Football Outsiders

Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2017 Slot vs. Wide: Defense

by Scott Kacsmar

We have recently looked at the 2017 regular season data on passes to receivers marked slot and wide for wide receivers, quarterbacks, and running backs and tight ends. This data also can be found in the newly released Football Outsiders Almanac 2018.

The final step is to look at defenses, and how each team fared against each receiver type. (Last year's study can be found here.) This data comes from the charting done by our friends at Sports Info Solutions. Each player's position is based on where he was on the field rather than where other receivers were lined up. For example, if Tyreek Hill is the most outside receiver in a bunch formation that is close to the offensive line, then he and all the other receivers are charted as "slot." If the player was in "jet" motion, then that was charted as the spot from which he originated, which was usually in the slot.

Any coverage stats (always available in premium for cornerbacks) we reference 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.

The DVOA rating 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 the entirety of the opposing passing game.

2017 Defense: Overall Slot vs. Wide

Our first table looks at all targets each defense faced that were thrown to any player in the slot or out wide. We have listed each team's DVOA and number of passes against both slot and wide targets; the rate of passes to players in the slot as a share of passes to either slot or wide receivers (Slot%); 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.


Overall Defense, Slot vs. Wide, 2017
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes Slot% Rk W-S DVOA DIFF Rk
NYJ -13.6% 5 195 12.1% 27 195 50.0% 29 25.7% 1
SEA -6.3% 9 246 14.7% 29 151 62.0% 2 20.9% 2
MIN -26.4% 1 217 -8.6% 12 170 56.1% 13 17.8% 3
BUF -20.6% 2 211 -9.8% 10 179 54.1% 21 10.8% 4
PHI -20.5% 3 183 -10.1% 9 239 43.4% 32 10.3% 5
LAR -14.6% 4 218 -5.9% 14 173 55.8% 15 8.7% 6
ARI -9.5% 8 239 -4.0% 17 133 64.2% 1 5.5% 7
CLE 9.2% 18 172 13.7% 28 167 50.7% 27 4.4% 8
SF 16.5% 27 195 18.2% 30 166 54.0% 22 1.8% 9
IND 23.6% 29 199 24.5% 32 152 56.7% 11 0.8% 10
CHI 7.2% 14 186 3.7% 24 178 51.1% 26 -3.5% 11
WAS 2.2% 12 210 -1.3% 19 132 61.4% 5 -3.5% 12
DET -3.6% 10 207 -11.0% 8 179 53.6% 24 -7.4% 13
NYG 11.1% 21 221 3.0% 23 181 55.0% 17 -8.1% 14
BAL -13.2% 7 186 -21.9% 4 191 49.3% 31 -8.7% 15
OAK 29.0% 30 200 19.7% 31 145 58.0% 9 -9.2% 16
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes Slot% Rk W-S DVOA DIFF Rk
CAR 9.4% 19 221 -0.8% 20 186 54.3% 20 -10.1% 17
TB 12.2% 22 226 0.7% 22 164 57.9% 10 -11.5% 18
TEN 12.3% 23 211 0.4% 21 193 52.2% 25 -11.9% 19
ATL 10.1% 20 239 -4.4% 16 149 61.6% 4 -14.6% 20
JAX -13.6% 6 171 -32.4% 1 171 50.0% 29 -18.9% 21
MIA 13.8% 25 199 -5.5% 15 134 59.8% 6 -19.3% 22
NE 13.5% 24 234 -6.9% 13 184 56.0% 14 -20.4% 23
LAC -2.8% 11 191 -23.3% 3 156 55.0% 16 -20.5% 24
PIT 8.5% 16 181 -12.1% 7 155 53.9% 23 -20.5% 25
CIN 7.3% 15 186 -13.3% 6 181 50.7% 28 -20.6% 26
KC 18.1% 28 244 -3.1% 18 201 54.8% 19 -21.2% 27
DEN 5.5% 13 219 -17.8% 5 136 61.7% 3 -23.4% 28
DAL 13.9% 26 220 -9.7% 11 153 59.0% 7 -23.6% 29
GB 33.5% 32 197 7.6% 26 154 56.1% 12 -25.9% 30
HOU 32.5% 31 203 3.7% 25 142 58.8% 8 -28.8% 31
NO 9.2% 17 214 -32.1% 2 176 54.9% 18 -41.3% 32

