Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

DarthRaider.jpg

» The Week In Quotes: December 15, 2017

As the regular season enters its home stretch, teams prepare for the playoffs, and everyone's busy with holiday activities, it's only obvious that the top item on anyone's mind is Star Wars. (No spoilers.)

20 Jul 2017

2016 Slot vs. Wide: Defense

by Scott Kacsmar

On Monday, we looked at new data from the upcoming Football Outsiders Almanac 2017 (available next week) on passes thrown to receivers lined up in the slot versus out wide. We started with wide receivers and quarterbacks, and then moved on to running backs and tight ends on Wednesday.

(Ed. Note: Speaking of the upcoming FOA 2017, you can now download the free sample chapter on the Atlanta Falcons by going to the sales page for the PDF version of the book. It should be ready for download Monday afternoon, July 24.)

The final part of this analysis is to look at defenses, including how each team fared against each receiver type. This data comes from the charting done by our friends at Sports Info Solutions, and it is based on where the player was lined up at the snap. If the player was in "jet" motion, then that was charted as the spot they originated from, which was usually in the slot.

Any references to coverage stats (always available in premium for cornerbacks) are also courtesy of Sports Info Solutions. To spare us a lot of repeated phrases, we will be abbreviating adjusted success rate as ASR, and adjusted yards per pass as AYPP.

2016 Defense: Overall Slot vs. Wide

Our first table looks at all targets each defense faced that were thrown to a player in the slot or out wide. We have DVOA for each, as well as the ratio of wide to slot passes, and the difference in DVOA from wide to slot. As a reminder, since this is defense, the more negative the DVOA, the better. Teams are sorted by the difference in performance against slot and wide receivers—those at the top fared better against slot receivers, while those at the bottom had better coverage against receivers split out wide.

The DVOA listed in this article uses the baseline from DVOA vs. Types of Receivers, which means that it accounts for interceptions but leaves out sacks and passes with no intended receiver. The opponent adjustments account for the quality of the specific receiver being covered, rather than just the entire opposing passing game.

Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes W-S Ratio Rk W>S DVOA Dif Rk
JAC -11.6% 6 223 24.9% 32 162 0.73 18 36.5% 1
DEN -36.4% 1 249 -2.2% 17 145 0.58 29 34.2% 2
PIT -22.4% 2 211 7.4% 25 204 0.97 6 29.8% 3
LARM -3.9% 8 240 16.5% 31 195 0.81 15 20.4% 4
NO 3.0% 13 230 15.7% 30 209 0.91 9 12.7% 5
MIN -16.1% 3 196 -4.4% 14 192 0.98 4 11.7% 6
PHI -12.5% 4 188 -4.3% 15 210 1.12 1 8.2% 7
NE -3.1% 9 248 2.8% 21 152 0.61 27 5.9% 8
OAK 2.0% 12 248 6.8% 24 161 0.65 25 4.8% 9
GB 6.4% 21 255 11.0% 28 166 0.65 24 4.6% 10
KC -12.1% 5 231 -9.0% 10 210 0.91 8 3.1% 11
DET 11.5% 26 233 14.0% 29 142 0.61 28 2.5% 12
IND 6.4% 20 250 8.1% 26 181 0.72 19 1.7% 13
CHI 11.6% 27 214 8.4% 27 176 0.82 14 -3.2% 14
TEN 8.1% 22 245 2.7% 20 242 0.99 3 -5.5% 15
NYJ 10.5% 25 196 4.9% 23 199 1.02 2 -5.6% 16
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes W-S Ratio Rk W>S DVOA Dif Rk
HOU -7.0% 7 202 -14.1% 6 197 0.98 5 -7.1% 17
ARI 6.3% 19 264 -2.6% 16 153 0.58 30 -8.9% 18
CAR 3.6% 14 240 -5.8% 12 181 0.75 17 -9.4% 19
TB -2.3% 11 247 -12.5% 8 160 0.65 26 -10.2% 20
BUF 9.8% 24 210 -1.5% 19 147 0.70 20 -11.3% 21
BAL 3.7% 15 208 -9.5% 9 200 0.96 7 -13.3% 22
WAS 12.2% 28 220 -2.0% 18 184 0.84 12 -14.2% 23
CLE 18.2% 30 205 3.5% 22 166 0.81 16 -14.7% 24
SEA 9.4% 23 228 -8.5% 11 157 0.69 21 -17.9% 25
CIN 5.4% 18 244 -13.1% 7 132 0.54 31 -18.5% 26
SD 4.1% 16 207 -18.7% 3 184 0.89 10 -22.8% 27
MIA 4.3% 17 223 -18.6% 4 185 0.83 13 -22.9% 28
SF 22.9% 32 224 -4.6% 13 154 0.69 22 -27.5% 29
NYG -2.5% 10 260 -30.5% 1 174 0.67 23 -28.0% 30
ATL 13.7% 29 322 -19.9% 2 157 0.49 32 -33.5% 31
DAL 21.1% 31 241 -15.2% 5 206 0.85 11 -36.3% 32

In Gus Bradley's swan song as head coach, Jacksonville finished last in DVOA against wide passes, but sixth against the slot, giving the Jaguars the biggest difference in 2016. Don't fret about rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey out wide -- he wasn't the problem. Ramsey finished 10th in ASR, but fellow starter Prince Amukamara finished 73rd. Aaron Colvin is a good slot corner, but had a suspension and season-ending injury last year.

