Better or worse? Previewing Georgia's offense in 2022
Last year, Georgia brought home its first national championship in 41 years mainly due to its defense. Five first-round NFL Draft picks can prove the point.
In fact, the Bulldogs set a record of 15 players taken overall in this past April’s draft — 8 defensive players and 7 on offense.
It will be nearly impossible to replicate the Bulldogs’ historic defense, which means the 2022 offense will bear a greater responsibility to win games rather than merely contribute.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett is back and this is his show to run. He’ll throw to a revamped receiving corps, but the Dawgs clearly have star-studded depth at tight end. How does the rest of the offense shape up? Let’s take a look.
Passing offense: Better
Bennett threw for 2,862 yards with 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and it proved to be pretty pedestrian among the quarterback elite. However, his 86.7 quarterback rating was among the top 5, and he threw 15 touchdowns and had just 3 interceptions in his final 5 weeks, a stint that certainly played into the Bulldogs’ first national championship since 1980.
Arian Smith, who broke his leg last year, will be a big key to Bennett’s success this season, playing the role as the unit’s deep threat. Smith, a track star and perhaps the fastest player in the SEC, only has 5 career catches – albeit for an average of 37.6 a grab – but he should have a breakout season if he can stay healthy.
With Smith as a down-field threat, AD Mitchell and Ladd McConkey will be Bennett’s go-to targets at the X and Z positions, respectively. Mitchell is designated to replace George Pickens, and he should improve on his 29 catches from last season. McConkey is Bennett’s most reliable option. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint should see time behind Mitchell, and Kearis Jackson and Dominick Blaylock will get their share of snaps in the slot. Overall, it is a promising group with talent and potential. The opening weeks of the season should dictate how far the group can develop and ripen.
Fortunately, Georgia also has the best tight end room in the country.
Brock Bowers once again can make Bennett’s life easier after his breakthrough freshman year, when he caught 56 passes for 882 yards with 14 touchdowns. Darnell Washington and Arik Gilbert are future pros, too, who give offensive coordinator Todd Monken plenty to mix and match along the way and raise the bar if the wide receivers don’t mature quickly.
Depth is the key to Bennett and the passing game. With that, he should have plenty of options to help spread the field. The Bulldogs have a solid presence up front returning to help give him the time he needs.
Running game: Worse
Run the football. It’s as much a constant and recognizable with Georgia football as the peach is with the state.
Monken will be put to the task here as the Bulldogs haven’t had a 1,00-yard rusher in the past 2 seasons, but they still were a solid group last season. The unit finished 6th in the SEC, averaging 190.93 yards per contest.
The Bulldogs’ tandem of Zamir White and James Cook helped salt away their victory over Alabama in the title tilt last year. They’re gone, so it will up to other Dawgs to share the load this season.
Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton appear to have the inside track. McIntosh’s breakout speed mixes well with Milton’s bulldozer style. Both also can contribute to the passing game out of the backfield.
McIntosh emerged as the Bulldogs’ No. 3 back last season, but Milton missed the part of the season’s second half with a knee injury.
Daijun Edwards saw some meaningful snaps late in games last season, and his role should increase. Freshman Branson Robinson is built to bull his way for yardage, and he should see time as the season progresses.
It’s Georgia, so the expectation is that the unit will be good, but it is too early to make a solid evaluation. McIntosh and Milton may be hard-pressed to duplicate the team’s 190 yards per game last season.
Kicking and return game: Better
Kicker Jack Podlesny is back after a 22-for-27 performance on field goals last season. He made a career-best 49-yarder against Alabama in the national title game last season.
McIntosh and Jackson both averaged better than 19 yards on kickoff returns, and another year under their belts should elevate their status.
Jackson has a workmanlike 8.5 average on punt returns, and look to McConkey to be more involved. He averaged better than 16 yards on just 5 returns.
This is a seasoned group, and their experience should make a difference in a few games this fall.
Overall: Slight worse but still dominant
The Bulldogs may fall a bit short of their 38.6 points per game average — which was aided by defensive scores and short fields — but they still will be among the nation’s best in offensive production.
Often lost in the narrative of how the defense did everything last year is the fact that Georgia led the SEC in average yards per play at 6.98.
Bennett, who is often underrated, is the pivotal part here, as his confidence and production will dictate how far they can go. Monken has the weapons, and he has the passing options to create a diverse scheme.
Bottom line: The Dawgs will average at least 30 points (and perhaps a touchdown more) for the 6th consecutive season. Among SEC teams, only Alabama (14 years) has a longer active streak.