Navy secondary must regroup after poor outing, rash of injuries
The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — These are not the best of times for Navy’s defensive backs.
Navy was torched through the air by Duke last Saturday and the secondary’s overly soft coverage was a major reason why. Quarterback Anthony Boone had receivers running wide open in completing 31 of 38 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green had a high respect for Duke’s passing game.
“We knew we needed to play our best and we didn’t. We had some guys that made some mistakes in coverage that let them complete some big passes and that was the difference in the ballgame,” Green said.
Perhaps most disturbing was the amount of yards the Blue Devils gained after the catch. Wide receivers such as Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney and Brandon Braxton repeatedly turned short catches into big gains as the Midshipmen missed tackles.
Safety Wave Ryder had a particularly tough day.
“Wave was in position to make some plays and didn’t pull the trigger. There was a third down when a guy catches it and he’s right there to make the tackle. He’s got to pull the trigger and break the ball up,” Green said. “It wasn’t just Wave. I could give you many examples of that when guys just didn’t pull the trigger.”
Adding injury to insult is the fact several Navy defensive backs were injured against Duke and are limited in practice this week. By far the biggest concern surrounds free safety Chris Ferguson, who departed during the first quarter with an ankle injury. Green said Ferguson could not participate in practice Monday or Tuesday and is “very doubtful.”
“Chris had been playing very well. He’s been consistent,” Green said of Ferguson, who planned to see if he could run on Wednesday.
Of equal concern is the status of cornerback Kwazel Bertrand, who aggravated a knee injury that forced him to miss three games to start the season. Bertrand, who started and played well against Air Force, was removed from the Duke game after Green saw he was hobbling.
“I had to get him out of the game because of the knee,” Green said. “We’ve got to take a close look at him between now and Saturday.”
Cornerback Myer Krah injured his shoulder and is questionable for Saturday’s contest at Toledo.
Junior Lonnie Richardson would start at free safety if Ferguson can’t go while freshman Brendon Clement would replace Bertrand at left corner. Sophomores Shelley White (Archbishop Spalding) and Quincy Adams would bump up to backup corners if Bertrand and Krah are sidelined.
Richardson, a product of Strath Haven High in Chester, Pa., was forced into increased action the previous two games — replacing Ryder (concussion) at rover against Air Force then taking over for Ferguson at free safety versus Duke.
“I practice every week like I’m going to go in. Basically, I have to be ready to play every position from corner to safety to nickel,” Richardson said. “I know at some point somebody might go down and I’ve got to step up regardless.”
Richardson recorded a career-high eight tackles at Duke after notching six in the Air Force victory. The 5-foot-11, 188-pounder had a fumble recovery during the Air Force game after forcing a fumble against Delaware.
“One week, (Richardson) came in and played rover, the next week he came in and played free safety. There’s a lot on his plate,” Green said. “Truth be known, he’s a corner. I think Lonnie’s done a really good job considering he’s playing three positions.”
Richardson said the Navy secondary cannot dwell on the mistakes it made against Duke, but rather must focus on finding ways to improve. The Mids had been ranked 31st nationally in pass defense (205.5 yards allowed per game) prior to being shredded by the Blue Devils.
“We just have to forget about that game. It was a tough loss, but we have Toledo this weekend and we have to bounce back,” he said. “As a group, we have to man up and get better this week.”