Rookie corners in general shouldn't be held to a high standard, but Pittsburgh's Artie Burns had his share of adventures last season. He ranked 77th in AYPP (9.3). Ross Cockrell didn't fare well out wide either (46 percent ASR), but did have a 90 percent ASR on 10 slot targets. The slot was where William Gay (21st in ASR and 12th in AYPP) shined the most again, which is really the main reason why the Steelers covered slot receivers so well.

As for an extreme split at the opposite end, Dallas was fifth out wide, but 31st against the slot. The defense allowed a lot of short completions, but limited YAC adequately. Orlando Scandrick was the primary slot corner, but struggled majorly (75th in ASR at 43 percent). He did miss four games after missing the entire 2015 season, and has usually been solid in the past. The Cowboys are not bringing back perimeter corners Brandon Carr (51st in both ASR and AYPP) or Morris Claiborne (62 percent ASR in seven games). The Cowboys will expect more out of Anthony Brown (58th in ASR) and free-agent addition Nolan Carroll, who finished 26th in ASR with the Eagles last year.

One of the more surprising results was that Denver's defense was mediocre at something in coverage: No. 17 vs. wide, No. 1 vs. slot. Our charting results make sense of this. Slot corner and All-Pro Chris Harris Jr. finished third in ASR (67 percent) and second in AYPP (4.7). While Aqib Talib was strong again on the outside (third in AYPP), the weak spot in 2016 was Bradley Roby, who finished 55th in ASR (48 percent) and 61st in AYPP (8.3). Brandin Cooks in particular got the best of Roby twice in New Orleans, including a 32-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.

The Giants (-30.5% DVOA) were the best against wide targets, though veterans Janoris Jenkins (78 percent ASR) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (70 percent ASR) were much more responsible for that than rookie Eli Apple (38 percent ASR). Overall, Apple finished the season 81st in ASR and 86th in AYPP, but young corners do often turn things around quickly. Also, it helps the team when DRC is No. 1 in both categories.

Atlanta is an interesting case at No. 2 in wide DVOA and No. 29 in slot DVOA. Opponents certainly attacked accordingly. Atlanta faced 58 more slot targets than the next closest defense. Desmond Trufant played well (11th in AYPP) before injury ended his season well short of the Super Bowl. Robert Alford was a Super Bowl hero with a pick-six, and could have been a legend if he had come down with another Tom Brady pass in the final minutes. But the Atlanta corner with the best ASR overall and out wide was actually 2015 second-round pick Jalen Collins (ranked 32nd), who missed eight games. The Falcons should have an improved secondary with Collins and Trufant returning at full health.

Only the Eagles and Jets faced more wide passes than slot passes, but even then their splits were fairly close to even.

2016 Defense vs. Wide Receivers

The next table features all of the same data as the previous table, but these are targets that only went to wide receivers, not running backs or tight ends in the slot or split wide.

Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes W-S Ratio Rk W>S DVOA Dif Rk
DEN -54.4% 1 163 -9.1% 11 124 0.76 27 45.3% 1
JAC -10.6% 6 165 23.6% 32 154 0.93 17 34.3% 2
PIT -21.8% 2 153 7.0% 24 193 1.26 3 28.8% 3
LARM -3.5% 10 207 20.5% 31 177 0.86 20 23.9% 4
MIN -20.4% 3 151 -3.2% 15 181 1.20 7 17.2% 5
NO 3.2% 15 172 16.0% 30 188 1.09 10 12.7% 6
CHI -0.7% 12 163 10.2% 28 162 0.99 15 11.0% 7
PHI -11.1% 5 152 -2.3% 16 205 1.35 1 8.8% 8
IND 2.0% 14 191 8.3% 27 168 0.88 18 6.3% 9
KC -13.7% 4 188 -9.4% 10 197 1.05 13 4.3% 10
OAK -2.7% 11 188 -0.8% 18 146 0.78 25 1.9% 11
HOU -10.4% 7 150 -8.6% 12 183 1.22 4 1.9% 12
NE 1.0% 13 198 2.2% 20 148 0.75 29 1.3% 13
DET 13.8% 23 180 13.9% 29 135 0.75 28 0.1% 14
ARI 8.4% 17 232 5.5% 23 142 0.61 32 -2.9% 15
CLE 12.1% 21 152 5.1% 22 160 1.05 12 -7.1% 16
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes W-S Ratio Rk W>S DVOA Dif Rk
TB -4.7% 8 185 -12.5% 7 152 0.82 22 -7.8% 17
GB 17.3% 29 183 7.7% 26 158 0.86 19 -9.6% 18
TEN 14.6% 26 183 2.7% 21 232 1.27 2 -11.9% 19
CAR 9.4% 19 178 -3.6% 14 170 0.96 16 -13.0% 20
BUF 12.7% 22 174 -1.4% 17 143 0.82 21 -14.1% 21
NYJ 24.9% 32 147 7.5% 25 179 1.22 5 -17.4% 22
BAL 8.5% 18 158 -10.5% 8 187 1.18 8 -19.0% 23
WAS 19.9% 30 161 -0.5% 19 168 1.04 14 -20.4% 24
SD 3.8% 16 154 -20.3% 4 173 1.12 9 -24.1% 25
SF 20.6% 31 187 -4.9% 13 134 0.72 30 -25.6% 26
SEA 16.3% 27 184 -9.4% 9 140 0.76 26 -25.7% 27
DAL 12.1% 20 160 -19.0% 5 192 1.20 6 -31.1% 28
CIN 16.4% 28 163 -14.9% 6 127 0.78 24 -31.3% 29
NYG -3.6% 9 196 -37.4% 1 158 0.81 23 -33.9% 30
MIA 14.2% 24 164 -20.5% 2 176 1.07 11 -34.7% 31
ATL 14.4% 25 228 -20.5% 3 140 0.61 31 -34.9% 32

The Eagles again faced the most wide passes, while the Falcons were typically targeted in the slot. However, the Cardinals had the lowest ratio of wide-to-slot passes. Defenses tried to stay away from Patrick Peterson, but he still traveled with his matchup. Peterson faced 33 wide targets and 32 slot targets with similar success on both (12th in ASR for the season). The surprise was really the down year from Tyrann Mathieu, who finished 71st in ASR. On 22 slot targets, Mathieu had a success rate of just 23 percent. It's almost like everyone who was great for the Cardinals in 2015 just wasn't in 2016.

Miami is a bit of a surprising defense to see at No. 2 in wide DVOA here. Byron Maxwell was ridiculed for his performance in Philadelphia, but did a solid job (36th in ASR and19th in AYPP) last season, even shutting down Antonio Brown in Week 6. Tony Lippett (11th in AYPP) was also a good surprise. A year after Miami finished 32nd against No. 1 wide receivers and 27th against No. 2 wide receivers, the defense improved respectively to fifth and fourth in 2016.

2016 Defense vs. Running Backs

With running backs, we're not going to look at ratios or differences in DVOA just because no defense faced even 20 targets from either the slot or out wide. Instead, we're just going to rank the defenses by DVOA for slot and wide. After all, isn't it fun to see the Jets and Browns on top of something positive for 2016? Nothing says "super small sample size" like that.

Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
NYJ -144.0% 1 7 CLE -375.0% 1 3
MIN -120.4% 2 8 ARI -190.9% 2 5
KC -110.7% 3 6 MIN -124.9% 3 4
SEA -101.6% 4 14 PIT -123.6% 4 3
CLE -73.8% 5 3 CAR -107.0% 5 8
JAC -49.1% 6 5 PHI -94.6% 6 2
CIN -47.6% 7 9 NYJ -34.7% 7 9
MIA -45.4% 8 11 NYG -29.4% 8 3
TEN -18.9% 9 3 TB -29.1% 9 4
CHI -7.7% 10 11 ATL -24.1% 10 13
GB -5.9% 11 10 MIA -13.2% 11 7
BAL -2.6% 12 4 CHI -11.1% 12 7
NYG 4.7% 13 4 KC -9.1% 13 10
PHI 5.0% 14 7 LARM -3.0% 14 13
IND 5.0% 15 7 WAS -1.1% 15 9
WAS 6.5% 16 8 DEN 0.4% 16 6
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
ARI 7.0% 17 10 GB 6.2% 17 4
DEN 9.1% 18 19 IND 11.1% 18 8
OAK 11.2% 19 10 BUF 14.2% 19 2
DET 15.5% 20 5 DAL 17.4% 20 8
BUF 15.5% 21 11 JAC 24.8% 21 1
SD 26.7% 22 3 SF 29.7% 22 9
LARM 28.1% 23 7 DET 32.3% 23 3
NO 35.2% 24 8 NO 44.7% 24 16
NE 41.6% 25 12 OAK 51.6% 25 11
DAL 44.0% 26 9 SD 72.5% 26 7
TB 63.8% 27 6 TEN 72.7% 27 4
SF 76.5% 28 6 BAL 80.9% 28 8
ATL 89.5% 29 19 SEA 82.5% 29 4
CAR 91.6% 30 6 HOU 89.4% 30 2
HOU 93.3% 31 7 NE 127.9% 31 2
PIT 96.3% 32 6 CIN 220.8% 32 1

Denver and Atlanta were targeted the most with 19 slot targets. The Saints faced a back out wide a league-high 16 times. Tampa Bay's Charles Sims accounted for four of those plays (two in each meeting).

