This week at PFF, we’re continuing to reach out to NFL fans with some of our unique Signature Stat-based articles. These signature stats are somewhere between your everyday stats and our PFF grades, providing a greater look at player performance than regular stats can provide.
Last week we brought you our look at the best and worst of the league’s wide receivers and tight ends when it comes to their work in the slot. Now, we’re turning our attention to the defensive side and focussing on defensive backs in that lined up across from them.
The NFL is a reactive league and we’ve seen some teams have put a greater emphasis on the size of their cornerbacks, driven by the size of some of the top receivers in the league. Similarly, it’s now important to make sure defenses have someone who can take care of those slot superstars we covered last week.
For some team’s they have enough confidence in their top cornerback for them to simply slide inside when the opposing offense lines up with three or more wide receivers on the field, or with a tight end of running back in the slot. For others, the team’s third cornerback goes straight to the slot when he gets on the field. Regardless, it’s a very important role and there are some players who thrive in the role, so with that in mind, let’s look at the best, and worst, out there.
To qualify, a defensive back needed to have spent at least 107 snaps in the slot (25% of the leader, Carlos Rogers’ 428 slot snaps).
Yards Per Coverage Snap
The Top Five
Nate Allen‘s first four seasons in the league were up and down, with an solid 2011 season sandwiched between fairly poor 2010 and 2012 seasons. 2013 was an improvement again and that likely led to the Eagles bringing him back, albeit on a one-year deal. In the slot he allowed 11 of the 13 passes thrown his way to be caught, but for just 64 yards. Elsewhere in the Top 5, the Cincinnati Bengals saw Leon Hall start the year strong before going down with a season-ending injury. All wasn’t lost, however, with Chris Crocker allowing just 174 yards from the 41 passes thrown into his coverage.
The Bottom Five
While the Top 5 had an AFC North feel to it, with two Bengals and a Steelers defensive back featuring, the Bottom 5 features three players from the NFC North. Two Vikings were at the bottom of the pile, so it’s no surprise that the team went out a signed Captain Munnerlyn early in free agency, with the former Carolina Panther ranking in the top half of all defensive backs in the slot in the past two seasons. Carey only saw significant playing time in the second half of the year, and he didn’t impress much, with two particularly poor games in coverage dooming him here.
Coverage Snaps Per Reception
The Top Five
Three of the players from the Top 5 in terms of Yards Per Coverage Snap feature again here, with Wilson, Gay and Crocker all finishing among the leaders in both categories. Powers was targeted 25 times on his 136 snaps in coverage, allowing just 10 receptions, but where he let himself down was in allowing 202 yards, with 99 coming after the catch. Carlos Rogers allowed the 10th most receptions from the slot of any defensive back, but also had 22 more snaps in the slot than the next highest player.
The Bottom Five (Six)
Seeing Malcolm Jenkins‘ name in the bottom group will perhaps make Philadelphia Eagles fans nervous about what he’ll bring to his new team in 2014, and it will be interesting to see if he spends time in the slot like Allen did for them in 2013. The NFC North trio of Don Carey, Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels make up the tail and, once agin, Vikings fans will be glad to know that new Viking Munnerlyn allowed a significantly better mark of 8.6.
While both of these signature stats give a clearer look at how wide defensive backs have performed in the slot, nothing quite compares to our PFF grades. The grades take into account things like a defensive back being beaten in coverage only for the quarterback to overthrow the ball or the receiver to drop the ball, for example, with a defensive back seeing a negative grade on such plays. The good news, is that a PFF membership gives you access to both the grades, and our various signature stats, coming in at just $26.99 for a year’s membership.
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