What defensive improvements are needed for Rutgers football in 2023?

In 2022, Rutgers had a below-average defense, ranking them second-from-the-bottom among Big Ten teams. As a team, Rutgers gave up an average of 29.3 points per game, 45 touchdowns, and 351 total points in 12 games. What areas of improvement should the Scarlet Knights focus on in 2023?

Defensive Line

Rutgers’ defensive line is one focal point to look at this season. Last year, the Scarlet Knights had 20 sacks, ranking them No. 12 in the Big Ten Conference. Putting pressure on the quarterback increases the chances of turnovers, leading to positive plays for the Scarlet Knights.

The conference leader in this stat was Penn State, who had 43 sacks last season, more than doubling Rutgers’ sack total. If the Scarlet Knights can’t get after the quarterback with just their defensive line, then they should consider changing their defensive scheme by being aggressive and blitzing.


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Forcing Turnovers

In 2022, Rutgers’ defense had nine interceptions, ranking them 12th in the Big Ten Conference. Illinois, the Big Ten leader in interceptions, had 24 interceptions last season, more than doubling the Scarlet Knights’ total. With those nine interceptions, Rutgers scored two touchdowns. Head coach Greg Schiano would like to see his defense support the offense with easy scores. 

Red Zone Defense

In all the defensive stats, Rutgers’ red zone defense was the worst in the conference. In 2022, the Scarlet Knights were dead last in red zone defense among the Big Ten. In 12 games, Rutgers’ opponents had 41 attempts scoring 39 times inside the red zone.


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Throughout the 2022 season, the Scarlet Knights only stopped their opponents twice inside the red zone, forcing only one turnover. Rutgers’ opponents had a 95.1% chance to score either a touchdown or field goal once they were inside Rutgers’ twenty-yard line. In 2023, Rutgers needs a bend, don’t break mentality, staying strong when their opponents are stomping on the goal line.

Rutgers’ defense is ranked below average amongst defensive stats within the Big Ten. Look for the Scarlet Knights to change their defensive philosophy to improve these defensive weaknesses.


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Story originally appeared on Rutgers Wire