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16 Dec 2010

Cover-3: Best of Seven

by Doug Farrar

With seven defensive backs selected in the first round of the 2010 draft -- the most since 1997 -- an impressive class of young defenders was scattered far and wide this season. Perhaps the most impressive, given his draft position and all the talk about those above him, is New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty of Rutgers, who was taken fifth among those defensive backs. McCourty leads all rookie pass defenders in Pass Successes (25), Pass Defeats (13), passes defensed (14) and interceptions (six). I was first alerted to McCourty when I wrote a Cover-3 in late September about three young cornerbacks and was told by our commentariat, in no uncertain terms, that I had missed the boat by leaving McCourty out. It's a fair point, and one I will now try to address with a larger view of his performances.

The Patriots actually had an interesting wrinkle to their 2010 draft class in that three of their rookies have relatives who preceded them in the NFL. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is the best of the three Flying Gronkowskis, linebacker Brandon Spikes is the cousin of veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes, and McCourty's twin brother Jason plays for the Tennessee Titans. Count NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang among those who are not surprised that of all the siblings, McCourty has made the biggest impact. And since we don't have charting numbers for a full season, Rang's numbers are the best way yet to tell you about McCourty's potential.

"In McCourty's last 38 contests, Rutgers allowed the opposition to complete 572 of 1,038 passes (55.11 percent) for 7,144 yards, 36 touchdowns and 32 interceptions," Rob wrote in his pre-draft assessment. "But against McCourty, opponents attempted 249 throws, completing just 88 (35.34 percent) for 684 yards and only two scores, an average of 7.77 yards per pass completion. He allowed just 2.75 yards per pass attempt, the lowest figure of any active player in the Big East Conference during his time there.

"Against his main pass coverage assignments, McCourty has held those receivers to only 42 receptions for 386 yards on 158 passes targeted into his area, meaning that quarterbacks have completed just 26.58 percent of those tosses and their intended targets were limited to 9.19 yards per pass completion and 2.44 yards per attempt.

"Those same receivers averaged 33.84 catches for 430.05 yards (12.71 yards per catch) and 2.47 touchdowns per season vs. other cornerbacks they faced. He proved to be an excellent press coverage defender, as his excellent field vision has seen him make plays on the ball 45.39 percent of the time outside his area, coming to the aid after a teammate had blown an assignment. He has jammed/re-routed those pass catchers away from 148 incomplete attempts (average of 3.84 per game), the most of any cornerback in the Division I ranks during that span."

McCourty actually had one of his best games in Week 8 against the Vikings, but as I've decided to make the same "No Favre Zone" promise that Dr. Tanier did for Walkthrough, that game may be best for a season retrospective or All-Rookie Team down the road. Giving McCourty half a season to adjust to the speed of the NFL, I decided to document his Week 10 game against the Steelers, and the first two games in the three-game stretch from Weeks 11 through 13 in which he registered at least one interception. (At this point, any good defensive performance against Mark Sanchez can't be taken too seriously.)

New England Patriots 39 at Pittsburgh Steelers 26
November 14, 2010

While Steelers cornerback William Gay was getting burned by Gronkowski for three touchdowns on one side of the ball, McCourty was contending with the other side of a receiving corps that's comparable to the Eagles'. In terms of pure "air yards" (yards gained on completions from the quarterback to the receiver without any additional yards after catch), Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace ranks fourth in the league with 15.4 per completion, while DeSean Jackson is just above him at 15.5. And Hines Ward has managed 10.4 air yards per catch, just below Jeremy Maclin's 10.6. So, someone on New England's defense was going to get tested deep.

McCourty's first target came with 13:10 left in the first half, when the Steelers had first-and-10 at the New England 15. Pittsburgh lined up in a bunch left, with Emmanuel Sanders as the lone wideout on the right side. At the snap, Sanders gave McCourty a quick stutter from press coverage and headed for an outside release on a 15-yard pass just outside the numbers. But McCourty covered Sanders so well off the line and trailed him inside enough to force Ben Roethlisberger to throw the ball out of bounds to that side in the face of safety blitz pressure from James Sanders (no relation to Emmanuel, as far as I know). But if there's one thing that isn't going to bother Big Ben, it's pressure from just one guy. To me, this was a case of a first-read quick pass negated by excellent coverage. I liked McCourty's technique off of Sanders' stutter. He didn't lunge one way or the other, he simply kept his feet active and went with the play.

