We’re nearing the end of our series highlighting the best performances from the 2011 season and we’ve arrived at the defensive backfield, so up next are the Top 10 cornerback displays that caught the eye of the PFF grading system.
The grades see us go beyond just looking at their work in coverage, also factoring in their impact in run defense and even when they blitzed. However, if you’re only interested in the coverage grade you can skip to the bottom of the article.
For now, here are the 10 best overall single-game grades for cornerbacks in 2011.
10. Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens: Divisional Playoff vs. Houston (+4.4)
Webb was already something of a star in our eyes, but then he caught the nation’s attention with a stunning playoff display against the Texans in the playoffs. Webb walked away intercepting more passes (two) than receptions he allowed (one), while adding a pass break up as T.J. Yates finished with a 0.0 quarterback rating when throwing at him. That’s pretty good.
9. Eric Wright, Detroit Lions: Week 14 vs. Minnesota (+4.5)
It would explain an awful lot if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opted to pay Eric Wright based on his play in Week 14 as opposed to the rest of the season. For while he finished the year with our sixth-lowest grade of all corners, he showed the kind of top talent he has when the Vikings came to town. Wright gave up just three of seven balls in his coverage for just 15 yards and two first downs. More impressive were the three pass breaks up and the interception that put Detroit in position to win the game.
8. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns: Week 1 vs. Cincinnati (+4.6)
The stat sheet will tell you Haden gave up a touchdown (in a confusing fashion that reflected badly on the entire Browns defense) but was so good this day he still gets on the list. The sophomore broke up five passes on the 11 balls thrown with him in primary coverage; quite an incredible feat. Given that he was lined up against A.J. Green for large portions of the day, that’s an even more impressive achievement.
7. Corey Webster, New York Giants: Week 16 at New York Jets (+4.7)
One of the few players in the league who can confidently go one-on-one with a team’s top receiver, Webster had some fun against Sanchez and Co. in Week 16. Despite being thrown at nine times he gave up just 50 yards, while recording two pass breaks-ups and an interception. Factor in that only one of the five receptions he allowed went for a first down (another ended up as tackle on third down that brought on the kicking unit) and you’ve got a good day as Webster won his battle with Santonio Holmes.
5t. Jacob Lacey, Indianapolis Colts: Week 15 vs. Tennessee (+4.9)
Colts fans may be surprised to see Lacey on this list, but while his overall performance didn’t exactly set the world alight, he turned it on in Week 15–a display highlighted by an interception returned for a touchdown. Lacy also tallied another pass break-up and two tackles on third down that ended drives and added to an impressive day.
5t. Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears: Week 10 vs. Detroit (+4.9)
What was the most remarkable thing about this performance? Tillman spent most of the game with Calvin Johnson across from him. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford figured it a good idea to throw into Tillman’s coverage 17 times, with the end result being just six completions. What’s more, he deflected one pass, knocked the arm of Megatron to force another incompletion and took an interception back for a touchdown. It was a breathtaking display worthy of one of the Top 5 cornerback grades we handed out in 2011.
3t. Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee: Week 2 vs. Baltimore (+5.2)
3t. Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee: Week 9 vs. Cincinnati (+5.2)
Finnegan is the only player to have two performances in the Top 10 for 2011, and they just so happen to have the same overall grade. Finnegan is one of the few cornerbacks able to play outside in base and then move into the slot in nickel without seeing his performance drop. In Week 2, Finnegan broke up four of the seven passes into his coverage (one of which that led to an interception), allowing just two receptions for 24 yards. In Week 9 against Cincinnati he allowed just the single reception for 3 yards while breaking up two passes. He was also able to bat a pass (on a blitz), pick up a pressure and pick up two defensive stops in the run game. What you have here are two complete displays from a complete cornerback.
2. Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Week 3 vs. Atlanta (+5.5)
While his 2011 was characterized by missing a lot of tackles, Barber still had some good moments and saved a lot of them for the NFC South clash with the Falcons in Week 3. That involved picking up an interception and two pass break-ups and allowing just three receptions for 37 yards. If that wasn’t enough he added a tackle for a loss (beating Ovie Mughelli in the process) and tackle for a short gain in the run game. His play was key in the Bucs picking up a victory which looked like it could be pivotal at the time.
1. Darrelle Revis, New York Jets: Week 16 vs. New York Giants (+5.9)
Should it be a surprise that our top-ranked cornerback (and No. 5 on our Top 100 list for 2011) finished the year with our top-ranked performance at the position? Revis gave up just the one first down and one more reception, while being targeted eight times and breaking up five passes. If that’s not enough, he was taking on one of the league’s best receiver-quarterback combos in Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning. He came out on top because that’s what he does, and that’s why he had the highest cornerback rating in 2011.
Now here are our Top 10 coverage ratings for cornerbacks in 2011.
1. Darrelle Revis (NYJ), Week 16 vs. New York Giants (+5.5)
2. Brandon Flowers (KC), Week 7 at Oakland (+4.6)
3t. Cortland Finnegan (TEN), Week 2 vs. Baltimore (+4.5)
3t. Lardarius Webb (BLT), Divisional Playoff vs. Houston (+4.5)
5t. Corey Webster (NYG), Week 16 at New York Jets (+4.1)
5t. Eric Wright (DET), Week 14 vs. Minnesota (+4.1)
7t. Charles Tillman (CHI), Week 10 vs. Detroit (+4.0)
7t. Josh Wilson (WAS), Week 15 at New York Giants (+4.0)
7t. William Gay (PIT), Week 10 at Cincinnati (+4.0)
7t. Brandon Carr (KC), Week 14 at New York Jets (+4.0)