Georgia’s defense has one sack so far this season, a fact that is hard for its players to ignore.
David Manning/Staff Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones celebrates a tackle against South Carolina on Sept.10 in Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs are succeeding in hurrying quarterbacks but have accounted for only one sack this season.
“That’s all we talk about,” outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “Roll out of bed on Saturday morning, man, it’s ‘Get a sack.’”
Cornelius Washington, the Bulldogs’ other starting outside linebacker, says when he goes home at night, he’s still happy with where the Georgia defense stands.
Washington and Jones are still getting after quarterbacks.
The two were bearing down on Coastal Carolina’s Aramis Hillary last Saturday in the Bulldogs’ 59-0 rout. Jones leveled the quarterback and Bacarri Rambo picked off the pass.
The only interception that Boise State’s Kellen Moore threw in a 35-21 win against Georgia came when he unloaded a pass with Jones closing in on him. Branden Smith made the interception.
“When you get pressure on the quarterback, you create turnovers,” Jones said.
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham would love more sacks, but he still sees his players forcing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly.
“So my whole thing is more of disrupting a quarterback, getting him off the spot and doing those things moreso than sacks,” Grantham said. “Sacks is a number that I like, that everybody likes, it’s a visual play. But to say it has to be strictly sacks, it’s a fun play, we like it, I like it, but at the same time, stopping them on third down, being hard to score on, being stout on the run, those things are probably more important.”
Georgia is tied for 12th in the nation in third down defense at 26.2 percent, which is big progress from last season when it was 79th at 41.9 percent.
“Getting sacks will add more energy to it,” Jones said.
The lone sack this season came on a corner blitz from Sanders Commings.
“I hear some stuff from a couple of the outside guys, Jarvis and Cornelius,” Commings said. “`You got a sack before us. We still can’t get one.’ But sacks are coming for those guys and for the rest of our linebackers and D-line, too. It’s still early in the season.
Washington said both Boise State and Coastal Carolina got passes off quickly.
“Nobody’s going to sit back and let us tattoo their quarterback all day long,” Washington said. “We had a couple of more chances against South Carolina, but stuff just didn’t work out. I got a few pressures, but everything will come in due time.”
Washington said he’s lining up mostly as a defensive end. He figures that Georgia has played in its base 3-4 package only about 20 percent of the time this season.
Jones, in his first season after transferring from Southern California, says he has played “OK. I ain’t playing as well as I should be, but it’s all a learning experience for me. I know people think I should be more in the backfield, but this is my first year playing outside linebacker. I’m still learning a lot of stuff.”
Justin Houston, an outside linebacker who was a third-round pick in April by the Kansas City Chiefs, rang up 10 sacks last season for Georgia. Washington is lining up at the weakside linebacker spot where Houston played last season.
Grantham offered praise for Washington and Jones.
He said Washington, who leads the team with five quarterback pressures, is playing as well as he has in Grantham’s two seasons and he’s pleased with his progress,
“The guy’s played very physical, very fast,” Grantham said. “He’s in the right spot, he’s doing what we ask him to do. He understands his role and I’ve been pleased with his progress.”
Jones, second on the team with 20 tackles, is “very relentless,” Grantham said, always hustling to the ball.
“He’s probably more of a truer linebacker than we’ve had as far as rush and drop,” Grantham said. “Justin was more of a true rush guy. Jarvis is a little bit more of a combo guy.”
Georgia is 113th out of 120 teams in sacks, last among SEC teams.
“Right now we’re just scratching for a sack,” Jones said.
“I’m almost there like every game,” Washington said. “I can almost like smell it.”
Ultimately, Georgia is most concerned with smelling wins and keeping the other team out of the end zone.
“It’s not like we’re not playing well,” Washington said. “We’re affecting the quarterback, and essentially that’s what you have to do.”