well, but nevertheless I think Mustin's loss hurt. We had some blown assignments, and I think Mustin would have helped mitigate that problem. The good news is that he will probably play this week. He's still in the black no-contact jersey, but if you watch the videos on Crimson Tradition he was participating in "thud" drills, so he's likely to be good-to-go against FSU.
  • Rashad Johnson is really turning into an impact player. Marcus Carter continues to look bad, but Johnson is really stepping things up. The other safety position is still a concern / liability, but we've got a good player in Johnson. At times, he looks like our best defensive back, Simeon included.
  • Tackling was a problem against Georgia, it really was. Many times we simply didn't wrap up and drive, and it affected most of the defense. Carter was probably the most prone to the arm tackle syndrome, but he was far from the only one. Zeke Knight and others were guilty of it as well, and it had a tangible impact. Georgia did really well in terms of yards after contact, and this was the main reason why.
  • All in all though, again, a good defensive performance, no two ways about it. Yes we struggled to rush the passer, and we also tackled quite poorly, but we held Stafford to only a 54% completion ratio, limited big runs, consistently stopped the Georgia rushing attack, came on strong in the fourth quarter, created two turnovers, and held the Georgia offense scoreless after we turned the ball over deep in our own territory. There is room for improvement, no doubt, but we played quite well on defense. If we can play this well on defense the rest of the year, we'll be in very good shape.