Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Dec 2011

An Early Look at 2011 CB Charting

by Aaron Schatz

We've finally got enough game charting data to get some interesting numbers for the 2011 season. And so, as promised on Twitter a few days ago, here's a look at the best and worst cornerbacks in our game charting stats with the data we have collected as of December 26.

Any game charting data comes with a heavy dose of caveats, but that's especially true for in-season game charting data. So when you look at these numbers, please be aware:

  • Data is still coming in. Because we've got a group of volunteers charting rather than paid employees, we're always a couple of weeks behind, plus there are still unfinished games from early in the season. These numbers include pretty much all games from Weeks 1-8, most of Weeks 9-11, and two-thirds of Weeks 12-13.
  • Game charting data is of course based on watching TV footage, not all-22 film, and therefore our attempts to mark defensive coverage will be imperfect. We do our best.
  • We haven't adjusted yet to give half-credit on plays with double coverage.
  • As always with our cornerback charting numbers, plays listed as "Hail Mary," "Hit in Motion," "Thrown Away," and "Tipped at Line" are not included.
  • These numbers are not yet adjusted for the quality of receivers being covered.
  • Defensive Pass Interference calls aren't yet included.

I used a minimum of 28 targets for these tables. Because this data is incomplete, please don't assume that a low number of targets listed equals a cornerback that opponents are "avoiding." That player could just be on a team with a few missing halves.

Top 12 CB in Success Rate, 2011 (through Week 13)
Player Team Passes Suc% Yd/Pass Avg Dist YAC
D.Revis NYJ 30 73% 3.0 17.1 2.2
J.Greer NO 63 71% 5.6 11.2 7.1
I.Taylor PIT 72 70% 4.9 13.7 2.6
R.Sherman SEA 49 69% 6.1 13.4 3.0
A.Samuel PHI 55 67% 4.5 14.8 2.2
S.Routt OAK 58 67% 4.8 10.9 2.7
D.Patterson CLE 34 67% 5.9 9.3 4.7
J.Wilson WAS 53 66% 5.9 12.5 3.3
C.Finnegan TEN 40 65% 4.0 7.2 2.9
R.Mathis JAC 34 65% 9.1 13.3 5.9
B.Grimes ATL 44 64% 6.5 14.8 5.2
C.Gamble CAR 35 63% 6.8 11.7 3.1

Revis is leading cornerbacks in both stats, and on completions he's also allowing fewer yards after catch than he did last year. Revis is the best cornerback in the league and these numbers back that up. As I said before, don't get too caught up in the low number of charted passes -- we're missing about half of the Jets halves from Week 9 onwards. We have only 38 charted passes for Antonio Cromartie and only 28 for Kyle Wilson

There are two real surprises here. First, Richard Sherman, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Stanford who is playing at left cornerback for Seattle. He's given up a couple of really big plays (most notably an 83-yard touchdown by Victor Cruz in Week 5) but has otherwise been really good and really consistent. His best game was probably Week 8 against Cincinnati. He's listed with nine pass targets -- seven of those to A.J. Green -- and allowed just two receptions. He also was in coverage for two interceptions, one he picked off himself and one he tipped up so Kam Chancellor could pick it off. The other surprise is Dimitri Patterson, a journeyman scrub on his fifth team who is suddenly having success playing nickelback in Cleveland.

Jabari Greer is having a good rebound year after his numbers dropped a bit in 2010. Stanford Routt, Asante Samuel, and Brent Grimes all continue their fine numbers from last season. Rashean Mathis has been near the bottom of the league the last couple years -- 42 percent Success Rate last year, for example. This year, he was much better before getting injured, although he has the "steady cornerback who occasionally gets burned" combo of high success rate and high yards per pass.

Bottom 12 CB in Success Rate, 2011 (through Week 13)
Player Team Passes Suc% Yd/Pass Avg Dist YAC
A.Allen MIN 32 25% 9.9 11.6 3.4
J.Lacey IND 33 29% 9.5 10.1 3.0
D.Hall WAS 53 36% 11.1 9.2 5.3
C.Griffin MIN 45 37% 10.4 12.3 4.2
K.Lewis PIT 34 38% 6.0 10.3 1.0
S.Shields GB 40 39% 9.4 14.0 3.4
E.J.Biggers TB 50 40% 9.8 13.4 5.1
Q.Jammer SD 38 40% 8.7 12.4 2.1
C.Harris DEN 28 42% 7.7 7.5 2.8
J.King STL 53 43% 10.3 13.1 4.7
D.McCourty NE 59 43% 10.7 12.3 3.9
A.Cason SD 51 43% 7.0 12.1 2.6

Oh look, DeAngelo Hall again. Jacob Lacey also has lousy numbers for the second season in a row, but Asher Allen wasn't quite this bad last year. Devin McCourty is having a big sophomore slump, but he's not the only one; Sam Shields and E.J. Biggers are also second-year corners who had excellent charting numbers as rookies but haven't found as much success this season.

