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Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) runs with the ball. The University of Georgia football team defeats the University of Oregon 49-3 in the 2022 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game held at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

Georgia defeated Oregon 49-3 in the Bulldogs’ first game of the 2022 season. Following the game, football writer John James graded each position group’s performance.

Quarterbacks

Stetson Bennett was excellent in the season-opener, escaping pressure, extending plays and playing decisive, mistake-free football. Bennett had a career-high 368 passing yards against Oregon, partially because he utilized every target on the field. 10 different receivers recorded a catch in the game, forcing Oregon to cover every inch of grass. Carson Beck also got some playing time, throwing for 68 yards and a touchdown during his stint on the field. Bennett is surrounded by talent on this Georgia team, and if he continues at this pace, he could find himself in the Heisman conversation at the end of the year.

Grade: A+

Running Backs

Georgia rotated through its arsenal of running backs in the first game, keeping the Ducks on their heels for the entire game. Kenny McIntosh showed promise in the passing attack, leading the team in receptions and racking up over 100 yards through the air. Kendall Milton also played well, weaving in and out of tackles throughout the game. Daijun Edwards impacted the game, despite being the third running back on the depth chart. He flashed potential as a big-play threat, breaking out for a 21-yard reception in addition to his work on the ground.

Grade: A

Receivers

Ladd McConkey and AD Mitchell stood out against Oregon. McConkey used his speed to create yards after the catch, evading the defense to the tune of 73 yards. Mitchell did the opposite, muscling defenders out of position and coming down with several contested catches. Both receivers had a touchdown during the game. The tight ends were less conspicuous. Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington each had two receptions – Washington also had a highlight-worthy hurdle – but outside of that, they weren’t especially impactful. The rushing attack was the focus of Georgia’s offense last year, but if the season-opener was any indication, the passing game will receive more attention in 2022.

Grade: A-

Offensive Line

The offensive line lost a pair of starters in the offseason, though Oregon couldn’t seem to capitalize on that fact. The Bulldogs averaged 5.3 yards per run, matching their output from last season. The line’s pass-protection was less stout, and Bennett had to elude pass-rushers on a number of occasions throughout the first half. He made the most of those situations, even delivering a touchdown pass while under pressure. The offense was electric against Oregon, scoring touchdowns on its first eight possessions. It was nearly perfect. If there’s anything to be concerned about, though, it’s the line’s ability to protect the quarterback.

Grade: B+

Defensive Line

The defensive line was the strength of the team in 2021. It helped turn Georgia’s defense into an imposing unit that went down as one of the greatest in history. The defensive line’s performance in the opener did not quite match that precedent. Oregon averaged 4.5 yards per rush, though a portion of that came from Bo Nix’s quarterback scrambles. On that front, Oregon’s quarterback had a clean pocket for most of the game. When he was pressured, he used his legs to escape, turning any possible losses into positive yardage. The season is still young, and players like true freshman Mykel Williams will likely improve with more playing time. But in week one, the defensive line was underwhelming.

Grade: B

Linebackers

The linebacker core was also depleted over the offseason, losing Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall and Quay Walker to the NFL draft. The goal of replacing them was a tall task, and week one’s results were mixed in that regard. At one point, Oregon was six-for-nine on third down conversions, and several of those came down to linebackers missing tackles. On the other hand, Oregon’s explosive plays were kept to a minimum, and Trezmen Marshall almost pulled in a miraculous one-handed interception. There was definitely room for improvement, but the linebackers played well in week one.

Grade: B

Secondary

The defensive backs were the reason that this game became a blowout. Malaki Starks and Christopher Smith had a pair of first-quarter interceptions, stifling Oregon’s momentum before it could even get started. Starks led the team with eight tackles, capping off an excellent debut for the true freshman. As a team, the Bulldogs only gave up 4.7 yards per pass attempt, keeping the Oregon receivers in check for the entire night. The Bulldogs' secondary was smothering in the season-opener; if health permits, it could be a special year for those defensive backs.

Grade: A

Special Teams

The special teams unit played less of a role in this game than it could have. Brett Thorson only played one snap during the game, blasting a 53-yard punt that was downed inside Oregon’s own red zone. The Australian punter is another freshman on Georgia’s roster, though he may have expected more activity in his first game. Placekicker Jack Podlesny was perfect throughout the night, nine-for-nine on extra point attempts. This is Podlesny’s fifth season with Georgia, and his third as the starting kicker. Much like the rest of Georgia’s roster, the special teams unit left very little to be desired in week one.

Grade: A

Assistant Sports Editor

John is the assistant sports editor at The Red & Black, where he previously covered UGA's hockey club and football program. He is a junior at the university, pursuing a degree in journalism and a certificate from the Carmical Sports Media Institute.

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