Texas A&M Football: Aggies’ defense is progressing nicely under Chavis


The Texas A&M football team has progressed from being a bad defense in 2014 to a solid unit in 2015. 

The Texas A&M football team has improved on defense under the watchful eye of defensive coordinator John Chavis. A close examination of the statistics reveals that the 2015 defense is much more efficient than their predecessor.

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Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin hired Chavis to improve the defense. The 2013 and 2014 defenses could not get off the field on third down, and too often were a mere speed bump between the opposing offense and the endzone.

Chavis was brought in to change the culture of the defense and to motivate them to perform at a championship level. They are not an elite unit yet, but progress has been made through the first five games of the season.

The Texas A&M defense currently ranks No. 57 in the country while allowing 374.8 yards per game. They are allowing the opposition to score 21 points per game. In 2014 the Aggies allowed 450.8 yards and 28.1 points per game.

While the 2015 defense has obviously improved over the 2014 unit, there are still some areas that need to be improved upon. The Aggies are allowing 4.6 yards per rush through their first five games of 2015. That is an improvement over the 2014 defense which allowed 5.0 yards per carry, but is nowhere near acceptable.

Good defenses hold opponents to under four yards per carry. Chavis’ first priority is stopping the run and forcing teams to become one-dimensional. The Aggies have not consistently been successful at doing that.

At its most basic level, the point of the defense is to prevent the other team from scoring and to get the ball back to their own offense as much as possible. The easiest way to measure the success in those areas is to look at some different metrics.

You can look at a team’s third-down defense and tell with some certainty how effective they are at getting the ball back for their offense. The Aggies’ allowed opponents to convert 40 percent of their third downs in 2014. Through five games in 2015 the Aggies are allowing the opposing offense to get a first down only 29.6 percent of the time.

The Aggies are allowing 21 points per game in 2015, but in their first two conference games they have allowed an average of 19 points per game. Compare that to 2014 when the Aggies allowed 38 points per game against Arkansas and Mississippi State to start conference play 1-1.

In 2014 the Texas A&M defense allowed 0.50 points per play during their first two conference games. The 2015 team has been able to cut that number almost in half, to 0.28 points per play. The defense has gotten better at getting off the field, and stopping the opposition once they get into the red zone.

The statistics do mask some issues with the 2015 Texas A&M defense. They have benefited from having bookend defensive ends who are the two best pass rushers in the conference. Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall have combined for 12.5 sacks through five games. 

The lost yardage numbers from those sacks have helped cover up a deficiency at the linebacker position. The Aggies have had to deal with injuries and suspensions at the linebacker position. Sophomore Otaro Alaka is the best linebacker on the team but has only played in parts of three games due to injury.

Junior linebacker A.J. Hilliard missed two games due to suspension, but has been inconsistent since returning. He had eight tackles with two tackles for loss and a sack against Nevada. Hilliard has not had a tackle for loss in the Aggies’ two conference games.

Junior outside linebacker Shaan Washington has been the Aggies’ most consistent player in the unit. He is second on the team with 31 tackles, but need to make more impact plays. Washington only has 1.5 tackles for loss in five games played.

If the linebackers do not improve their play, the Texas A&M defense will struggle to consistently stop the run in conference play. The Aggies need to improve their run defense if they want to seriously compete for an SEC title in 2015.

Chavis has helped the Aggie defense improve to the point where they are a solid unit. The linebackers need to play better so the defense can progress from being a solid defense to a good defense. If that happens, then Chavis should be a candidate for assistant coach of the year.

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