Alabama managed to start the season 3-0 after beating Colorado State 41-23 Saturday night, but something about the defense still seems … off. It’s not that they have played terrible, but last night’s performance didn’t seem to have the Alabama stamp of dominance on it.
We’re now three games into the 2017 season, and the Tide’s front seven has only managed 5 sacks. They were shut out last night. That might not seem alarming, but by this time last season, the defense had 10 sacks.
The other thing that has been different is how Alabama has been managing to earn those sacks. Of those 10 sacks last season, only one came from a position outside of the defensive line — edge rushers are included with the defensive line. That front has accounted for 3 of their 5 sacks this season; Shaun Dion Hamilton and Ronnie Harrison added the others.
Given the departures to the NFL, some analysts and fans expected a drop off, but others said Alabama’s defense — including their front seven — wouldn’t take an sort of hit.
Now, when you include the losses of Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis, Anfernee Jennings and Rashaan Evans following the Florida State game — the losses of Miller and Lewis being for the year, of course — that’s going to have a significant impact on the pass rush. In addition, true freshman Dylan Moses was also held out of last night’s contest against Colorado State.
The drop compared to last season’s pass rush production hasn’t just been by way of sacks, though. The rate that Alabama is putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is also down. Three games into the 2016 season, the Tide had hurried the quarterback 8 times; this season it’s dipped to 5.
It’s still early, but the results have shown that the losses suffered from last year’s team are as significant as we had originally thought they would be. The Tide led the country in sacks in 2016 with 54 — and 37 were gone heading into this season — or 68.5 percent.
Losing 5 starters off the front seven creates a difficult void to fill, but analysts gave Alabama the benefit of doubt in being able to reload, to replace 5-stars with 5-stars. That now seems like a huge stretch in hindsight.
The possible production has taken a significant hit with the losses suffered at outside linebacker. Of course that can’t be overlooked, but it’s something that Alabama is going to have to overcome if it wants to return to the national championship game this season.
They’re on pace for a 20-sack regular season, which isn’t going to cut it. They haven’t been that low since 2013, when it recorded 22.
Source: Saturday Down South