The unfixable

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One of my favorite sayings is one of those great quotes attributed to Anonymous:

“Numbers are like people. If you torture them enough, they’ll tell you anything.”

Sometimes, you don’t need to even twist the numbers. You just come up with a single number as proof of something.

Such is the case with the zero sacks Maryland has accounted for in its first two games.

Given the quick passes both Delaware and especially Middle Tennessee preferred, the low sack total is no surprise. It’s tough, after all, to sack a guy when he’s ditching the ball after a three-step drop.

(A more damning number for the Terps’ defensive line was the Blue Raiders’ third-and-short efficiency – 6-for-6).

But here’s a little tip: The defensive line isn’t going to account for many sacks this year. The unit is undersized, and everyone knows it (even if Ralph Friedgen on a grouchy day will contest that).

There were two reasons Maryland added an alternate defense it could shift into. One, it had a surplus of talent at linebacker. Two, it was thin and not terribly big on the defensive line. And in the alternate 3-5, linebackers are the ones creating the most havoc in the backfield.

Watch the Terps’ defensive line closely and here’s what you see: Plenty of double-teams for the technically efficient Jeremy Navarre, who actually appears to be more effective at tackle than he did at end. In theory, that could create a chance for a linebacker to apply pressure. So far, Maryland hasn’t done much of that.

If there’s a unit where, this year anyway, Friedgen and Co. just have to shrug and say “It is what it is,” it’s the defensive line. Navarre is going to give up 10-25 pounds against most interior linemen, and chances are he’ll be greeted by two linemen on many plays. Bemi Otulaja pretty much has to be technically perfect to be effective, given his height. Mack Frost is probably 40 pounds lighter than any offensive tackle he’ll see the rest of the way.

None of those guys can swallow any magic beans and grow a few inches overnight (Frost wouldn’t need any extra height, anyway). They need to get by with what they have.

So while the words “tweaks” and “adjustments” and “corrections” get thrown around, no one’s making these defensive linemen any bigger.

They’re going to need help from elsewhere – namely from linebackers occupying offensive linemen – if those numbers everyone wants to dissect are going to look any better.

Patrick Stevens

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