The Two Jags

It probably does not come as a surprise that Jacksonville finished No. 1 in wide DVOA given the quality of its corners. But what a difference a year can make on the defensive side of the ball. In 2016, Jacksonville was 32nd in wide DVOA, but we wrote a year ago that the problem was not rookie Jalen Ramsey, it was Prince Amukamara, who finished 73rd in ASR. Fortunately, Amukamara went to Chicago in 2017 and the Jaguars added A.J. Bouye, who finished 20th in ASR and 12th in AYPP. Bouye made for an excellent complement to the All-Pro Ramsey (No. 1 in AYPP). Both corners were still strong in the slot too, where the Jaguars finished sixth in DVOA (same ranking as 2016).

High and Low

Arizona (64.2 percent) and Seattle (62.0 percent) were tested the most frequently in the slot last season. In Arizona's case, that's partly due to offenses staying away from Patrick Peterson. Even on wide passes, opponents targeted Justin Bethel and Tramon Williams more often than they did Peterson. It will be interesting to see how their slot numbers change with the versatile Tyrann Mathieu gone. He only allowed an average of 6.0 yards per play on 54 slot targets, which was much better than the 10.7 yards per play allowed by rookie Budda Baker. Mathieu will hope to help Houston in the slot, where it ranked 31st in DVOA last season.

Seattle, meanwhile, suffered its own departure in the loss of Richard Sherman. The preference Seahawks' opponents showed for slot passes was likely out of respect for Sherman on the outside. At least Shaquill Griffin (12th in ASR and eighth in AYPP) had an impressive rookie season. He only allowed 4.7 yards per pass on slot targets and 5.5 yards per pass on wide targets.

Denver was third in Slot%, which makes sense since the Broncos were fifth in wide DVOA. One has to think teams will be more willing to attack that defense outside the numbers with Aqib Talib joining the Rams. Talib allowed just 4.9 yards per pass out wide last year. Bradley Roby allowed the same average in a bounce-back year (10th in ASR and fourth in AYPP) from a bad 2016. Chris Harris is of course a great slot corner, but the Broncos are still weakened at corner with the Talib move.

Jacksonville and the Jets had a 50/50 split of targets marked wide and slot. Only the Ravens (49.3 Slot%) and Eagles (43.4 Slot%) faced more wide passes than slot passes. This was the second year in a row where that's happened ror the Eagles, so that could say something about the type of defense Doug Pederson and coordinator Jim Schwartz want to run. Even the efficiency was similar, as the Super Bowl winners finished third in slot DVOA and ninth in wide DVOA a year after finishing fourth in slot DVOA and 15th in wide DVOA. Philadelphia will have to replace Patrick Robinson, who had a big impact on the team's slot success. He had the most slot targets (44) and a success rate of 68 percent as opposed to 44 percent for safety Malcolm Jenkins. Robinson infamously intercepted Case Keenum for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game. Coincidentally enough, the Vikings were No. 1 in slot DVOA, thanks in large part to ancient corner Terence Newman and All-Pro safety Harrison Smith.

The Colts and Raiders had the worst wide DVOA, but also finished in the bottom four in slot DVOA. That's pretty discouraging, but at least both teams have new coaching staffs (and one is actually living in the 21st century). The Raiders didn't get to see much from first-round rookie corner Gareon Conley last year, so that could be a big help this season. Likewise, the Colts only had Malik Hooker for seven games last season and Quincy Wilson was a healthy scratch at times. Wilson had a 68 percent success rate on 22 wide targets. These teams just need to get their young draft picks on the field more in 2018 … which leads to our last section.

The Young Secondaries

We wanted to single out a few of the young secondaries that will try to improve this season, including two playoff contenders in the NFC.