Top 12 CB in Yards per Pass, 2011 (through Week 13)
Player Team Passes Yd/Pass Suc% Avg Dist YAC
D.Revis NYJ 30 3.0 73% 17.1 2.2
C.Finnegan TEN 40 4.0 65% 7.2 2.9
A.Samuel PHI 55 4.5 67% 14.8 2.2
A.Verner TEN 32 4.6 59% 10.1 3.0
C.Culliver SF 28 4.7 57% 11.3 1.2
S.Routt OAK 58 4.8 67% 10.9 2.7
I.Taylor PIT 72 4.9 70% 13.7 2.6
D.Coleman JAC 31 5.6 60% 8.8 3.8
A.Talib TB 40 5.6 60% 13.3 4.2
J.Greer NO 63 5.6 71% 11.2 7.1
W.Gay PIT 40 5.7 50% 8.5 3.2
D.Patterson CLE 34 5.9 67% 9.3 4.7

Mostly this is the same guys that were on our table for top Success Rates, although we've got a couple of additions with smaller sample sizes (San Francisco rookie Chris Culliver, Jacksonville's Drew Coleman). Cortland Finnegan doesn't give up a lot of yards per pass because, as you can see, he's practically sitting on the line of scrimmage. He's got the shortest average pass distance of any cornerback with at least 28 charted passes.

Bottom 12 CB in Yards per Pass, 2011 (through Week 13)
Player Team Passes Yd/Pass Suc% Avg Dist YAC
L.McKelvin BUF 33 11.4 58% 19.4 3.9
D.Hall WAS 53 11.1 36% 9.2 5.3
D.McCourty NE 59 10.7 43% 12.3 3.9
A.Ross NYG 46 10.5 45% 13.5 4.0
C.Griffin MIN 45 10.4 37% 12.3 4.2
J.King STL 53 10.3 43% 13.1 4.7
A.Allen MIN 32 9.9 25% 11.6 3.4
D.Florence BUF 35 9.8 46% 13.6 5.6
E.J.Biggers TB 50 9.8 40% 13.4 5.1
T.Williams GB 67 9.7 52% 14.3 5.1
J.Lacey IND 33 9.5 29% 10.1 3.0
B.Flowers KC 56 9.5 56% 16.3 3.5

I said that Rashean Mathis has the "steady cornerback who occasionally gets burned" stats combo this year, but nothing like Leodis McKelvin. Among cornerbacks with at least 28 charted passes, nobody else comes within two yards of his average pass distance of 19.4 yards. We've got him on the hook for four different completions over 40 yards plus a fifth of 34 yards. But he also has a lot of successful plays on third down, not just incomplete passes but stuff like a two-yard completion on third-and-4 and a 10-yard completion on third-and-12.

Tramon Williams and Brandon Flowers also fall into the "steady cornerback who occasionally gets burned" category. So does a player not on these lists: Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha has a good-but-not-great Success Rate (53 percent) and a poor 9.9 yards allowed per pass, but quarterbacks still seem to be avoiding him. We have 55 charted passes with Asante Samuel in coverage, 22 with nickelback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but only 19 with Asomugha. However, the low number of charted passes might be partially due to the weird ways the Eagles were using him on defense early in the season (for example, as a safety).

We'll update these game charting numbers in the offseason once we have the whole season charted.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 26 Dec 2011

37 comments, Last at 07 Jan 2012, 3:09pm by mike jones

Comments

1
by Sander :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 4:48pm

E.J. Biggers is technically a third-year player, although he missed his rookie season with an injury.

I think his presence on the bottom this list and on the top last year shows the imperfections of charting and these numbers. From watching Biggers all year, he seems like the same player - but where last year he faced a lot of weak quarterbacks and not a lot of good receivers, this year good opposing QBs with good second/third receivers have feasted on him. I think he's also been hurt by playing a lot of man coverage.

2
by Gold_Star_for_R... :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 5:12pm

Can you please provide?
Eyeball take: In the early going, he was just as lost as the rest of the AZ D but as the unit gelled PP improved to average.

3
by Intropy :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 5:49pm

Keenan Lewis has weird numbers. He's on the bottom 12 by success rate list, but if you look at his yards per pass he's a lot better than the rest of the list. It actually looks like he just missed the top 12 by yards per pass list. Subjectively, I thought he had really turned a corner this season upgrading from terrible to adequate. Maybe the numbers bear that out, albeit in an unusual way.