On the very next play, the Steelers went trips left (Note to all announcers who still don't know the difference between trips and bunch: This two-play sequence is an excellent primer!) with Sanders on an island on the right side again. This time, McCourty played about seven yards off, which allowed him to watch as Sanders dropped the ball on Roethlisberger's quick pass. The official play-by-play listed McCourty as "coverage", but he was a couple yards off the ball and closing in when the drop happened.

I was especially impressed by McCourty's coverage on a deep pass to Heath Miller with 1:54 left in the first half. The Steelers had third-and-12 at their own 16, and safety Sergio Brown had just made a good play on a deep pass to Antwaan Randle El. This time, Pittsburgh lined up in a tighter bunch left, with Miller just off the right tackle and McCourty deep in on that side, Miller ran a deep skinny post (at least, I think he did -- it would have been nice to have the All-22 on this one, NFL Game Rewind ...). McCourty, who started his backpedal immediately at the snap, was there to get in front of Miller and break up the potential catch.

The first time Wallace caught a pass with McCourty covering him came with 5:19 left in the third quarter and the Steelers deciding to get small on first-and-10. With McCourty backing up on the snap, Wallace took a little comebacker for a 10-yard gain. I'll say this for McCourty, though -- he was on Wallace like white on rice, and I noted his closing speed throughout this game and the two others I reviewed.

The Steelers got some little stuff completed against McCourty, but anything deep was off the menu. They tried it to Sanders again with 3:15 left in the game; this was another deep outside release by Sanders, but McCourty trailed very well. The only way Sanders was going to catch that pass was to lean back as he was falling. McCourty's coverage had worked too well. He put up a season-high 11 tackles (nine solo), and a lot of that had to do with how the Steelers were playing him, as opposed to the inflated tackle totals of a cornerback getting burnt to a crisp.

Indianapolis Colts 28 at New England Patriots 31
November 21, 2010

Figure 1: Pierre Garcon catch vs. McCourty

Against Peyton Manning, and even facing a depleted Colts receiver corps, McCourty was tested in different ways. The first throw against him came with 7:54 left in the first quarter, and the first catch came on the next play. The Colts were using formation diversity (no, I'm not kidding) to spread the rookie around into some different looks. The deflected pass to Pierre Garcon came on first-and-10 from the Colts 13. McCourty was playing left corner up near the line, Garcon tried a little quick slant, and McCourty played it perfectly. In fact, he almost had what would have been his second pick on the day, just missing the catch off the deflection he made. More and more, I'm getting the impression that if teams see McCourty playing tight on a receiver, that guy probably isn't going to get too many short passes thrown his way. He's vulnerable to underneath stuff on zone as every defender is, but he's pretty exceptional in short spaces.

The Garcon catch on the next play evolved from an interesting formation exercise on both sides, and since the All-22 was up, we can show the whole thing. The Colts went with two tight ends, and two receivers to the left (Fig. 1). New England responded with what first looked like straight nickel coverage, but it was just McCourty playing Garcon in the slot, and cornerback Kyle Arrington outside on Reggie Wayne. McCourty got a good jump on the ball, but Garcon got inside on the turn of a deep cross, and that sliver of daylight was all Manning would need for the 15-yard completion. Most cornerbacks would struggle to make up a receiver's inside position on a route that gets some level of separation. McCourty still looked decent (though not exceptional) with his speed, nearly catching up to the play.

The interception on Manning was an interesting example of how pick totals can misrepresent good cornerback play. I'd say that Mccourty had less to do with the results on that play than on any other in which he was the primary pass defender. Jacob Tamme was outside right against New England's nickel defense, and McCourty trailed Tamme on the sideline before Tamme turned back inside on a funky little curl route. Manning didn't get the memo, because he threw to where McCourty was, about 15 yards downfield from where Tamme had turned in, and it was pitch-and-catch for the rookie corner. This was also a good example of the problems any quarterback faces when he's working with newer receivers.

New England Patriots 45 at Detroit Lions 24
November 25, 2010

Two picks against the Lions may not seem all that impressive when you do the FO dance and adjust for opponent, but his first interception against Shaun Hill was the result of textbook technique. It happened when he was covering Calvin Johnson, who appeared to have a good eight inches on him.