The Packers were 32nd in slot DVOA and not much better out wide (26th). To fix the slot, the Packers traded Damarious Randall to Cleveland and drafted Jaire Alexander in the first round. Randall didn't have terrible charting metrics last year (31st in ASR and 29th in AYPP), but he was never consistent. It's too early to pencil in Alexander for the slot/nickel job, but that was where he projected to play coming out of Louisville. As for the problems out wide, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine may not have to worry much about the players who struggled there the most. Davon House (9.1 yards per pass) and Josh Hawkins (10.3 yards per pass) can slide down the depth chart after the team drafted Alexander and Josh Jackson, and re-signed veteran Tramon Williams.

The Jets were fifth in slot DVOA, but 27th in wide DVOA, producing the biggest improvement in the league when going to the slot. The problem was that none of the cornerbacks excelled last year on wide targets. Darryl Roberts and Juston Burris struggled the most, both allowing an average of 8.9 yards per pass. The Jets brought in Trumaine Johnson from the Rams in an effort to get better. Buster Skrine remains a serviceable slot corner, and the two safeties (Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye) should improve in their second seasons.

New Orleans had one of the most improved defenses in the league last season. The Saints finished second in wide DVOA, but only 17th in slot DVOA, producing the biggest improvement in the league when facing wide targets. That basically highlights the impact at cornerback of Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore, who had some very interesting splits last season. On 51 wide targets, Lattimore was great with 5.9 yards per pass and 59 percent success rate. But on 20 slot targets, Lattimore allowed 11.6 yards per pass and 35 percent success rate. Much of that was Julio Jones getting the best of the rookie; that could be a matchup for years to come in the NFC South. Bringing Patrick Robinson back for a second stint also could help the slot numbers given his aforementioned success in Philadelphia last season.

2017 Defense vs. Wide Receivers

The next table features the same data as the previous table, but only for targets that went to wide receivers.


Defense vs. Wide Receivers, Slot vs. Wide, 2017
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes Slot% Rk W-S DVOA DIFF Rk
NYJ -8.7% 8 143 13.7% 28 180 44.3% 27 22.5% 1
SEA -1.3% 13 191 20.2% 31 133 59.0% 2 21.5% 2
WAS -12.8% 7 151 6.5% 25 117 56.3% 4 19.3% 3
MIN -19.4% 5 163 -4.9% 13 157 50.9% 15 14.5% 4
PHI -24.4% 1 137 -12.1% 7 213 39.1% 32 12.2% 5
BUF -21.9% 3 160 -10.0% 11 162 49.7% 19 11.9% 6
LAR -20.2% 4 165 -10.4% 10 153 51.9% 12 9.8% 7
CLE 2.5% 14 124 10.8% 27 156 44.3% 26 8.3% 8
ARI -8.3% 9 190 -4.7% 15 112 62.9% 1 3.7% 9
IND 20.1% 26 162 22.3% 32 140 53.6% 10 2.3% 10
DET -2.8% 11 167 -5.0% 12 168 49.9% 18 -2.3% 11
SF 19.8% 25 148 17.3% 30 154 49.0% 23 -2.5% 12
CHI 7.1% 16 132 4.2% 23 172 43.4% 28 -2.9% 13
TEN 4.7% 15 150 0.1% 18 175 46.2% 25 -4.5% 14
CAR 9.1% 18 169 1.6% 19 173 49.4% 22 -7.5% 15
NYG 11.1% 20 158 2.8% 22 157 50.2% 17 -8.2% 16
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes Slot% Rk W-S DVOA DIFF Rk
MIA 9.6% 19 139 0.0% 17 113 55.2% 7 -9.6% 17
LAC -7.2% 10 144 -17.3% 5 146 49.7% 20 -10.1% 18
BAL -14.3% 6 136 -26.7% 4 184 42.5% 30 -12.4% 19
TB 16.1% 23 178 2.5% 21 151 54.1% 9 -13.6% 20
JAX -22.6% 2 122 -36.4% 1 159 43.4% 29 -13.8% 21
OAK 29.7% 30 138 15.2% 29 132 51.1% 14 -14.6% 22
KC 19.8% 24 186 2.3% 20 180 50.8% 16 -17.6% 23
ATL 15.7% 22 161 -2.3% 16 126 56.1% 6 -18.0% 24
CIN 12.1% 21 126 -10.5% 9 173 42.1% 31 -22.6% 25
GB 33.5% 31 142 8.3% 26 144 49.7% 21 -25.2% 26
DEN -1.8% 12 158 -28.6% 3 111 58.7% 3 -26.8% 27
NE 26.0% 29 173 -4.9% 14 159 52.1% 11 -30.9% 28
HOU 37.4% 32 159 6.3% 24 124 56.2% 5 -31.1% 29
PIT 22.5% 27 126 -10.7% 8 145 46.5% 24 -33.2% 30
DAL 22.9% 28 175 -15.2% 6 143 55.0% 8 -38.1% 31
NO 7.7% 17 164 -31.6% 2 156 51.3% 13 -39.2% 32

