What Alabama football must do to protect Mac Jones against Georgia.
A key to an Alabama football victory Saturday night will be protecting Mac Jones. It is anticipated the Crimson Tide can run on the Bulldogs, but not without using the pass to set up the run. Point production from the passing game is the Crimson Tide offense’s strongest weapon.
This season, Alabama football quarterback, Mac Jones has been well protected by his teammates. Among the currently participating FBS programs, the Crimson Tide is No. 18 in Sacks Allowed with a 1.3 per game average.
Some credit for that stat goes to Mac for quick decisions and deftly sliding around the pocket. Other credit goes to Steve Sarkisian for an offense that rarely has a slow-developing play.
The greatest burden in protecting Mac falls on the blockers around him. The Tide’s offensive line has been good at run-blocking and very good at pass protection. Continuing that performance will be key to beating the Georgia Bulldogs.
As Alabama football coach, Nick Saban often says, sacks are not the only problem. Saban contends the frequency of quarterback pressure is as, or more important than sacks. That pressure is measured by Quarterback Hurries (QBH). The Georgia Bulldogs are quite good at QBH production. They are also good at sacking opposing QBs.
Among SEC teams, the Bulldogs are No. 2 in sacks, trailing only Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide is No. 11. Six Bulldogs have a total of 10 sacks. Six Crimson Tide defenders have a total of five sacks. The disparity between the sack stats of the teams is a concern.
There is a bigger concern. Alabama football defenders have been credited with 11, QBHs. The Bulldogs have been credited with 45. The Crimson Tide QBH stats come from nine Tide players. In Kirby Smart’s Georgia defense, 16 Bulldogs have contributed QBHs. Six Bulldogs have the most QBH production with a total of 32. The group is led by Azeez Ojulari with eight, followed by Adam Anderson with seven, Malik Herring with six, Nolan Smith and Devonte Wyatt with four each and Quay Walker with three. That is a lot of Dawgs to plan pass protection to defend.
Much of the Tide’s protection burden falls on Crimson Tide tackles battling edge rushers. Alex Leatherwood and Evan Neal have been solid. They must continue to be Saturday night. They may also need some help, in the form of double-teams. Crimson Tide running backs and tight ends can help defend the Georgia pass rush. If that is necessary, it reduces their opportunities as pass receivers.
All of the above and much more will be factored into Sark’s plan. Without consistent protection for Mac Jones, the Tide’s explosive offense could become far less explosive.
Should either Leatherwood or Neal be injured in the Georgia game, handling the Dawgs pass rush would be much more challenging. So far, there are no backup Crimson Tide tackles who have shown they are up to a big-game task.