It’s easy to forget that the LSU defense played about 98% of its snaps in 2018 without it’s best pass rusher. After K’lavon Chaisson went down to a torn ACL midway through the Miami game, LSU had to play 12 games without an elite pass rusher. Other dudes filled in and had some success and while Aranda was always able to scheme up blitzes to get people home, the results were not the same.
LSU fell to 61st in sack rate in 2018 after being 9th and 12th in Aranda’s first 2 years as defensive coordinator. It helps when you can rush 4 guys out of your base defense and get to the quarterback. Having Arden Key off the edge was a big factor in LSU’s high sack rate in ‘16 and ‘17.
With Chaisson coming back for 2019, I took a look at the Spring game and the Miami game to get an idea of how Aranda might deploy him and how he’ll look schematically different than Arden Key.
So that we’re on the same page, here’s what Aranda calls each position on his defense:
Key played most of his snaps at B position. The idea is that if you are going to drop him into coverage because technically he’s a linebacker, you’d want him to the short side of the field so he doesn’t have to deal with a lot of space.
While there are examples of Key playing on the strongside, Aranda deployed Chaisson quite a bit to the wide side of the field. Chaisson might be better in space so he could be lined up at the F to get the matchups that LSU wants.
Playing Chaisson at the F means the staff was comfortable with him setting the edge against the run to the field. They also dropped him into coverage to the field in the spring game which was very interesting.
The pass rushing game doesn’t really change whether he’s on the strongside or weakside.
Playing Chaisson at the F frees up Grant Delpit to move around a bit. Delpit played a ton of snaps last year at the F as he split time between outside linebacker and the 2 safety positions.
Delpit needs to be the all everything defender because he’s so good. Aranda played him at F to get him closer to the line but when he played him deeper at safety, there was more of a void at F without Chaisson on the field. With #4 back, you could play with their alignment a lot.
Aranda sent Delpit off the edge a lot from an off the ball alignment while playing the F. With Delpit at the F and Chaisson at the B, you can really mess around. You can send Delpit and have Chaisson drop to get an exotic pressure look. You can also blitz Delpit while also rushing Chaisson which puts your 2 best rushers in the mix.
They ran the Delpit blitz against Miami a ton.
In the first clip, Chaisson is dropping into coverage and in the 2nd clip (the Battle interception) he’s also coming.
What’s fascinating about the first clip is how Aranda can mix up coverages when Chaisson drops back. It looks like he’s in man coverage in that clip. I can kinda confirm it with this clip in the spring game where, again, it looks like Chaisson is in man coverage:
With Key, Aranda only dropped him into the weakside flat and they basically played Cover 4 behind it. Key was not someone the staff wanted to put in man coverage. It would seem that this is something they are on board with for Chaisson.
When they do play zone, they can still get a little funky with Chaisson. A clip here from the Miami game shows him dropping into the low middle hole.
Chaisson is a more versatile player than Key. Maybe not as dominant as a pass rusher (although that remains to be seen), Chaisson can be used in more ways than Key.
Having him and Delpit at the 2 outside linebacker positions is huge and they can also mess around and put them on the same side when they are in Peso.
Aranda showed a lot of corner and slot blitzes in 2018. Most of them looked like this:
A simple changeup to that blitz pattern is what I call “switch”. The end will rush up the field trying to get the attention of the tackle while the nickel comes off the edge and also rushes upfield at first before banging it back inside off the butt of the end. An easy change of assignments from one of Aranda’s common blitzes.
I think getting back Chaisson, assuming he’s still mostly the same player before the injury, is absolutely gigantic. The defensive line is stacked and will offset the loss of Devin White in the middle. 2019 LSU has the makings of another classic defensive unit.
I’m ready to go
*sees it’s only February*