Early in the third quarter, Detroit went three-wide, splaying the Pats into nickel coverage, and McCourty was the left corner covering Megatron underneath. Johnson gave McCourty a little stutter step at the line, used his physicality to get off coverage two yards out and ran down the field. It was the kind of simple route Johnson had beaten so many defenders with through his estimable career, but McCourty wasn't biting. Fifteen yards downfield, Megatron went for the jump ball, but McCourty -- who trailed slightly outside and was waiting to jump the route -- did so at the perfect time. It was more than your typical route jump, because McCourty also had to jump about a foot in the air to beat Johnson for the ball. So many of his excellent traits as a player -- his sense of where he is in the play, his lockdown quickness in short areas, and his ball skills -- were definitely on exhibition once again.

It's always an intriguing thing to scout one player through multiple games. You then have the advantage of blowing past sample-size issues and fluke games and hopefully discovering what a player is all about. From what I saw in three different games and short bursts of a few others, Devin McCourty isn't just the best cornerback in this rookie class, he's passing up the rookie wall and making his name as one of the better young pass defenders in the NFL.

The talent on that class of seven is starting to show up in a big way -- Earl Thomas has probably made the second-highest impact, followed by Eric Berry and Joe Haden to varying degrees -- but I don't think there's much doubt as to the identity of the early leader.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 16 Dec 2010

38 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2010, 11:19pm by Arkaein

Comments

1
by Nathan :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 6:46pm

ive caught a few snaps of browns games the past few weeks and have seen haden make plays left and right

4
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:39pm

Haven't seen much of the browns; Is Haden allowing stuff and then making the play, cleaning up after others, or is he the playmaker who is really the driving force? With some strong parts and some weak parts, Haden might just be picking up the slack, but I don't really know. Would love to hear your take on his play

14
by Nathan :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 8:45pm

I'll defer to someone who's been sitting down and watching the games start to finish to really get into it... I've just flipped over a few times just in time to catch him breaking up a pass, tackling someone in run support, grab an INT. Definitely enough to make me notice.

Looks like he's got an INT the last 4 games in a row so he must be doing something right.

16
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 9:26pm

From what I saw of him during the Pats game he seemed solid, and as remarked at that start of this article, there were many DB's picked in the first 40 or so and I think Rob Ryan, the DB coach in Clev. wanted K Wilson and now some of his comments seem glowing about Hayden whereas before they were very uninspired

26
by huston720 :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 11:08am

I don't remember Rob Ryan ever really seeming too uninspired on Haden, and I'm not sure how much I buy the fact he wanted Wilson more. As for Haden's play I can say that since he took over for Eric Wright he has been spectacular. he hardly gives up anything other than some 10 yard curl patterns, where I expect him to improve. He also is a little over aggressive at times but has become very good at recovering and breaking up passes. He seems to have figured out how to time pass break-ups really well.

The other very impressive thing is his ability in run support. Haden is an excellent tackler, and routinely makes plays in the running game, especially at the LOS on outside runs, and on short passes. I think as he gets more game time from here on out he will show himself to be as good as any other DB in this draft.

2
by Q (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:32pm

" Devin McCourty isn't just the best cornerback in this rookie class, he's passing up the rookie wall and making his name as one of the better young pass defenders in the NFL. "

There is a chance Sam Shields could be better than McCourty in a few years (if not now). Yeah he is only GB's #3 CB but I doubt any rookie starts ahead of Woodson and Williams (plus amazingly only had 1 year of CB experience prior to this year)

5
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:45pm

Could you build upon your statement about Sam Shields? I know McCourty was great at the Combine, he was so tremendously smooth in the drills and he's great in man coverage. This article then goes into his actually plays, could you give some evidence to support your statement?

Is Shields great in man like Revis, or a route jumper like Samuel, aggressive and intelligent like Woodson (would be surprised if he wasn't learning from Woodson)?

I'm not trying to be a jerk, I'm just really interested in Corner play and am really wanting to hear how others interpret play and performance.

9
by Q (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:56pm

Hard to expand on the play of Shields since he plays less than than McCourty based upon his being the #3 CB although GB does play a decent amount of a base Nickel. Shields has tremendous speed and is very good at playing the ball in the air. I don't have tapes to see if it is more zone or man that he plays.

The GB coaching staff is extremely high on Shields. If you want to see a brief glimpse of his athletic ability, check out his interceptions vs Indy and Dallas.

22
by gratif1 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 4:41am

gb plays a lot of 3-3-5 with Woodson kind of playing a S/CB hybrid, usually in or near the box.

35
by JonFrum :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 11:08pm

The guys in front of him on the depth chart are really good, so he must be almost really good? Really?

