2005 Outlook: The Pass Defense

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Al Golden

Looking at the ACC statistics from 2004, it’s evident that pass defense was Virginia’s weakness on that side of the ball. The Cavs finished fourth in the league in total defense at 300.3 yards allowed per game, but only sixth in passing yards allowed at 191.1. The run defense improved yet again and held up to most teams, but the pass defense clearly could have used some help. This offseason the Cavaliers hope that they’ve found a way to make much-needed improvements in that respect.

As mentioned in the article on the run defense

, the Cavs made some changes in the defensive coaching ranks. To my eye, these changes will not only improve the ‘Hoos against the run but also against the pass. Al Golden has been emphasizing tougher man-to-man coverage techniques and ball disruption, while Levern Belin has tried to get the DL putting pressure on the QB. Given the talent that he has at ILB in Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham, Mark D’Onofrio has many options when it comes to unleashing his players on the QB as well. Thus far in practice, it appears that some fresh blood has led to fresh energy and new looks from the pass defense.

Since the 3-4 was installed at UVa, the team has been in a Cover-2 the majority of the time, with the safeties splitting deep and the corners in a short outside zone, and the inside linebackers filling the middle of the field. This look is about as vanilla as it gets, although it has proven to be effective in both college (Miami) and the NFL (Tampa Bay). The problem is the ‘Hoos haven’t brought the necessary aggressiveness into the system that either of those two examples have. The tools to be successful are built into the 3-4 but it takes risks to access the rewards.

Cover 0 (man) would free up athletes to blitz from the linebacker, corner and safety positions, depending on alignment. Different calls such as safety and ILB blitzes would add some complexity to the defensive looks and put pressure on the QB.