Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett poised for big night against Arkansas
Tomorrow night, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, plays host to a game between Arkansas and Texas A&M that will provide the winner with a potential season-defining victory, even just four weeks into the season. Both teams are 3-0, and a win will help them keep pace with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West, with several big games just around the corner. Perhaps the biggest key for Arkansas in this game will be trying to do what few teams in college football have managed: slow down Aggies defensive end Myles Garrett. Our top-rated defender coming into the season, Garrett has the type of talent that can shut down an offensive game plan. Charged with stopping him is Arkansas LT Dan Skipper, who’s had a solid start to the season so far, but has yet to face off against someone the caliber of Garrett. So how will this one shake out? Let’s dig into their performances to find out.
Why Garrett can win
Myles Garrett has been an absolute monster on the edge of the Texas A&M defense in each of the past three seasons, ranking in the top five grades amongst edge defenders in his freshman year in 2014, and as a sophomore last year. Capable of taking over a game from the right side of the defense, he’s once again having a huge season in 2016, and at 88.1, the only player with a higher grade at his position is Alabama’s Jonathan Allen.
As a pass-rusher, Garrett is on pace to be even more disruptive than he was last year, with three sacks, eight hits, and eight hurries on 111 pass-rushing attempts so far, working out at one pressure once every 5.8 pass-rushing attempts. Our pass-rushing productivity signature stat measures pressure on a per-snap basis, with weighting towards sacks and hits, and with a mark of 14.0, he’s currently tied with Jonathan Allen for the seventh-best score among 4-3 defensive ends. Particularly impressive has been his ability to finish pressure off, with a combined 11 sacks or QB hits. That’s the highest total among 4-3 defensive ends, with second place three away from Garrett.
If there’s any negative on Garrett, it’s that while he was dominant in the first week against UCLA, with a sack, three hits, and seven hurries coming in that game, he’s since had two sacks, five hits, and a hurry coming in the past two games against Prairie View A&M and Auburn. Even though he wasn’t filling up the stat sheet, though, he was still applying pressure and making it count.
Why Skipper can win
The first thing people point to about Dan Skipper is his size. At 6-feet-10, he stands out, even on the offensive line. That size helped him block a field goal in the game against TCU, but it’s not what has helped him have a solid year as a pass blocker so far. Skipper struggled both in 2014 and 2015, and allowed 35 total pressures last year, a mark eclipsed by just 10 of the 130 offensive tackles to play at least 404 pass-blocking snaps last season.
He has been much improved this season so far, though, allowing just four total pressures through three games. Our pass-blocking efficiency signature stat measures pressure on a per-snap basis, and with mark of 96.2, Skipper currently ranks 141st out of the 279 offensive tackles to play at least 45 pass blocking snaps. That might not be among the best in the nation, but it’s a huge step up from where he was a year ago, when he had a rating of 93.3.
The biggest concern for Skipper is that he’s going up against arguably the most dangerous defender in the nation. He might have shown significant improvement, but this is the single biggest test he’ll face all season.
What the grades say
With a grade of 75.2, Skipper is currently our 72nd-ranked offensive tackle. That itself isn’t that bad, and he’s playing the best football that we’ve seen from him in the past three seasons. Garrett however, is the second-highest graded edge defender, at 88.1, and has earned praise as a future top-five pick in the NFL draft, thanks to some ridiculous displays this throughout his career. There’s every chance that Garrett can make life miserable for Skipper and the Arkansas offense this week, and the best Arkansas fans can hope for is probably for Skipper to slow him down somewhat, rather than shut him down outright.