Bye-Week Evaluation of Bulldogs Offensive Improvement

Kyle Funderburk

The biggest questions facing Georgia football entering the 2020 season centered around the offense, which was abysmal for most of last season. If not for the outstanding defense, 2019 could have been a disaster.

Instead of giving first-year offensive coordinator James Coley a second chance, head coach Kirby Smart hired Todd Monken to fill the position in January. Monken's task was to bring swift and positive changes to a unit too talented to struggle the way it did in 2019.

Despite the turbulent and unprecedented offseason, Georgia has found some early success with Monken. While the offense still has much to improve upon, the unit certainly looks better now than it did a year ago. The advancements are most apparent in two areas:

Better personnel usage

Misuse, or in some cases the neglect of certain skill players, was the true death-knell of Coley's year as offensive coordinator. Georgia had the talent to field one of the SEC's better offenses, yet Coley failed to find ways to get the ball to several players.

Running back James Cook is the best example of Coley's failure in this area. The player Smart said he loved to watch in 2018 only had 47 touches and 320 yards last season. Cook gained half of his yards in the first three games in 2019 and after those three games, he had six games where he touched the ball three times or fewer.

Wide receiver Kearis Jackson, who was off to a solid start last season, was never worked back into the offense after returning from a hand injury. After Eli Wolf's excellent debut, the tight ends were rarely featured in the passing attack.

Monken isn't doing anything radical personnel-wise. He's simply finding favorable matchups for players like Cook, Jackson and tight end John FitzPatrick. Cook's 82-yard touchdown catch against Alabama is a good example. Georgia forced Alabama to cover Cook on a deep route with a linebacker. Cook was too fast, and quarterback Stetson Bennett threw a great pass. Meanwhile, Jackson is enjoying matchups in his favor while the defense gives all of its attention to wide receiver George Pickens.

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Easier system for quarterbacks

Besides the second half against Alabama, Bennett has been solid under center this year. He has 958 yards with seven touchdowns and a 135.9 passer rating. While Bennett is labeled a bit of a system quarterback, that's not a bad thing because of system being so robust.

Most important, Monken does a good job of finding favorable matchups for the skill players. To Bennett's credit, he's a big reason why those matchups are being exploited. Receivers are getting open, so all Bennett is asked to do is find them and deliver accurate passes. Thanks to solid pass blocking, Bennett is able to do some things on his own if no one is open, such as scramble for yardage.

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