And what do you expect coaches to say - the guy we just drafted doesn't look all that special? How about judging football players by how they play football? And better than McCourty mow? You're being silly. Take off your fanboy glasses.

38
by Arkaein :: Sat, 12/18/2010 - 11:19pm

Shields appears to be good because although he's not a starter he probably is on the field for nearly half of all plays as the Nickel CB, and surprisingly doesn't get picked on. He's definitely given up a few plays, but not many considering his role in the defense. Usually the easiest way to identify a raw rookie CB is to see how many passes he gets thrown his way.

I certainly wouldn't say he's better than McCourty now, but he's definitely got a bright future considering how much better he is likely to get.

3
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:36pm

Who do you guys think wins Defensive Rookie of the Year; I like McCourty and I think he makes a case for himself but I know one of the rookie safeties (Thomas I think) is close in interceptions. (Haven't been following too many D rookies at other positions)

As a pats fan, reading over on Patspulpit there was so much confusion on draft day about this pick but it really was a great pick. With Bodden down for the year there were so many fans writing off the Pats because they wouldn't be able to stop the pass. Sure, they still give up yardage but having McCourty out there has been huge in turnovers and generally shutting down the deep stuff.

Basically, down in the red zone, I don't see much stuff thrown at McCourty, and that really makes it easier to defend the rest of the possible routes from remaining WR's with safeties helping

Any idea how McCourty reacts to double moves?

6
by Doug Farrar :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:45pm

My bet is that DROY will (and should) be Ndamukong Suh in a landslide. My vote would be 1. Suh, 2. Thomas, 2a. McCourty. As far as McCourty on double moves, I really like the way he stays even at the LOS and in space when receivers try to juke him -- he has a really good handle on that and doesn't try to lurch just to make a play.

15
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 9:15pm

How could I forget about Suh, that should be a no brainer. Even if he isn't the most gaudy stats wise he is absolutely a monster.

27
by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 11:21am

The same way the Heisman Trust forgot about Suh?

7
by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:50pm

I'll be genuinely surprised if it's not Ndamakong Suh, but I also have no idea who is being touted for the award by the mainstream media. OROY I'm pretty sure will be Bradford, and rightly so.

13
by MJK :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 8:40pm

The scary thing is to imagine how much better this all ready pretty good Pats team would be if Bodden hadn't gone down for the year... Nothing against Arrington/Butler, but neither is really a solid #2 CB (both are probably below average). Imagine if the Pats had McCourty and Bodden as their starting CB duo...McCourty is probably better than Bodden, but not by a lot...then their terrible pass defense this year becomes at least below average, if not average. Coupled with the way the offense is playing, and it gets scary for other teams.

Ah well, injuries happen, and it could be worse. The Pats could be the Colts.

30
by Guy #1 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 11:55am

Imagine a healthy Ty Warren in there too. This defense is playing great considering they lost two of their cornerstones

32
by DeepThreat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 3:24pm

And also imagine how good the team can be if they get Bodden, Warren, et all back AND hit the 2011 draft as well as they did the 2010 draft - they have two 1sts, two 2nds, and two 3rds in the upcoming draft.

33
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 4:39pm

And one of those 2nds is pretty much a first as Carolina is picking at the top of the round and that's the 2nd round choice the Pats have.

37
by Bobman :: Sat, 12/18/2010 - 1:23am

Hey... wait... there are a handful of ways to take that last comment.... why, I oughta.....

Okay, for the sake of harmony among mankind, I'll assume you you mean that you'd rather not be starting guys who were preseason cuts at S, CB, WR, RB, TE.... As would I. They have no real hope for any meaningful players returning in the back seven, but maybe some guys coming back at WR and RB can make them better than average enough to be dangerous. Because right now, the Colts are just average. Damn, that hurts.

25
by Rich Hill (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 8:27am

http://www.patspulpit.com/2010/4/23/1439456/comparing-the-five-cornerbac...

This is when I knew McCourty would be a great pick.

8
by master_P (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 7:56pm

ROFL@ the Sam Shields comment. Maybe he'll be a contributor in a few years, but he sucks right now. Seriously, when GB goes nickle the smartest thing to do is just find Shields and throw at him. Which is great for us, because Admiral Armbar is actually good now, so other NFC north teams really needed a new GB corner to pick on. Thankfully shields was willing to step "up"

23
by gratif1 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 4:52am

Last four weeks of Sam Shields targets:

11 for 23, 171 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 7.4 YPA

Whitt, the Packers’ young and exuberant cornerbacks coach, is not afraid to make bold pronouncements. Before the season, he told anyone who’d listen that Tramon Williams – not Charles Woodson, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year; not Al Harris, a two-time Pro Bowler coming off a major knee injury – was the team’s best cover corner. After nine games, what sounded like blasphemy at the time has become abundantly clear, with Williams making a strong case for the NFC Pro Bowl team and a break-the-bank contract extension.