Since wide receivers account for so many of the slot and wide targets in a season, the rankings in this table are very close to the first table. So you'll see things like the Jaguars being generally great, the Eagles dominating slot wideouts (while seeing them less than anyone), and the Colts and Raiders being generally terrible everywhere.

Just a couple of defenses produced results against wideouts that were not close to their overall results in slot vs. wide. Pittsburgh finished 16th in slot DVOA, but 27th against wide receivers in the slot. That's because Pittsburgh was No. 4 in slot DVOA (-29.3%) against tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski. True story.

The other team with a big difference was Washington. The Redskins were No. 12 in wide-to-slot DVOA difference, but they moved up to No. 3 when just focusing on wide receivers. No other team moved more than six spots in the rankings. The bad news is much of this stemmed from Kendall Fuller's success in the slot (6.1 yards per pass and 67 percent success rate). The good news belongs to Kansas City, which acquired Fuller in the trade that sent Alex Smith to Washington. This one is not like trading away a young, future Hall of Fame cornerback for a running back, but Washington seems to be on the wrong side of the deal again.

2017 Defense vs. Running Backs

With running backs, we are not going to look at Slot% or differences in DVOA, because the average defense only faced 10.0 slot targets and 7.9 wide targets from running backs last season. We did rank them by DVOA out of morbid curiosity.


Defense vs. Running Backs, Slot vs. Wide, 2017
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes
Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
SEA -127.8% 1 8 DET -145.0% 1 8
ARI -117.4% 2 7 PIT -106.5% 2 5
LAC -69.3% 3 3 MIN -78.0% 3 7
MIN -61.7% 4 8 NYG -72.6% 4 9
LAR -59.1% 5 13 ATL -63.3% 5 10
KC -45.0% 6 5 PHI -55.7% 6 11
WAS -35.3% 7 7 KC -47.1% 7 7
CIN -28.8% 8 19 MIA -42.8% 8 12
HOU -26.6% 9 5 WAS -38.0% 9 9
NYJ -25.4% 10 12 NE -34.5% 10 17
PHI -23.6% 11 7 SEA -24.5% 11 7
PIT -22.0% 12 12 HOU -22.3% 12 5
CLE -21.4% 13 11 CIN -21.4% 13 5
CHI -11.5% 14 11 BUF -18.5% 14 8
BUF -10.3% 15 6 NYJ -18.3% 15 7
NE -10.0% 16 16 TB -3.1% 16 10
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
JAX -4.7% 17 18 NO -1.6% 17 15
OAK 5.4% 18 4 ARI 4.6% 18 11
DET 18.0% 19 10 TEN 10.8% 19 10
IND 28.4% 20 4 CLE 26.5% 20 5
ATL 32.4% 21 23 DEN 28.2% 21 10
SF 34.9% 22 10 LAC 28.2% 22 2
CAR 40.2% 23 12 SF 34.5% 23 5
TB 43.5% 24 15 CAR 36.7% 24 7
TEN 46.4% 25 16 LAR 40.4% 25 11
DEN 57.0% 26 4 CHI 48.8% 26 3
GB 64.6% 27 17 JAX 51.0% 27 9
BAL 67.4% 28 7 IND 72.2% 28 8
NO 71.5% 29 13 OAK 84.9% 29 6
MIA 128.4% 30 7 DAL 94.4% 30 6
DAL 133.0% 31 3 GB 100.3% 31 6
NYG 151.6% 32 8 BAL 201.8% 32 2

