Palazzolo’s Pitch: Flipping Corners

Steve Palazzolo looks at cornerback-receiver matchups, tight end alignments and more in this week's Pitch.

| 4 years ago

Palazzolo’s Pitch: Flipping Corners

Pitch-WK05Good Cornerbacks Always Beat Good Wide Receivers, and Vice Versa

(Yogi Berra wrote this week’s headline)

When analyzing wide receiver and cornerback matchups, analysts often want to match them up like they’re playing a full court man-to-man basketball game. Every week we hear that a team will take their best cornerback and track the opposing top wide receiver while matching up the No. 2’s, and so on. Perhaps we’re most familiar with Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis’ work following wide receivers, but in reality, most NFL teams are not flipping their cornerbacks. However, we are seeing teams moving their cornerbacks more often and Week 4 provided some great individual matchups. (*Thanks to Ross Miles for help with the CB/WR coverage snap numbers.)

Aqib Talib, NE vs. Julio Jones and Roddy White, ATL
Talib Coverage Grade: +3.7
Talib Snap Breakdown: 25 LCB, 31 RCB, 20 Slot/Other

Aqib Talib vs. Snaps % in coverage Targets Rec Yds TD INT PD
Week 4 Roddy White 40 52.6% 3 0 0 0 0 1
Julio Jones 32 42.1% 4 0 0 0 1 1

The Patriots rarely use their cornerbacks to match up with opposing wide receivers, but they experimented with it late last year after acquiring Talib before getting back to it again in Week 3 this year against the Buccaneers. Talib actually saw most of his snaps against White, but it was his coverage against Jones that made the biggest headlines. Our own Sam Monson does a fantastic job of breaking down the matchup.

Patrick Peterson, ARZ vs.  Vincent Jackson, TB
Peterson Coverage Grade: +3.9
Peterson Snap Breakdown: 40 LCB, 34 RCB, 5 Slot/Other

Patrick Peterson vs. Snaps % in coverage Targets Rec Yds TD INT PD
Week 4 Vincent Jackson 67 84.8% 8 1 13 0 2 0

Perhaps Peterson had a slight advantage over Jackson with Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon making his first career start, but the numbers speak for themselves. Glennon tried to get his No. 1 receiver involved, but only connected once. Peterson made the play of the game as he picked off an ill-advised throw from Glennon to set up the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Richard Sherman, SEA vs. Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
Sherman Coverage Grade: +1.6
Sherman Snap Breakdown: 78 LCB, 0 RCB, 12 Slot/Other

Richard Sherman vs. Snaps % in coverage Targets Rec Yds TD INT PD
Week 4 Andre Johnson 36 38.9% 4 3 44 0 0 0
DeAndre Hopkins 35 40.0% 1 0 0 0 1 0

Teams looking to find Sherman generally know where to find him as he lines up at LCB on 80% of his snaps. It wasn’t a great overall game for Sherman as he missed a tackle and allowed three first downs to Johnson, but he got the last laugh with a game-saving interception return for a touchdown on a horrible decision from QB Matt Schaub. As good as Sherman has been in recent years, it’s interesting to note that the Seahawks rarely use him to move around so much like Nnamdi Asomugha in his Oakland Raiders years, he can be game-planned against more so than the other cornerbacks on this list.

Joe Haden, CLE vs. AJ Green, CIN
Haden Coverage Grade: +2.0
Haden Snap Breakdown: 44 LCB, 23 RCB, 1 Slot/Other

Joe Haden vs. Snaps % in coverage Targets Rec Yds TD INT PD
Week 4 AJ Green 48 70.6% 10 5 41 0 0 2

Unlike the other matchups on this list, we’re treated to this battle twice a year and it rarely disappoints. In recent years, Haden generally played on the left side, but he has moved around much more this season under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Most of Green’s damage came late in the game as Haden clearly won this battle despite being targeted 14 times.


Tight End Matchups

Last week we discussed the versatility of some of the league’s safeties, particularly with respect to playing in the box and matchup up with opposing tight ends. Why are those safeties necessary? The tight ends move all over the place. Here’s a receiving breakdown of the league’s Top 5 tight ends (with respect to our receiving grades).

