Georgia football-defense-improvement
Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Christopher Smith (29) celebrates a tackle during the first half against the Florida Gators in a NCAA football game at TIAA Bank Field, Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Jacksonville, Florida. Georgia won 42-20. (Jason Getz /

The big reasons the 2022 Georgia football defense is getting better at the perfect time

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The big reason Georgia football’s defense is getting better all the time

ATHENS — It was easy to expect some level of drop-off for the Georgia defense at the beginning of the season. The Bulldogs had to replace eight draft picks from last year’s unit, along with defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.

But if you knew anything at all about the Georgia football program, you probably could’ve guessed the defense was going to get better over the course of the season.

We’ll start up front. Perhaps that is the easiest one to identify, especially in recent weeks. The Georgia defensive front has played well all season long, especially against the run. Only Oregon topped more than 105 rushing yards against the Georgia defense.

But getting Jalen Carter back to full strength has been a big reason this defense has leveled up in recent weeks. He got hurt on the opening play of the Oregon game, suffering an ankle injury. Then against Missouri, he sprained his MCL, forcing him to miss the next two games.

Since returning against Florida, he’s turned into Godzilla. Wrecking opposing offensive lines and knocking down quarterbacks like they’re Tokyo skyscrapers.

“That dude is special. That one play he made, he beat the guard so fast, he was in the backfield so quick,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after the Mississippi State game. “You’ve got to block 88 man, that’s some hard stuff. He’s made us chance to go like go where we need to go on defense. He’s healthy, he’s playing, he’s taking the burden off those other guys.”

Carter’s emergence came at a perfect time, as linebacker Nolan Smith was lost for the season early in the game against Florida. That Georgia rarely got to play with both of its most disruptive rushers is a slight bummer for fans of this defense. Still, Robert Beal and Chaz Chambliss have played admirably in recent weeks, while Georgia continues to get more reps for Marvin Jones Jr. and Jalon Walker at the position.

Perhaps the biggest area of growth for this defense comes at the inside linebacker position. Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon are playing at a high level right now.

But it isn’t just the two starters that are impressing Smart, it’s the entire inside linebacker room.

“They’ve done a good job,” Smart said. “Trezmen [Marshall] and Rian [Davis] being back has really been a huge help to Jamon Dumas-Johnson [Pop] and Smael [Mondon] because you can’t really play two inside linebackers and get through a game, you got to have three or four to rotate. They got to have some rest and some recovery, and those guys have stepped up and helped them a lot.

“Coach Glenn Schumann does a great job with that room, he prepares them from day one. They’ve done really well considering who they had to replace.”

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