4
by Bradley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 5:53pm

Jabari Greer, another underrated gem, just like alot of other Saints players.

5
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 6:18pm

How do you explain Chris Harris? Other sports sites have singled him out for praise. Looks like he has a low success rate (what is that again?) but at the same time has a very low average distance and a pretty low yards / pass, and a not bad YAC. Does that mean he's just a very good tackler who might be playing "off" a couple too many yards away?

6
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 6:39pm

Success rate is percentage of plays at the player that are counted as successes.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/info/methods

My guess is that the Broncos are running a lot of cover 2 zone. You see this with Bear's corners a lot. They give up a lot of 5-6 yards on 1st down which is a success, but it's what the coaching staff wants.

7
by Dean :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 7:15pm

Apparently, I'm cross-eyed by this time of day. I could have sworn at first that it said "Dmitry Patterson Not Included" (rather than Defensive Pass Interference). Come to think of it, this might have been a good thing.

To be fair, though, Patterson got a bad rap last year. He had a couple good years as a dime back in Philly and when pressed into service as a 3rd corner, he held up just fine. Last year, on the other hand, injuries thrust him into the starting lineup and he failed spectacularly, to say the least. So it's really not a surprise to see him having more success when his assignments are more comensurate with his abilities. As a backup, he's fine, but he has no business ever starting.

8
by raider fan in NY (not verified) :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 7:43pm

Stanford Routt is better than Nnamdi Asomugha. Get over it.

9
by Dales :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 7:58pm

Imagine my surprise at seeing Aaron Ross on this list. Poor guy's really struggled this year.

10
by GGEden :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 8:18pm

I'd like to see Revis' full data included before re-annointing, tho I imagine they'll still be very good.

15
by Canadian (not verified) :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 1:40am

Good chance it might go down because Stevie Johnson had a monster game vs Revis that is likely missing from the stats.

11
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 9:12pm

To some degree Shields and T Williams have regressed. They clearly miss Collins back there. But the bigger problem with the Packers D is the utter lack of a pass rush from LBs not named Matthews. Other than Francois (who improved to mediocre), all the veteran non-NFL pedigree LBs have been awful. I'd rather they went to a 3-3-5 at this point and put Hawk on the bench. And the DL hasn't been much better. Mike Neal is not a younger Jenkins. Green is back to his bloated Jets form. Wynn and CJ Wilson are playing their best, but they're never going to be better than replacement level. Raji is just exhausted at this point.

I still think they are closer to the #25 than the second worst defense in the league. But right now they're not playing good enough to repeat. Don't know who the Packers will lose to free agency next spring other than Flynn and possibly Finley. But I'm hoping TT drafts defense with most of his picks.

12
by Foozbawl (not verified) :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 9:15pm

Good stuff, well done.

My only gripe would be about Richard Sherman 'giving up' the long TD to Victor Cruz. It was a fluke play in which two defenders ran into each other and the ball tipped up in the air and deflected right to him. There's nothing Sherman could have done it was a one in a million type play.

13
by CowboyTim (not verified) :: Mon, 12/26/2011 - 11:41pm

I thought for sure most, if not all, of the cowboy's CBs would be on that list at the bottom. Maybe it just does not go that far down...

Then again, maybe it's the fact they have no pass rush outside of one guy.

14
by RickD :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 1:32am

Please
(a) figure out what is wrong with Devin McCourty
and
(b) tell Bill Belichick, so it can be fixed before the playoffs start

If 2010 McCourty could be found somewhere, the Pats might have a chance against the good teams.

16
by JForbes :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 5:02am

He's been playing injured, just like the rest of the secondary.

When he was in against the Redskins, he was dangling one of his arms the entire game. His shoulder needs some time off.

18
by foobarfoofoo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 9:56am

Would be interesting to see how much of this is scheme-related.

Arrington's stats this year look similar to McCourty's last year. And the second CB is notoriously bad in NE the past years.

I doubt (I said it after last season) McCourty ever was or will be that good as people believed him to be after last season. He's probably slightly above average corner, but not more.

The Pats generally lack stability at the safety position which should hurt the corners. They have been lacking their best player (Chung) for weeks now.

22
by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 10:54am

They don't "lack stability." They're stable, but terrible.

They cut their two best safeties in the preseason. Chung is good at a couple of things, but has some holes in his game

17
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 9:27am

Statistically, Asante is the Eagles best corner. So, of course, guess which of the three they're trying REAL hard to get rid of.

19
by Dean :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 10:22am

If he's their best corner, why has he been thrown at more than the other two combined?

21
by Alternator :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 10:37am

Samuel has a reputation as a gambler, often giving up big plays by trying to jump the pass, but also racking up a pretty good (and rather consistent) interception total. He'll get burned, but he's also going to get some picks.