For the second year in a row, Atlanta faced the most slot targets by a running back with 23. This makes plenty of sense with a schedule that featured three of the league's most diverse receiving backs: Chicago's Tarik Cohen (four targets), Carolina's Christian McCaffrey (four targets), and New Orleans' Alvin Kamara (seven targets).

New England faced a back out wide a league-high 17 times. The Jets accounted for six of those attempts in two meetings, including four throws to Elijah McGuire in Week 17. Only the first play worked for the Jets.

2017 Defense vs. Tight Ends

Like with running backs, we are not going to show Slot% or DVOA difference for tight ends between slot and wide due to the very small sample size of wide targets. No defense faced more than 15 such plays. However, every defense faced at least 30 slot targets from a tight end, so that portion at least makes the central limit theorem happy.


Defense vs. Tight Ends, Slot vs. Wide, 2017
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes
Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
MIN -47.9% 1 46 CIN -177.0% 1 3
NYJ -30.0% 2 40 LAC -151.5% 2 8
NE -29.7% 3 45 NO -126.9% 3 5
DAL -27.4% 4 42 WAS -108.2% 4 6
PIT -24.5% 5 43 GB -108.2% 5 4
BAL -23.2% 6 43 CAR -84.8% 6 6
TB -20.4% 7 33 DET -74.2% 7 3
BUF -17.4% 8 45 TB -73.9% 8 3
ATL -17.4% 9 55 CHI -62.4% 9 3
DET -15.8% 10 30 KC -56.3% 10 14
SEA -8.8% 11 47 SEA -46.7% 11 11
NYG -6.4% 12 55 MIN -30.7% 12 6
PHI -4.1% 13 39 JAX -27.9% 13 3
NO -3.1% 14 37 MIA -24.1% 14 9
SF -0.4% 15 37 HOU -10.9% 15 13
CAR 1.4% 16 40 TEN -5.3% 16 8
Defense Slot DVOA Rk Slot Passes Defense Wide DVOA Rk Wide Passes
ARI 2.2% 17 42 ARI -4.4% 17 10
CIN 5.9% 18 41 NE -0.9% 18 8
MIA 8.6% 19 53 BUF -0.4% 19 9
CHI 11.2% 20 43 NYJ -0.3% 20 8
LAC 15.0% 21 44 IND 8.1% 21 4
KC 16.9% 22 53 ATL 12.8% 22 13
HOU 19.1% 23 39 PIT 21.7% 23 5
GB 19.8% 24 38 LAR 27.0% 24 9
JAX 20.9% 25 31 SF 28.2% 25 7
LAR 21.1% 26 40 NYG 30.6% 26 15
DEN 24.3% 27 57 PHI 34.6% 27 15
OAK 28.1% 28 58 DAL 37.2% 28 4
TEN 29.4% 29 45 DEN 47.3% 29 15
CLE 40.4% 30 37 OAK 58.3% 30 7
IND 43.4% 31 33 CLE 72.9% 31 6
WAS 49.6% 32 52 BAL 86.9% 32 5

Oakland (58) and Denver (57) faced the most slot passes, which can be expected when playing in the same division as Travis Kelce and Antonio Gates. The Vikings finished No. 1 in slot DVOA, but should see a much better challenge this year in the division from Jimmy Graham (Packers) and Trey Burton (Bears).

For some random trivia, the top three defenses in slot DVOA reached the conference championships in 2016, and two of the top three (Vikings and Patriots) did so last year. Kendall Fuller's success did not involve covering tight ends in the slot, since the Redskins ranked last there.

Comments

0 comments, Last at 06 Aug 2018, 12:58pm