Texas A&M Football: 5 Aspects of the Defense That Must Improve in 2014
The Texas A&M football team must have an improved performance from their defense in 2014 if they want to compete for a conference or national title. There are a few fundamental aspects of their defense that have to improve so the defense can get better as a whole.
There are certain players who need to step up and play to their potential, and certain positions that simply need to be solidified. The Aggies should have a very good offense in 2014, but they will not be able to beat any of the elite SEC teams without improved defensive play.
The 2014 defense allowed 475.8 yards and 32.2 points per game in 2013. That will not get the job done in 2014.
This is a look at the parts of the defense that must improve if the Aggies are going to be an elite team in 2014.
Weak-Side Defensive End Must Produce a Pass Rush
The Texas A&M defense needs to have a pass rush from their front four on defense in 2014. Specifically, they need their weak-side defensive end to get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.
In 2013, the weak-side defensive end produced three of the Aggies' 21 total sacks. Only one was produced by starter Julien Obioha. The junior defensive end will move back to the strong side in 2014.
If does not matter if incoming freshman Myles Garrett or sophomore Daeshon Hall start on the weak side. Whoever gets the most snaps at the position has to be able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback.
One of the biggest issues for the 2013 defense was that the opposing quarterbacks had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and pick out their receiver. The Aggie secondary could not cover the opposing receivers for four or five seconds, and completions kept drives alive and the Aggie offense on the bench.
If the Aggies are able to get consistent pressure from their weak-side defensive end, it will result in improved play by the secondary.
Deshazor Everett Needs to Play to His Potential
Deshazor Everett was the Aggies' best defensive player in 2013. The senior defensive back started out the season playing corner at a high level.
He was moved to safety after the Alabama game and performed admirably there. After a few games at safety, he moved back to corner but was never able to achieve the success of the first three games.
The Aggies need Everett to be an elite corner in 2014. He has always been excellent against the run and has the coverage skills to be one of the top corners in the nation.
If Everett can play to his potential, then the Aggies will be able to effectively shut down the oppositions top receiver. The Aggies need Everett to finally play like an All-SEC cornerback in 2014.
Howard Matthews Must Be Solid at Safety
Senior safety Howard Matthews has been inconsistent during his career in Aggieland. In 2012 he caused an interception against Alabama and played at a high level for the rest of the season.
In 2013, he struggled for the entire season. He was repeatedly burned by the wheel route. The Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Duke was quite possibly the worst game of his career.
Matthews was beat repeatedly in that game. If he can simply be an average SEC safety in 2014, then the Aggie defense will be much better off.
Matthews and fellow senior safety Floyd Raven are the last line of defense on the field. If they cannot keep plays in front of them, then the Aggies lose games.
Matthews does not have to be special for the Aggies in 2014. He just needs to make the simple plays and be a consistent, solid defender on the back end.
Need to Be More Physical
The Texas A&M defense has to be more physical in 2014. It really is as simple as that. In 2013 they were run over in some of their games.
The Aggies simply did not have the size at every position to stand up to the physical pounding of a SEC schedule. They played a lot of freshmen who ideally would have redshirted in 2013.
The 2014 version of the Aggies will be bigger in the front seven. Sophomore linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni will start in the middle, and he weighs 240 pounds. Compare that to 2013 when Darian Claiborne was starting in the middle when he weighed 225 pounds.
During SEC media days, coach Kevin Sumlin claimed sophomore Daeshon Hall is up to 260 pounds at defensive end after coming in "around 225, 228." Alonzo Williams will be the starting defensive tackle, and he weighs in at 295 pounds.
The Aggies will be bigger in 2014, and they should be stronger. The freshmen who played in 2013 have had a year in the weight program to gain size and strength. They will need to use that size to hold up against the physical teams in the SEC.
Zaycoven Henderson Has to Be Solid
The Aggies are going to ask a true freshman to start at nose guard in the SEC in 2014. Zaycoven Henderson is a 6'1", 300-pound defensive tackle from Longview, Texas.
He participated in spring drills with the Aggie football team and impressed the coaches enough to earn a spot in the Aggies' two-deep at nose guard. With the dismissal of Isaiah Golden, Henderson is going to be the starter at the nose in 2014.
Henderson was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school, according to 247sports.com. He does not have to be special in 2014 for the Aggies to have a good defense. He simply needs to clog up the interior.
If Henderson can get a consistent push on the interior and force opposing offensive lines to double-team him, then that will create better matchups for his fellow defensive linemen. It will also keep the opposing guards and centers off of the Aggie linebackers, so they will be free to make plays.
Henderson has to be able to give the Aggies 40 quality snaps per game at nose guard in order to the Aggie defense to improve in 2014.