FIRST-HALF GRADES FOR NAVY DEFENSE

Going into the season Navy's defense had a lot of question marks. However after a 2-0 start, it was the defense that was providing an unexpected spark – good enough to be ranked 39th in total defense and 31st in points allowed in the country. But once the competition got better, their inexperience and poor execution were magnified. Is it 2007 all over again for the Mids? Seems like it.

Defensive Line

The Good: Jabaree Tuani is healthy. Nose guard Alex Doolittle and end Jamel Dobbs are only sophomores and will hopefully get better, if not this season, than in 2012.

The Bad: Having made just five sacks in six games isn't exactly a surprise since Navy only had 18 in 13 games last season. However, the overall lack of pressure on the quarterback considering Tuani's talent is disturbing and has led to several crucial third down conversions by Navy's opponents. This is a big reason why opposing quarterbacks have a pass efficiency rating of 144.18 – which is bad enough for Navy to be ranked 102nd out of 120 teams. The Mids are also next to last in the country in both sacks and tackles for losses.

The Grade: At the beginning of the season, Coach Niumatalolo called Tuani one of the best defensive linemen to ever play at Navy. However, through six games I can only think of two or three times when I can remember Tuani just taking over a play. Last season there were multiple series when it seemed like he was possessed and just everywhere on the field – with or without a helmet. Finding ways for Tuani to make plays is probably on the top of Buddy Green's to-do list. Having somebody else, perhaps a healthy Jared Marks, playing to their potential couldn't hurt.

DEFENSIVE LINE GRADE: C-

Linebackers

The Good: Matt Warrick and Matt Brewer, both of whom were pretty banged up in the Rutgers game, have shown that at times they are capable of making big plays. Warrick's 53 tackles lead the team by a wide margin.

The Bad: As much as Navy's offense misses their injured playmaker Aaron Santiago, their defense misses the departed Aaron McCauley that much more. No current linebacker, inside or out, seems to possess McCauley's big-play potential and knack for flying to the ball. Watching running backs weave their way around Navy linebackers or break their tackles has become way too customary. Also gone are the days when a linebacker was able to pressure a quarterback. Navy linebackers have accounted for one sack in six games. Navy isn't going to win too many games when their opponent rushes for over 150 yards and currently they are giving up 209 per contest.    

The Grade: Coming into the season it seemed as though one possible strength for Green's unit was the amount of depth he had at linebacker. Right now I'm wondering what ever happened to Vinnie Mauro.

LINEBACKER GRADE: D

Secondary

The Good: It's early in his career, but there is plenty to already like about freshman Chris Ferguson who made a splash in his first-ever start last week. Outside of Tuani, he may be the biggest playmaker for the Mids on defense which is both exciting and scary at the same time. Kwesi Mitchell has two interceptions to lead the team and Tra'ves Bush is second on the team in tackles with 38, and tackles for a loss with three.

The Bad: After eight games last season, the longest pass play against the Mids went for 32 yards. Thus far this season, they have given up a 77-yard yard TD to Southern Mississippi and a 52-yard TD to Air Force. That may be why Buddy Green has his corners consistently playing about 12-15 yards off the ball – even on third and short. Tackling – or a lack of it – has also been a problem for the secondary.

The Grade: Statistically speaking the unit hasn't been terrible; however the quarterbacks they have faced so far have been less than spectacular (with the exception of Southern Miss). There is no doubt that trouble (and a statistical reality check) could be on the horizon with pass happy teams like East Carolina, Notre Dame, and SMU looming.  

SECONDARY GRADE: B-

Overall Defensive Grade: In 2007, Navy's defense gave up an average of 439 yards per game. So far this season, they are giving up 410 per contest. It's very possible that this unit could give the 2007 one a run for its money. Combine that awful statistic with an offense that has yet to match expectations and  special teams that would receive a failing grade, and you have a 2-4 Navy team on the verge of ending several impressive streaks. Navy fans knew it was going to be a challenging year for Buddy Green and his defense but hopes were placed on Tuani's abilities as well as the supposed overall talent level and depth throughout the unit to keep it from regressing to 2007 levels. Against Rutgers there were signs of improvement – including some big plays - but there is still a lot to be concerned about. Here's hoping Green finds a way to make the best with what he's got. And here's hoping what happened in the first half against Air Force and during the entire Southern Mississippi game isn't repeated.  

OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE: C-


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