After the ultra-fast – but ultra-raw – Shields went undrafted this spring and the Packers signed him as a rookie free agent, Whitt knew what kind of potential Shields had. What Whitt did not know, given the fact that Shields had spent the first three years of his college career at Miami (Fla.) playing wide receiver and had just 10 games of cornerback experience as a senior for the Hurricanes, was how well he understood the position.

The answer?

“He had no clue. Trust me. No clue,” Whitt said bluntly. “There was one day, I almost lost my mind."

And now?

“Write this down,” Whitt said of Shields, the Packers’ No. 3 cornerback in their nickel defense. “Sam is going to be one of the top corners in this league in two years.”

Source:
http://www.espnmilwaukee.com/includes/news_items/40/news_items_more.php?...

10
by Q (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 8:04pm

Show me 1 game where Shields has been "picked on." You obviously do not watch very closely if you think he is anywhere approaching "sucks."

11
by Q (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 8:09pm

For what it is worth, here are GB's Defensive Statistics vs the Pass:

#9 vs #1 Wrs, #4 vs #2 Wrs, #3 vs Other Wrs, #21 vs TEs, #3 vs RBs

**If teams are trying to exploit Shields they are not doing it very well. GB is #3 vs Others (who you would assume he most often covers) and is also very strong #4 vs 2nd Wrs. TEs doing well is likely more on the LBs than the DBs

12
by Jay (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 8:24pm

The guy Shields covers varies a good bit. They like putting him on the outside guys and put Woodson on the Slot, allowing him more flexibility with blitzing and just being Woodson. So the individual rankings of 1, 2, 3 Wr is misleading. It is significant, however, that none of those is outside the top 10. Have to be impressed with that.

17
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 9:33pm

It'll be interesting to see who the Pats pick on this week. Maybe they will back up the previous statement that said that Shields is getting picked on.

In the Lions game they picked on Smith with quicker developing double moves, with the Steelers they threw at Gay against Gronk, and against the Jets this last time they threw anywhere but at Revis.

Linking some of the ideas together it does seem like Shields is athletic enough to play outside but plays the slot simply because the top two corners are pretty phenomenal. Who did the Pack let go at CB coming off pup, who the dolphins picked up? I think the Dolphins dropped Allen after that acquisition. Well, you gotta think that GB would look at talent and think that Shields is better than that guy.

Really quite a great year for rookie DB's.

18
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 9:35pm

Those are some pretty awesome numbers that McCourty had at Rutgers.

Using those same metric's who is the best corner this year in the NFL?

19
by Q (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 10:02pm

GB dropped Al Harris after he came off the PUP list. The most likely scenario is that NE's TE's destroy GB.

20
by Will Allen :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 11:40pm

For all the talk about gameplanning, playcalling, clock managememt and most other stuff head coaches get involved in, none of it approaches the importance of talent evaluation. The only thing that may come close is hiring a staff, because it is the staff which does most of the teaching.

21
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 1:12am

Belichick is great at most of that stuff; which is why over at Patspulpit during the draft when they do a poll one of the choices is "In Belichick we trust". I personally think Poili (almost said Polian) was the one holding back Belichick in the middle of the decade. Though the KC roster is starting to look okay; some playmakers at important positions, though Tyson Jackson hasn't quite earned his number 3 pick place.

I think McCourty is pretty great for being what, 28th overall. Why did he go later than some of the other DB's? I understand Hayden. Thomas, and Berry, and I was actually hoping for Wilson but who did the Texans pick again? How has he looked?

This draft (for the Pats) in general has been good, and last years was decent as well. I guess that happens when you stock up picks.

I think the guy out of Baltimore has been pretty great at finding defensive talent, and McCarthy in GB has been great finding players in his offense, but as someone I think mentioned in the open discussion thread, McCarthy isn't the greatest at gameplanning or gamemanagement.

24
by ba_edwards :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 6:24am

Kareem Jackson is Houston's rook. He's been burnt a lot, but also hasn't gotten any good safety help. That defense is so terrible that it is really tough to judge how good he is, but he definitely is not a shutdown guy like McCourty seems to be.