If you've got confidence in your ability to out-predict him, you can eat Samuel alive. It's not surprising that QBs would prefer to pick on him.

30
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 12/28/2011 - 6:19pm

I found this comment interesting, considering that QBs didn't throw at Samuel much last year (only 33 times according to FO), not much more targeted than Asomugha.
By comparison, Ike Taylor and Tramon Williams are targeted a lot. Is Asante being thrown at more because of the way he's being used, or is it because the other DBs are more intimidating?

34
by arias :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:03am

Have to imagine it's due to Samuel playing as the "other" cornerback opposite Asomugha and considered the far lesser of two evils, much like the role Hall played opposite Asomugha in '08.

Whereas last year Cromartie was considered the far lesser 'other' corner to Samuel. While Samuel has the rep of being a significant notch above Cromartie, Asomugha had the well established rep coming into this year of being 'elite', falling only behind Revis.

26
by Harris :: Wed, 12/28/2011 - 9:59am

"We have 55 charted passes with Asante Samuel in coverage, 22 with nickelback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but only 19 with Asomugha. However, the low number of charted passes might be partially due to the weird ways the Eagles were using him on defense early in the season (for example, as a safety)."

20
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 10:33am

I'm kind of curious what the Nnamdi distribution is. If he's only been targeted 19 times, that means the 9.9 yards is largely based on 10 completions, including those two deep balls to Victor Cruz in Week 3. I'm guessing Tanier is responsible for charting him, so maybe we can get a more in depth review in the offseason, once he's off suicide watch.

23
by mrseaballs (not verified) :: Tue, 12/27/2011 - 7:17pm

Sherman only has 2 years exp. at CB and stands 6'3". This kid is going to be all-pro.

24
by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/28/2011 - 3:05am

My hat's off to Sherman. In college whenever I noticed him, he was getting burned, but he was very new at the position. Guess since Carroll can't beat Harbaugh, he's drafting his ex-players.

25
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 12/28/2011 - 7:36am

Fred Bennett would like to let Seahawks fans know that stellar charting numbers from late round rookies aren't always followed by a stellar career . . .

29
by Sander :: Wed, 12/28/2011 - 5:05pm

E.J. Biggers would like to note the same thing.

35
by arias :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:16am

What do you mean "2 years exp"? This was his rookie season. Or are you referring to his two years of cornerback experience at Stanford after making the switch from wide receiver?

27
by jfsh :: Wed, 12/28/2011 - 11:20am

As a Jets fan, I've watched a lot of Revis, and he really is amazing. I've never seen such consistently perfect coverage by anybody. He definitely gets away with using his hands a little bit (although I think most great corners do), but part of that is that he seems to know exactly what he can get away with. He's very smart and extremely quick, although he lacks elite top-end speed, which is probably why he has such a high avg. distance on the passes thrown at him - nobody is challenging him in the short or middle distances.

I also really enjoy watching him tackle. He's not very large and he definitely shies away from contact, but makes up for it with really precise hits. I recall one play where he reached out with one hand, grabbed the runner's ankle at the top of its stride, held until they tripped, then immediately retracted his arm. It was like watching a cobra strike.

If he ever gets thrown at enough to snag some interceptions, I definitely see a defensive MVP in his future.

28
by Charles (not verified) :: Wed, 12/28/2011 - 1:00pm

I'm constantly confused by Ike Taylor. Sometimes I think he's one of the premier corners in the league and sometimes I think he's nothing more than an average player benefiting greatly from one of the best pass rushes in the league. In the past I've berated him for simply playing with a big cushion and making the tackle after a short gain but at the same time allowing easy, short completions.

I see he's been targeted more than any of the other top corners and I suspect it's because his hands are so terrible that opposing QB's are worried about him actually catching the ball, but is this data suggesting that Ike Taylor is one of the elite corners in the NFL?

31
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2011 - 7:15am

I think Ted might finally have to break open the piggy bank and spend something in free agency. The chances of finding a real pass rusher in the draft who will make an immediate impact is pretty slim.

32
by Falcons Fan (not verified) :: Sun, 01/01/2012 - 1:17pm

When can we see a full list?

Personally I am shocked Dunta Robinson isn't on the worst list. He has been atrocious ever since we signed him.

33
by JimHawks (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:29am

This is good stuff. Wondering if you have any data on Seattle's Brandon Browner who's opposite Sherman? Browner's a big CB too at 6'4", had a good first year (other than too many penalties), but also had 6ints...thanks

36
by mike jones (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2012 - 3:07pm

are these stats going to be updated?

37
by mike jones (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2012 - 3:09pm

are these stats going to be updated?