You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

Mark Edwards: Tide looks better on defense and QB — and that's important

Alabama Missouri

9/26/20 MFB Alabama vs Missouri Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses (32) Alabama defensive lineman LaBryan Ray (18) Photo by Kent Gidley

After all that the world has undergone in the past six months because of COVID-19, Saturday night in Missouri showed us something, well … normal.

Alabama won.

The defense performed well ... at least until finishing with a loose fourth quarter.

The quarterback looked solid and in command.

In a 38-19 win over Missouri, and for three quarters, the defense looked better than a year ago.

That fourth quarter looked a lot like most of 2019, when defensive assistant coach Pete Golding might've been the Crimson Tide's most blamed coordinator since Mal Moore was calling plays for Bear Bryant.

For three quarters, at least, Alabama looked like Alabama is supposed to look on defense. It helped that the defensive personnel is mostly intact from a year ago, when inexperience may have played a bigger factor than anything Golding did or didn't do.

Sophomore D.J. Dale looks every bit a man at noseguard. Another sophomore, linebacker Christian Harris, seems much more comfortable. Will Anderson Jr. is a freshman, but appears ready to help at linebacker. It's easy to see why he worked his way into the lineup.

Josh Jobe looks better at cornerback. A couple of years ago, he didn't look as if he ever could help Alabama. Now? He's better.

Dylan Moses is back at linebacker after missing last season with an injury. He says he's upset he missed the 2019 season because he thinks he could've made a difference. Maybe he could have. He certainly makes a difference for the 2020 defense.

At quarterback, Mac Jones made his fifth career start, and he's shown improvement every time. He reminds me of AJ McCarron, who started on two of Nick Saban's national championship teams. Of course, Jones is wearing McCarron's No. 10 jersey and stands about the same height, 6-foot-3. McCarron won games with his arm and consistent performance — not his legs — and Jones seems settled into that same mold.

Against Missouri, Jones had a McCarron-like performance of 18-of-24 passing for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

At one time, Jones seemed destined to being a career backup at Alabama. He wasn't going to beat out Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa. After them, Taulia Tagovailoa looked like the obvious choice as next in line.

Bryce Young seemed next in line to bench Jones. He even enrolled early and would've gotten 15 practices in the spring to make his case — but COVID-19 ruined that. Young, the top quarterback in the last recruiting cycle, will be the guy eventually, but not now.

When Tua Tagovailoa got hurt last season, Jones filled in maybe better than expected, and now, there's no doubt he should lead this team.

Obviously, a COVID-19 outbreak within the team could ruin Alabama. That's no different from any other team in the country.

Still, for a moment, let's assume that if that doesn't happen, this Alabama team has every bit as much of a shot at a national championship as most other Saban teams — even with Tua Tagovailoa gone to the NFL.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.