Vols Passing Game Is A Mess


As good as the Vols running game is at the moment, the passing game is as bad.

What has happened to Wide Receiver U? As of last night the Tennessee passing game is officially dead. It was on life support coming off of the North Texas game, but at least it was breathing. Last night it was officially put out of it’s misery for the season.

The Vols Joshua Dobbs was a disturbing 16-25 for 89 yards. The 16-25 part was not the bad part. The less than 5 yard per reception is the disturbing part. Tennessee ran the ball incredibly effectively against Missouri, and did not actually “have to” throw, but the lack of point production was directly attributed to the ineffectiveness of this aspect of the offense.

Now it was cold, and I mean cold. Like 28 degrees at kick off and fell through the night. That is not conducive to throwing a football. I get that. Receiver Jauan Jennings did not dress for some reason yesterday. The Vols are without Pig Howard (Suspended), Marquez North (injury), Preston Williams (injury), and Jason Croom (injury). That does not help. But Von Pearson, Josh Malone, and Josh Smith are not chopped liver. Most of the time anyway.

I think losing Pig Howard to an issue he has had since coming to Tennessee has hurt this corp more than I thought it would. He was simply a playmaker. North is a huge target and has not been available all season. That hurts as well.

But this passing game is totally out of synch. I can not remember the last time a Vol receiver has caught a ball in stride down the field. Think about it. When have you seen any receiver other than a running back catch a pass in stride. They are either catching a ball while sitting down in coverage with their backs to the end zone, or reaching behind them and catching a ball thrown behind them. It is just bad.

The Vols lost offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian last season to the NFL. The passing game was not great under him, but it was much better than it is now. So is it Zach Azzanni who took over as passing game coordinator? Is it Joshua Dobbs inaccuracy? Is it the drops that occur when Dobbs does put in the receivers hand? Is it the attrition to injury of the receiving corp? Is it the lack of time the offensive line is giving Dobbs to throw and receivers to get open?

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I think it is all of the above. Azzanni’s passing game scheme is ill conceived at a glance. The route combinations do not make sense. The easiest throw in football is the slant. There are none in this Vol offense. Crossing patterns are next. There are none to the middle of the field. The Tight end over the middle is next. Ethan Wolf could be all world. He is barely targeted.

Joshua Dobbs has been extremely inaccurate as of late. He looks uncomfortable when he throws. He must be nursing an injury of some sort. He threw the ball really well earlier in the season. He was more accurate, and he had more zip on the ball. He seems to be struggling with both. Look, Dobbs is not Manning. He doesn’t have to be. He runs so well that passing is a luxury, but he must be able to hit an open receiver. He missed a wide open Josh Smith last night that would have been a touchdown. He overthrew him by 1o yards. Not even close enough in hand grenades as we used to say.

The wide receivers rarely beat a defender deep. Rarely. I can only think of one time all season and it was dropped by Josh Malone in the end zone at South Carolina I believe. It may have been Dobbs best throw of the year. Malone is the Vols leading receiver. He has 29 receptions and 388 yards. That ranks him 27th in the SEC. He is a capable receiver and I still think he can be a star. But things just aren’t adding up.

The line seems to be getting better. As of recent they do not have occasion to form a pocket for Dobbs to step up into. The Tennessee quarterback is on the move as soon as he catches the ball out of the shotgun rolling either left or right. It takes Dobbs time to find his receiver, adjust his body to throw, and then deliver the ball. Here in lies the biggest problem in my opinion, and it has a little of all of the problems above to blame.

The passing game is too slow developing. Dobbs does not get the ball out of his hands quickly, or in rhythm. It is painfully slow. I have even looked to see if I can tell if the snap gets to Dobbs too slowly. I can’t tell from the TV, but I don’t think that is an issue. The patterns definitely take too long to develop. These receivers are not slow, and they are physical enough. It is just slow.

Tennessee needs to throw the ball better to beat a Vanderbilt team that has a really good defense. They are pitiful offensively, but can play defense with anyone in the SEC.

The great thing about bowl eligibility is that it gives the Vols a month extra of practice. It will give the receivers a full month to recover. It will give Dobbs some time to heal as well if that is indeed a problem somewhere.

It will give Azzanni some time to experiment and have time with quarterback and receivers to develop an SEC passing game for next season. The Vols can not get better next season if they do not get this fixed. The Vols have the pieces in place, but they have to be able to keep defenses off balance. Vanderbilt will stack the box next week like you won’t believe. They will dare the Vols to throw by trying to take away the run at all costs.

This will be the game plan for everyone next year if this continues. The Vols will get it figured out . They simply have too much talent in Dobbs, and this receiving corp. But please get it done. It is Wide Receiver U after all.