Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Jan 2007

AFC Championship: Who Covers Who

Yesterday, we looked at what the Football Outsiders game charting project said about which defensive players on Chicago and New Orleans are most often in coverage against different types of receivers. Read that for an intro to the idea and all the standard explanations and caveats. Today, Indianapolis and New England.

Indianapolis Colts

vs. #1 WR

• 25-N.Harper 31%
• 42-J.David 29%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 10%
• 26-K.Hayden 8%
• 41-A.Bethea 5%
• 20-M.Doss 5%
• Other 13%

vs. #2 WR

• 42-J.David 30%
• 25-N.Harper 26%
• 26-K.Hayden 7%
• 28-M.Jackson 7%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 7%
• Other 22%

Wowie zowie. That's some pretty evenly split Tampa-2 action right there. But here's something interesting: Nick Harper has a 37% stop rate against #1 WR, but a 57% stop rate against #2 WR. Jason David has a 56% stop rate against #1 WR, but a 38% stop rate against #2 WR. A look at which receivers counted as #1 or #2 backs up something we learned from the 2005 charting data: David generally plays things closer, so he stops more plays but gives up larger gains when he gets beat. The receivers who had success against Harper were mainly possession-style guys: Reggie Williams, Andre Johnson, Eric Moulds. (Terrell Owens was an exception, he got Harper deep a couple of times.) The receivers who had success against David were mainly speed guys: Javon Walker, Lee Evans, Terry Glenn, Drew Bennett. (Yes, Drew Bennett is a speed guy. He's "deceptively" speedy, as we all know.)

I guess Reche Caldwell is the #1 WR and the speed guy for the Patriots, so the Patriots may want to have Caldwell on David's side and Jabar Gaffney on Harper's side.

vs. Other WR

• 25-N.Harper 24%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 20%
• 42-J.David 16%
• 58-G.Brackett 10%
• 28-M.Jackson 6%
• 59-C.June 6%
• Other 18%

The Colts have passes to "Other WR" come up as Uncovered or Hole in Zone twice as often as their Tampa-2 brethren up north in Illinois. I would have to check, but I would guess that the Colts are the only team where the nickel back doesn't even come up as covering "Other WR" on at least 5% of passes. Then again, Kelvin Hayden isn't always the nickel back -- the Colts also use safety Marlin Jackson as nickel back, especially in likely run situations.

vs. TE

• 58-G.Brackett 23%
• 25-N.Harper 14%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 14%
• 59-C.June 9%
• 42-J.David 6%
• 28-M.Jackson 6%
• 41-A.Bethea 5%
• 20-M.Doss 5%
• 51-G.Gardner 5%
• Other 13%

The other difference between the Chicago Tampa-2 and the Indy Tampa-2: Gary Brackett is in that middle zone defending the tight end seam routes more often than Brian Urlacher is.

New England Patriots

vs. #1 WR

• 22-A.Samuel 25%
• 27-E.Hobbs 25%
• 30-C.Scott 14%
• 54-T.Bruschi 6%
• 80-T.Brown 5%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 4%
• Other 21%

That Troy Brown number is basically all against Green Bay; the Pats will only use Brown as a slot cornerback -- he knows that position best thanks to his role in the offense -- so the Packers lined Donald Driver up in the slot to take advantage.

vs. #2 WR

• 22-A.Samuel 27%
• 30-C.Scott 17%
• 27-E.Hobbs 16%
• 26-E.Wilson 9%
• 25-A.Hawkins 7%
• 32-H.Poteat 5%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 5%
• Other 14%

Hank Poteat keeps two apartments: one on Long Island, one in Foxboro.

vs. Other WR

• 22-A.Samuel 28%
• 30-C.Scott 20%
• 27-E.Hobbs 17%
• 37-R.Harrison 6%
• 36-J.Sanders 5%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 4%
• Other 20%

Yes, that's correct. We have Asante Samuel listed as the most common defender against all three types of wide receivers. Hint to Peyton Manning: When Ellis Hobbs or Chad Scott is on Marvin Harrison, throw it to him. (I don't think Peyton needs my hints, actually.)

vs. TE

• 50-M.Vrabel 20%
• Uncovered/Hole in Zone 18%
• 54-T.Bruschi 14%
• 37-R.Harrison 11%
• 27-E.Hobbs 7%
• 55-J.Seau 6%
• Other 24%

This probably has no bearing on Dallas Clark. Let's be honest, if Dallas Clark is a tight end, I'm a turnip. But Mike Vrabel has definitely lost something in pass coverage this season, so Ben Utecht could take advantage of that.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 18 Jan 2007