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What we learned from week 3: Michigan offensive line struggling against blitzes

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Michigan’s offense doesn’t know how to handle a blitz, Michigan’s secondary needs work, and the offense needs to start games with more energy.

SMU v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines won their second straight ballgame on Saturday after defeating the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in a 45-20 route.

However, this was a game that Michigan was projected to win by a lot more, and the team had yet another slow start to the game offensively as the Wolverines only had a 21-7 lead at halftime.

While the Wolverines were 37 point favorites, they were hardly ever able to stop the Mustang’s passing game defensively, or pass rush offensively. This team has a lot to work on before they hit the big boys in the Big Ten.

Michigan’s offense can’t handle blitzes or stunts

In the first half of this game the Michigan Wolverines offensive line was not able to protect Shea Patterson. There were at least six plays in the passing offense in the first half where Patterson was rushed into making an ill-advised throw, a sack, or a quick dump off pass to avoid losing yards because the offensive line lost their assignments. They especially struggled with the Mustangs stunts which led to many of these quarterback rushes.

Another one of the issues seemed to be Chris Evans blocking from the backfield. The dude was missing blitzing linebackers or defenders from the secondary routinely. This is something that Karan Higdon has become fairly good at, so it was good for Evans to get some practice in there, and to be able to watch the film on this occasion, because if the Wolverines plan to utilize him in the future, Evans has to be able to pick up a block.

When Patterson has a pocket, he seems to be extremely efficient and has excellent poise when protected. He was rarely hurried, wasn’t sacked, and had tons of time to throw the ball after the first quarter woes by the o-line were addressed.

Patterson was impressive completing 14-of-18 passes with 3 TD’s and 1 INT. Michigan moved the ball exquisitely and scored on all of their possessions in the second half. A big part of that was that Patterson threw only one incompletion during that stretch.

Michigan continues the slow starts on their first possession

Michigan has started off every single game they have played this season with a slow start. I believe there may be an issue with Jim Harbaugh’s scripting, and it is that he is too conservative. In all three of the games, Michigan has punted on their first possession, and in two of them, they went three and out.

This is something that NEEDS to be addressed by the Wolverines for their larger rivalry games. Slow starts have plagued the Wolverines in games thus far and against stiffer competition a slow start can bite them in the butt.

The offense being conservative early is a large portion of what has halted the movement and flow of the offense. There are too many runs up the gut and short dump off passes that gain little to no yards on these plays.

But the play calling in the second half has been much better. The offensive playbook seems more open later in the game, giving Michigan opportunities late, but not early. Slow starts have plagued them this far, and it is something that cannot continue as they open up conference play.

The defensive secondary is far from perfect

Coming into this season the secondary was one of the highest praised parts of this Wolverines’ squad. Tyree Kinnel, David Long, and Lavert Hill were highly praised by Pro Football Focus as being some of the best defensive backs in the country. However, they sure haven’t looked that good so far this season.

The worst of the bunch has been Josh Metellus. Metellus seems to lose coverage, get burned, or pick up a penalty on almost ever play he is in the spotlight. He picked up a targeting call in the first half of the Notre Dame game, and was benched in the second half by Brandon Watson against Western Michigan. He finally made a highlight play on the pick six at the end of the first half, a much needed confidence booster, but the play prior he was called for a pass interference penalty.

But, none of them were able to stop the Mustangs’ passing game yesterday, specifically one player in particular, WR James Proche. Proche finished the day with 11 receptions for 163 yards and recorded two touchdowns. They had no answer for this guy who seemed nearly unstoppable. The play by the secondary overall needs to be better if the Wolverines want to make a run to Indianapolis.