It’s these responsibilities that we’re turning our attention to now as we look at which cornerbacks made the biggest impact in the run game using our Run Stop Percentage Signature Stat for the spot. That means not just looking at who made how many tackles, but sifting out only those that came against the run. Then we decipher whether or not those tackles constituted defensive stops and relating all of that to how much they were on the field for rushing plays.
So let’s get to it.
Tackles in the Run Game
If you look at a cornerback’s raw tackling numbers you might find yourself misled. Sometimes–simply by being picked on by quarterbacks–a cornerback is going to end up with high tackle numbers. So what we’re careful to do is separate out tackles made in the run game as opposed to those made in coverage. The result? No “cornerback” made more tackles in the run game than new Dolphin Richard Marshall. I say “cornerback” because Marshall actually spent a lot of his time playing safety, with 45.2% of his plays in that spot. Still, he had three more tackles than the super-active Ronde Barber (a player who spent 37.6% of plays at a safety spot) who himself had three more tackles than Charles Woodson (24.0% spent at safety). Here’s the Top 10, and it even features some guys who didn’t spent a lot of time lined up at a safety spot:
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Tackle numbers are all well and good, but we’d say that making a defensive stop (a tackle that prevents the offense getting 40% of required yardage on first down, 60% on second, and 100% on third/fourth down) is more important. Things change up at the top, with Barber moving himself into the lead with 19 defensive stops. Marshall then drops to third behind Woodson.
After those three, it’s Jason McCourty up in fourth, an achievement for a player who is a pure outside corner (91.5% of his plays were at LCB or RCB). Making 15 defensive stops in the run game from his position is more impressive than making 19 while spending time playing in the box. It’s quite telling that McCourty earned the highest grade of all cornerbacks in run support. Here’s the full Top 10 for defensive stops in the run game by cornerbacks:
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Run Stop Percentage
So now we need to put all these stop numbers together and relate them to how many snaps each player spent in run defense. Looking at players who spent at least 100 snaps in run D, it’s Antoine Winfield who leads the way. The Vikings didn’t just miss his coverage ability, because in 105 run defense snaps he picked up seven defensive stops. That 6.7% of run plays turning into defensive stops put Richard Marshall in to second place (6.3%).
It was William Middleton who rounded out the Top 3 by picking up 10 defensive stops on 163 run plays. Invariably, the list is filled with guys who played a lot more in the box, and it really shows the value of slot corners being able to make an impact in the running game. Their proximity to the ball means they’re more often involved in running plays, and with the number of three (or more) receiver sets at an all-time high, they’re being called on more now than ever before. The complete Top 10:
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There’s more to playing the run then just making defensive stops. Cornerbacks can do just as good a job as linebackers or defensive linemen at beating or standing up receivers and forcing runners to alter their path. Looking at these run stops, though, helps shed some light on an under-recognized part of their game.