ATHENS, Ga. — While the secondary has gotten the majority of the blame for Georgia’s defensive problems the past two weeks, defensive tackle Jeff Owens said his unit will be the key to shutting down the opposition’s passing attack.
“It starts with getting more sacks up front,” Owens said. “I think we’re nowhere near where we can be, and we need to get over that hump to get where we can be. But we’re going to keep progressing and just get better because we’re not where we want to be right now.”
Through three games, Georgia has recorded just four sacks, despite opponents throwing the ball or using the quarterback as a runner on more than 70 percent of their offensive plays the past two weeks.
Georgia finished last season 11th in the SEC in sacks, with the bulk of its success coming in non-conference games against Arizona State and Michigan State. The Bulldogs worked on the pass rush this offseason, but so far the results haven’t shown up on the field.
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“It gets frustrating after all the effort and time you put into it during the offseason, you think you’re going to come out and have a better season than last year,” defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. “But it’s still early on. It gets frustrating, but we just have to keep grinding and try to go make a play.”
Part of the problem, Dobbs said, is that the group hasn’t been able to function at full capacity often this season.
Starting defensive end Justin Houston missed the first two games of the season with a suspension, and Owens and fellow defensive tackle Geno Atkins were forced to rush off the edge for nearly 60 snaps during the first two weeks.
Dobbs said the group showed some signs of improvement last week — sacking quarterback Ryan Mallett twice — but that more time together will be a key in getting the pass rush going on a consistent basis.
“We have to be able to mesh as a group,” Dobbs said. “Sometimes we’re getting pressure from the edge and people aren’t in the middle and we lose contain. But it takes chemistry, and you have to know the other person’s strength and when to cover somebody. It will come in time.”
HE’S THE MAN
It was against Arizona State last season that A.J. Green had his first breakout performance — racking up 150 receiving yards in the first half.
Since then, Green hasn’t surprised too many defenses, and as the sophomore continues to compile big games, even his quarterback thinks there’s a chance Green will go down as the best receiver to play at Georgia.
“He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Cox said. “He’s an incredible playmaker, and he could end up being one of the best players that ever played here.”
As to what makes Green so impressive, head coach Mark Richt said it’s hard to identify just one thing. The beauty of having Green is that he does everything so well.
“When you take his combination of height and the range of his arms, his speed and agility — a lot of guys who are tall might be fast and can make a play on a deep ball, but A.J. can out-jump people, he can run by people,” Richt said. “He can make them miss, and he’s becoming a pretty darn good blocker. There isn’t much that you’d ask a receiver to do that he can’t do well. He’s pretty good, and I’m glad we have him.”
COACHES STILL HIGH ON BROWN
Although Marlon Brown has yet to see any significant action, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he’s still expecting the freshman receiver to be a contributor to Georgia’s offense before the season is done.
“Marlon is starting to show some progress,” Bobo said. “Marlon is working hard, and we’re not at all disappointed with Marlon. I think Marlon has as much potential as anybody we’ve got on this team, it’s just a matter of him understanding what’s going on and learning how to do things.”
Richt said he expects a high number of recruits to be visiting Athens this week, but it’s the matchup against LSU a week from today that’s the really hot ticket.
“From what we’re hearing, there’s an awful lot of interest in this LSU game already,” Richt said. “It’s probably more than we can handle. There’s only so many that can get in, so it’s probably going to be tough to get everybody in who wants to get in.”