It’s interesting that Pat Narduzzi decided to use a dog analogy while discussing his defense on Monday at his weekly press conference. Because the unit sure has been playing like one this season.
In describing his cornerbacks Narduzzi said “Sometimes the Rottweiler goes out there and kills somebody. And you talk about that nice little puppy that won’t bite anybody. We just have to get more dog in us and challenge people instead of being so nice. I think we have some talented players out there that have to go bite a little bit more and not be afraid to make a mistake. And be confident.”
Well not since the closing of Mike Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels have dogs been abused as badly as Pitt’s puppy-corners this year. The Panthers are allowing 312 pass yards per game. Only three teams in the FBS (Oklahoma, Rice, Arizona State) are allowing more.
Yet Narduzzi keeps allowing them to battle one on one with receivers without help. He has taken a great deal of grief for that from local fans and media this week. So perhaps in response to that, and in an attempt to deflect attention from his cornerbacks, Narduzzi spent a lot of Monday pointing to other aspects of his defense that need to get better so the corners aren’t hung out to dry as often.
1. Communication: Narduzzi was critical of players at linebacker and safety for failing to give proper instruction to Damar Hamlin in his first game at cornerback.
2. Lack of a pass rush: Narduzzi said the Panthers needed to do a better job of getting pressure on the QB from four man pressures. “If we have 20 sacks (it’s 28 actually), I’d say three of them are from four man pressures,” bemoaned Narduzzi.
3. Find a pass rusher besides Ejuan Price to hurry the opposing quarterback: “He’s dynamic. But they are double teaming him a lot,” Narduzzi said of Price and his nine sacks. But we don’t have someone else who is making people miss. And that hurts you.” Narduzzi was critical of himself and his own own coaching staff for not trying different pass rush combinations, specifically second guessing the decisions to keep Amir Watts and Jeremiah Taleni on the bench.
4. The depth of the playbook: In discussing Miami’s defense, Narduzzi pointed out that the Hurricanes are showing fewer looks than they were at the start of the year in an effort to allow their players to think less and respond faster to the more limited information they need to store and apply. “That’s the same thing we’ve tried to do as well. We’ve tried to condense things and have the guys do what they can do.”
5. Keep manically yelling at the refs: Uh, I mean, hope you get the benefit of a few more calls. Because once again, yes, Narduzzi referenced how the Virginia Tech wide receivers were pushing off.
Whatever the case, be it the cornerbacks themselves or the support system around them, Pitt’s pass defense needs to get better. And quickly. In their losses this season … their losses … The Panthers have scored 38-36-36 points.
If Trace McSorley completes that pass in the end zone for Penn State, add 42 to the list.
Plus they needed a field goal at the end to win with 37 on the board against Georgia Tech.
The point is this offense (that doesn’t even chuck the ball deep downfield very much at all) is doing plenty with help from good special teams return play for Pitt to be better. And the alleged defensive guru head coach can’t get it together in that third area of the team.
Maybe this is a good week to start. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has topped 300 yards passing just once during Miami’s current 4 game losing streak.
It’d be a nice change. After all, it’s been said every dog has its day.