2016 Defense vs. Tight Ends

Much like with running backs, we're not going to show a ratio or DVOA difference for tight ends between slot and wide due to the very small sample size of wide targets. Only Denver faced even 15 such plays (six were by Kansas City's Travis Kelce). However, every defense faced at least 22 slot targets from a tight end, so that portion is more noteworthy.

Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
PIT -36.0% 1 52 HOU -105.1% 1 12
NE -34.9% 2 38 LARM -100.9% 2 5
GB -27.3% 3 62 PHI -83.6% 3 3
MIA -24.5% 4 48 BAL -81.5% 4 5
CAR -24.0% 5 56 SD -70.9% 5 4
PHI -23.9% 6 29 ARI -54.1% 6 6
NYJ -19.6% 7 42 NE -45.6% 7 2
CIN -15.2% 8 72 TEN -45.4% 8 6
LARM -14.2% 9 26 WAS -40.6% 9 7
ARI -14.1% 10 22 NO -39.0% 10 5
BAL -12.5% 11 46 SF -22.1% 11 11
BUF -12.4% 12 25 BUF -21.4% 12 2
WAS -12.0% 13 51 SEA -19.0% 13 13
JAC -11.6% 14 53 CHI -12.6% 14 7
TEN -11.5% 15 59 IND -6.8% 15 5
HOU -11.3% 16 45 NYJ -3.2% 16 11
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
ATL -5.7% 17 75 TB 0.5% 17 4
NO -3.1% 18 50 DET 2.5% 18 4
DEN -2.9% 19 67 ATL 11.2% 19 4
TB 0.1% 20 56 CIN 16.8% 20 4
NYG 0.6% 21 60 MIN 18.2% 21 7
DET 1.9% 22 48 KC 20.8% 22 3
SEA 4.0% 23 30 NYG 41.9% 23 13
SD 4.0% 24 50 DAL 51.8% 24 6
KC 8.2% 25 37 JAC 52.1% 25 7
OAK 18.0% 26 50 DEN 52.6% 26 15
IND 24.1% 27 52 PIT 55.1% 27 8
MIN 28.0% 28 37 CAR 83.9% 28 3
SF 28.9% 29 31 MIA 111.1% 29 2
DAL 38.0% 30 72 OAK 139.8% 30 4
CLE 45.4% 31 50 CLE 153.9% 31 3
CHI 71.9% 32 40 GB 162.2% 32 4

The top three defenses in slot DVOA all happened to reach the conference championship round this year. Atlanta was middle-of-the-road at 17th, but also faced the most such plays (75) in the league.

Chicago was a hot mess against tight ends in the slot. On 40 plays, the Bears allowed 33 completions for 375 yards and were flagged twice for pass interference. Green Bay's Jared Cook tripped on one of the five incompletions forced.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 20 Jul 2017

5 comments, Last at 31 Jul 2017, 11:51am by Tomlin_Is_Infallible

Comments

1
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 07/21/2017 - 8:14am

How ATL's and NE's defenses worked sure explained a lot about the Super Bowl.

2
by jtr :: Fri, 07/21/2017 - 10:17am

Now that FO is tracking where WR's line up, is the same happening for defensive backs? It would certainly be interesting to see data on how certain corners who play both outside and inside fare at each position. It also would be nice to see the FO charting data treat CB and NB as different positions, since they really are rather different responsibilities.
Just anecdotally, it feels like there have been a lot of "one hit wonders" at the slot position who spend one season on top of the FO CB charting stats only to never really be heard from again. That might just be an artifact of the fact that there are somewhat fewer snaps to be found for sub-package defenders than base-and-sub package defenders. It also might be related to the fact that outside corners tend to be exposed to longer passes than inside corners, so they can more easily give up a couple of long passes that skew their AYPP.

3
by mehllageman56 :: Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:52pm

So the Jets were ok defending tight ends and running backs in the slot and wide position but still finished with the worst pass defense in the league? Jesus, Revis and co. were really bad last year.

4
by LionInAZ :: Thu, 07/27/2017 - 9:41pm

They faced way more slot and wideout receivers, and ranked 32nd and 25th against them. So, yeah!

5
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 07/31/2017 - 11:51am

so the Steelers can't cover RBs out of the slot or TE lined up at WR.

if only they had a hyperathletic MLB. maybe next year they'll draft one.

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!