Jordan Cameron, CLE

Position Targets Rec Catch% Yards YAC TD INT Drops
TE 13 10 76.9% 194 85 1 1 0
Slot 16 11 68.8% 81 22 1 1 1
WR 6 6 100.0% 55 3 2 0 0
Backfield 2 2 100.0% 19 16 0 0 0
Total 37 29 78.4% 349 126 4 2 1


Jimmy Graham, NO 

Position Targets Rec Catch% Yards YAC TD INT Drops
TE 12 7 58.3% 153 55 3 0 1
Slot 17 11 64.7% 180 61 1 1 2
WR 12 9 75.0% 125 25 2 0 0
Total 41 27 65.9% 458 141 6 1 3


Tony Gonzalez, ATL

Position Targets Rec Catch% Yards YAC TD INT Drops
TE 3 2 66.7% 8 2 0 0 0
Slot 20 15 75.0% 167 33 1 1 0
WR 9 6 66.7% 67 28 2 0 0
Total 32 23 71.9% 242 63 3 1 0


Julius Thomas, DEN

Position Targets Rec Catch% Yards YAC TD INT Drops
TE 12 7 58.3% 57 36 1 0 1
Slot 12 11 91.7% 180 96 3 0 0
Total 24 18 66.7% 237 132 4 0 1


Antonio Gates, SD

Position Targets Rec Catch% Yards YAC TD INT Drops
TE 7 7 100.0% 148 64 1 0 0
Slot 19 15 78.9% 168 81 0 1 2
WR 4 3 75.0% 48 30 1 0 1
Total 30 25 83.3% 364 175 2 1 3


News and Notes

Solder Continues to Develop

It’s still early, but this tweet about Patriots OT Nate Solder back in August is looking pretty good.

Solder is currently our No. 2 offensive tackle at +13.2 and top run blocker at +5.9. Few tackles move in space as well as Solder and he may be the league’s best at finding defenders at the second level, both in the running game and in the Patriots’ screen game. He’s shown well as a pass blocker as well, surrendering only seven hurries on his 164 pass block attempts.

Signature Stats

•  The Dolphins offensive line has taken some blame for Ryan Tannehill’s high sack total, but take a look at this number. Tannehill is taking a lot of sacks for a limited number of pressures. Good friend Andrew Parsons of Draft Mecca has a theory (here and here).

•  I mentioned his coverage ability last week and Bills rookie ILB Kiko Alonso continues to impress. His 0.23 Yards per Cover Snap is best in the league at the position (includes Thursday Night game vs. Browns).

•  Buccaneers OLB Lavonte David leads all 4-3 OLBs in both Pass Rush Productivity at 39.0 and Run Stop Percentage at 12.0 percent.

Programming Note

As always, PFF is featured in a number of weekly podcasts, so scroll down on our homepage and use the plugin. Also, our own Sam Monson joined Ross Tucker on his weekly podcast.

Around the Site This Week

•  AFC and NFC Stock Reports for the first quarter of the season

•  All Week 4 Games ReFocused and Week 5 ‘Three to Focus On’ Game Previews

•  Nathan Jahnke’s 32 Observations focus on running backs this week.

•  Khaled Elsayed digs into the database with a look at the most commonly used offensive packages.

•  Your Secret Superstars from Week 4, per Gordon McGuinness

•  Nobody does special teams like we do here at PFF. Neil Hornsby’s weekly piece, The Third Phase, has been a bit hit.


Follow Steve on Twitter.


| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • fake name

    How do you exclude Tillman vs Megatron?? Tillman didn’t cover him the entire game but held him to respectable numbers (yet again). Disappointing that he was left off this list.

    • Also A. Fakename

      Who is Tillman?

  • [email protected]

    Seahawks dont need to move Sherman around. Teams arent lining up to throw the ball at Brandon Browner. Browner might be more dangerous to throw at than Sherman, even if he is easier to beat.