After watching Georgia’s running backs struggle mightily—against a Mizzou front that seemed content to keep the box loaded and force Greyson Lambert to make a play (something he failed to do more times than I can count)—one thing became frighteningly clear: they’re really going to miss Nick Chubb.
The trio of Brendan Douglas, Sony Michel, and Keith Marshall combined for 40 carries, 135 yards, and no touchdowns. Mizzou was stout, no question, but much of the issue had to do with the abysmal quarterback play, and the inability of Georgia to consistently make plays on third down. With Florida looming, there can be zero doubt that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to do a better job preparing his quarterback and this offense to do more than just get in field goal range.
Lambert is who he is and, by now, no one is expecting him to be more. However, he has got to stop getting rattled in the pocket and learn to go through his progressions a lot faster than he has over the last few games. It’s alarmingly clear that he’s keyed in to his first option (Malcolm Mitchell) and is willing to throw the ball that way—no matter what the coverage or how bad of an idea it is to do so.
If he does that against Florida, their secondary will have a field day and, unlike Mizzou, they won’t be dropping the potential interceptions that come their way.
Despite what you saw against LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd, Florida has a solid run defense, but their game is really about rushing the passer and keeping their secondary active. That said, Lambert will have his hands full finding open receivers. So, perhaps Georgia should start finding ways for its tailbacks to make something happen and take some of the pressure off Lambert.
Neither Michel, nor Marshall, are the type of back Chubb has been for Georgia. They have a very specific skill set that works best when they can use their speed to burst through lanes and find daylight. Since Schottenheimer is intimately familiar with zone blocking schemes (from his days as the New York Jets offensive coordinator), and seems content allowing Lambert to operate out of the shotgun, perhaps he should build the offense around more inside zone reads.
Such a scheme would allow Georgia to keep Quayvon Hicks on the field, as a lead blocker, and use the speed of Michel and Marshall to make plays up the middle, or even allow them to improvise by bouncing outside and finding a lane to maneuver through if they can’t find daylight upon first look. Both are patient and elusive enough to make something happen if they have a little room.
Of course success with such a scheme assumes the offensive line is doing its job as run blockers—which they’ve been hit or miss at this season—but if Georgia can consistently get 3-4 yards on 1st and 2nd down, it could open up the play action for Lambert. And, if that happens, you have a bit more room in the playbook to execute those screens and flat routes that Schottenheimer seems so enamored with and, maybe, you’re able to get the tight ends involved a bit more.
The downside to this is simple enough to figure out: Georgia stands the chance of allowing a lot of runs to get stuffed before they get started. However, that’s happening anyway—between a loaded box and a not so great quarterback—so, I’ll take my chances with Michel and Marshall’s speed. A home run here and there would be worth a few series where some yards are lost, especially if it means tiring out Florida’s defensive front over the course of four quarters, and allowing our own defense to catch a breather every now and again.
Again, I’m just a novice (not even that, really). That means I’m about as qualified as the average Joeto advise Schottenheimer on what he should do. Even so, it occurs to me that the offense needs to head in a different direction because, so far, it’s not doing much of anything worth talking about.