Haden wasn't getting any snaps earlier in the year and was sometimes even getting left out of the nickel. Now, Eric Wright has been somewhat benched and Haden has been going nuts. I thought he was more of a route jumping cover 2 type guy last year after checking out some tape, but my goodness I think he knows what routes are going to be run before they actually break. It must be coaching that is identifying some sort of "tells" in the receivers, but kudos to Haden for being able to pick up on it. McCourty has had a much more impressive year, but there isn't a doubt in my mind that Haden will prevail as the top defensive back of this class.

Is it just me or has Berry been underwhelming this year? Have only seen a few of the big hits and a lot of bad angles on underneath stuff. He also got dismantled by Gates in their first meeting this year, but who doesn't get beat by that guy.

31
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 1:05pm

Sorry dude, but speaking as someone who has seen every snap of Kareem Jackson's pro career, he is absolutely terrible. Sure, the defense as a whole is very bad, but Jackson is by far the worst player on it. The front seven has been shredded by injuries, but is still not completely awful, and the pass rush in general has been adequate, especially since the free agent addition of Mark Anderson. Pollard is lousy in coverage, but his skills as a blitzer and against the run make him a legitimately useful player. Wilson is not very good at anything (and has terrible ball skills) but he's not a complete liability. Quin is an adequate CB2/excellent CB3 who is out of his depth as a CB1. McCain is very bad indeed, but he still doesn't get toasted with the terrifying and predictable regularity that Jackson does. Jackson has good closing speed, and can hit. Maybe with better coaching and better team-mates he will one day develop into a useful player. Maybe. But right now he sucks like a fusion-powered Dyson.

28
by CraigInDC :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 11:27am

Your introduction to the Steelers game talks about how good Wallace and Ward are on deep routes and ends ominously with "So, someone on New England's defense was going to get tested deep." Then, the article talks almost exclusively about McCourty covering Emmanual Sanders and Heath Miller. The one play to Wallace you mention is a completion for 10 yards. So, who was tested deep by Wallace and Ward?

Concluding the section with this, "The Steelers got some little stuff completed against McCourty, but anything deep was off the menu." Returns to the theme of the deep routes, but Heath Miller and Emmanual Sanders aren't really the deep threats on the team. Did McCourty successfully cover Wallace or Ward on deep routes? I don't know because you didn't mention it at all.

I guess my complaint is more about composition than analysis. The body of the article should expand on the introduction. In this case you have an introduction and a conclusion that sort of match, but the body is out of place. However, this could get to the analysis if you mention Ward and Wallace to make it seem like what McCourty did was better than it really was. If all he did was cover Sanders, who has 16 receptions on the year, then his play isn't nearly as impressive as it would be if he covered Wallace on deep routes. In the introduction you give the impression that he did the latter, but you don't really back it up in the article.

29
by Jim Z. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 11:53am

On a slightly unrelated note: why does everyone like Earl Thomas? I've watched more than a few Seahawks games this year, and I'm left far more unimpressed with Thomas's liabilities in the running game than I am left impressed by any semblance of competency in coverage. He routinely avoids contact when runners are coming downhill toward him, and as a safety that's something you really can't do. And when he does attempt to tackle running backs, often times he will be stiff-armed to the ground or will find himself being dragged by guys for a few extra yards. And sure, he has five picks, but I've also seen him burnt far too often by receivers due to poor coverage or technique.

I'd say he is below average in run support and average to slightly above-average in pass coverage. And his team's defensive unit is probably one of the 10 worst in the league, and Thomas is responsible for some of that mediocrity. Why exactly is everyone considering him one of the top 3 defensive rookies from this draft class again?

36
by Joseph :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 11:20pm

(From your user name, you should know more about SEA than I do)

For the last couple of years, FS Russell (iirc) was called the worse starter on the team and the NFL. Thomas, as a rookie, is average. That's pretty good improvement--and, since he's a rookie, he will get better. For a comparable, Campbell and other OAK QB's have looked pretty good (and the win column is up), simply because Purple Drank was the previous guy. So, imo, that's why most guys think he's good--because whether he is or not (and I honestly don't know--I think I've seen a few highlights of SEA games this year, and that's it), he's being compared to the previous guy--and he looks like really good.

34
by Boo Cocky :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 4:43pm

Any game charting data from when McCourty faced Rivers et al.?