EAST JACKSON coach Brian Smith is certainly aware that the following statement may sound odd, but it illustrates the point he’s making about the growing pains in the Eagles’ passing game:
“Our incompletions — if you can say this — our incompletions were better than they’ve been,” Smith said with a slight chuckle. “If that makes sense. If you’ve watched us, they were closer to being completions than they’ve been.”
The Eagles (3-2, 1-1) continue their season-long search for a passing game following a 30-0 homecoming loss Friday to Oglethorpe County in which the team threw for -2 yards.
Whether it’s been dropped passes, errant throws or breakdowns in protection, East Jackson is “just not a very good passing team,” right now, Smith said.
East Jackson’s current struggles in the passing game have made for some tough offensive nights. It’s also made game planning by the Eagles’ opposition rather direct.
With East Jackson completing just three passes in their last three games, opposing defenses have been able to crowd the box and focus solely on stopping the Eagle running game.
Smith said his team has to find a way to keep the opposition off-kilter.
“If I’m playing us, I’m going to load the box and try to take that (the run) away from you,” Smith said. “The only way to solve that … either you’ve got to be better than them physically or you have to figure out some ways to get better in the passing game. Right now that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Smith said he’s trying to get the ball to his running backs wider in the running game to stretch the field horizontally to make opposing defenses defend the whole field.
The Eagles have also added more passes to the tight end to their offensive package.
“But we go back to work everyday to get better at it,” Smith said. “We’re not changing what we do.”
While the Eagles have struggled through the air this year, they have no choice but to continue to keep trying to throw it, Smith said. Again, he pointed to keeping defenses honest.
“If you don’t call it in the game, the next issue you’re going to be faced with is 11 guys up on the ball, up on the line of scrimmage trying to stop the run,” he said.
East Jackson’s assignment gets no easier as they take on a perennial power, Hart County, this Friday on the road. The Bulldogs are 2-3 overall and 1-2 in region play after losing to North Oconee 28-20 Friday.
“It’s a chance for us to go out and play again and improve and get better,” Smith said. “We’re not taking this game as one we can’t win. We’re not taking any of them like that.”
East Jackson’s key to offensive success — even more basic than keeping Hart County’s defense honest with the threat of the pass — is avoiding the negative yardage plays that result from sacks, penalties or tackles for loss.
“What we’ve got to do — whether we run it or throw it — we can’t get behind the chains,” Smith said. “The second-and-longs and the third-and-eights are not good for us, because we’ve got to be so precise and so perfect in the passing game right now.”