For a team that's always been about quarterbacks and offense (see – Donovan McNabb), Syracuse isn't really concerned about defense.
If you're a Miami Hurricane, this claim is justified. The Hurricanes, true to their name, run a blitzkrieg offense, leaving opposing defenses flat on the ground. No offense can compete with Miami's (or defense, for that matter), and Miami perennially blows away competition.
But for Syracuse, the key isn't Anderson. It isn't Johnnie Morant. Nor does it have anything to do with Walter Reyes or Damien Rhodes.
The key for Syracuse is its defense – or more specifically the secondary.
Swiss cheese comes to mind when thinking about the secondary from last year.
Pittsburgh's Rod Rutherford threw for 279 yards on just 15 passes for two touchdowns on Oct. 5. Central Florida's Ryan Schneider looked like Ken Dorsey, throwing for 440 yards on 28-47 passing. Going back to the first week of last year, Bret Engemann of BYU torched the SU secondary to the tune of 35-54, for 386 yards.
I'm sure you've already picked up on the pattern here.
Steve Gregory was the only bright part of a secondary that got toasted by opposing wide receivers from week to week. Maurice Mcclain, Will Hunter and Latroy Oliver were no match for the likes of Andre Johnson (Miami 6-181), Marcus Whalen (BYU 19-140) and Sam Aiken (UNC 5-91). The good news is, that group of seniors is gone. Now, the responsibilities will fall to Terrell Lemon, Diamond Ferri, and Troy Swittenburg.
The problem last year was never the offense. Granted, Anderson wasn't exactly free of any blame. Anderson did throw eight picks and completed way under 50 percent of his passes. But the offense was buoyed by prolific running from the two-headed monster that is Rhodes and Reyes.
This year promises to be no different. Even if Anderson has a breakout year, if the defense can't stop opponents on third and long (or for that matter, third and short), Syracuse isn't going anywhere.
Take a few more statistical tidbits and decide for yourself: The Orangemen actually scored 28.91 points a game last year. The last time I checked, that was a pretty healthy number. The problem was the defense gave up 33.8 points. Just from these numbers, it looks like the offense didn't have much of a problem, while the real culprit was the defense.
So lay off RJ. Stop blaming him for all the shortcomings. If you're really looking for a place to point your finger, keep it on the defense – who are the real keys to success this year.
HACK ATTACK: Is RJ really the key?
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