A Discussion on the UGA Pass Defense

This is a continuation of a subject that was started in another fanpost, but its something that probably needs to be discussed, dissected, and vented about. Without further ado, I give you one man's thoughts on the UGA pass defense.

The way I see it, most of our defense seems to be geared around the prevention of getting beat with a long pass. To do this, our coaches have decided to just play soft on the corners from the get go, decreasing the risk of getting beat deep. Unfortunately, this style of play opens up the ability to get dinked and dunked absolutely to death with short passes (examples such as Vandy 06 and, oh, I dont know, two weeks ago readily come to mind, though there are many, many others). Now, if there is enough of a pass rush, allowing for the QB to be hurried into making an inaccurate throw or hurrying the pass, getting the ball out than the receiver expects, this can work. It is very difficult to make a throw with a hand in your face or a defensive lineman on your back (just ask  Colt Brennan), and the mere disruption of timing on some plays can result in incompletions (this is especially true against a spread passing attack like UF). However, the Dawgs, for a variety of reasons, simply aren't capable of applying that kind of pressure. If there is no rush, however, something needs to be adjusted. The corners need to be tightened up into press coverage to compensate for the fact that the quarterback will have more time than we would like to give him. In such a situation, a team cannot leave intermediate passing routes open by continuing to play soft. Otherwise, you end up with results that do nothing more than rev the engine of the Fire Willie Martinez Bandwagon. Other than the whole losing games aspect, I have several problems with this approach.

1) It plays into the hands of pretty much any opponent.

If you have a semi-capable quarterback under center, he should be able to make the throw on a 8 yard out or a ten yard curl. If you are playing tight on the line, a corner has the ability to get a hand on the ball, disrupt the pattern (possibly buying more time for the defensive line to get in the QB's face), or even jump the route if the QB doesnt have the arm to zip a pass right in. In the SEC, you will more often than not see quarterbacks who are willing and able to devour such a defense. Playing such a defense gives any team a blueprint for moving the ball successfully on us. It doesn't matter if we are playing a run first offense, such an adjustment can, and should, be made (Alabama, again). Additionally, by playing off the line 8-10 yards and then backing off even further on the snap, you are essentially taking your cornerbacks out of the play. This relates to my second problem...

2) It takes one of our best defenders out of the game.

Asher Allen can cover like a mad fiend. He doesn't need to have a large cushion to avoid getting beat. He is talented enough to break up a short route or to stay with his man going deep. To a corner back of his talents so far off the line of scrimmage is not making the best use of our personnel. If we ran a defense that had Ellerbe and Curran start 15 yards off the line, there would be outrage. They would be entirely out of position from the outset against the run. Essentially, our defense is hindering Allen in such a way.

3) I would rather get beat by the deep ball than by short passes.

If a defense gets beat on a deep ball, it can be chalked up to many different things. A coverage was blown, a mismatch was created by motion, a perfect pass was thrown, something of that sort. Generally, it is a problem that is specific to that one play only. However, if a defense repeatedly allows short passes, thus enabling the defense to drive down the field, it is a symptom of a problem with the scheme as a whole. Repeatedly allowing similar plays to beat you means that you have a weakness and it is being exposed. It is not a problem specific to a single play, it is a problem specific to the defense that is being run. Trying to stop a low percentage, highly difficult deep ball while continually giving up a high percentage, low difficulty short pass is simply not logical. Additionally, relatively shorter, yet still effective passes keep our defense out on the field. It swings time of possession in our opponent's favor, something a team with as many injuries as the Dawgs have can't afford.

This is something that should have been fixed a long time ago. There were times in the past, with a vicious pass rush, that the Dawgs could afford to play it safe in the secondary. However, teams change. Between injuries and the loss of a key pass rusher to graduation, the Dawgs have been forced to adapt. This is a weakness that was blown open for all the world to see last week. Down 31-0 is not the time to keep playing it soft. Something has been shown to be wrong on the defensive side of the ball. It is something that needs to change.

Thoughts? Comments? Any other ideas on why the Dawgs continue to play such a defense? Anybody think no changes need to be made?

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