Palazzolo’s Pitch: Flipping Corners
Steve Palazzolo looks at cornerback-receiver matchups, tight end alignments and more in this week's Pitch.
Palazzolo’s Pitch: Flipping Corners
Good 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|
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|
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
Jimmy Graham, NO
Tony Gonzalez, ATL
Julius Thomas, DEN
Antonio Gates, SD
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.
• 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).
Around the Site This Week
• 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.
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