PFF Mailbag with Senior Analyst Mike Renner

Pro Football Focus Senior Analyst Mike Renner answers your Twitter questions heading into NFL Week 3.

| 1 month ago
Saints QB Drew Brees

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

PFF Mailbag with Senior Analyst Mike Renner

I’m back for Week 3’s action to answer all of your questions that I can realistically get to before they make me do actual work again. We had some fun last week, even though my editors cut out most of the best stuff (C’MON MAN!).

[Editor’s note: Trust me, I kept the best stuff in there.]

As always, let’s start with some awards that I’ll probably be changing from week-to-week:

Busted Coverage of the Week: The entire Oakland defense

What a lead into our busted coverage of the week. I wrote articles in the preseason pumping the Raiders up—even going as far as calling them the favorite in the AFC West—claiming that they could be undefeated heading into their matchup with the Chiefs. They repaid my faith surrendering 500 yards to Falcons. Matt Ryan invented this new thing called the play-action fake on Sunday, and it devastated the Oakland linebackers. The damage report: 183 yards off play action, and play after play like this:

Falcons play action

Too easy.

Block of the Week: Broncos LT Russell Okung

Russell Okung is an enormous, powerful man. Colts linebacker Josh McNary is not (well, relatively speaking). So if you find yourself in a situation where Okung is running at you at full speed, please learn from McNary’s mistake.


Whiff of the Week: Eagles OT Matt Tobin

Talk about a bad night for Tobin. He had two snaps in pass protection—this was one of them.

Matt Tobin whiff

PFF Analyst of the Week: Mike Renner

Who else did you expect? And what a week it was from Mr. Renner. He put out some great content like this and this, and had a handful of fire tweets here, here, and here. The suggestion box is open for next week, but early on it looks like I’m the favorite once again. Now to your questions.

Let me first clear the air and say that we at PFF don’t actually hate anybody or have inherent bias against certain teams (unless they’re your favorite). Calling Morris Claiborne a shutdown corner, though, is an insult to actual shutdown corners. Here are the Claiborne’s stats when targeted since the beginning of last year:

Yards Per Attempt 7.51
Catch Rate 59.2%
Passer Rating 91.50

Now here are the stats for Bengals CB Jones—a good, but in no means “shutdown” corner either (as discussed last week):

Yards Per Attempt 5.32
Catch Rate 54.7%
Passer Rating 62.83

Throw in the fact that Claiborne has 11 penalties over that span—a number that ranks among the most at the position—and it’s fairly clear that he’s a middling corner at best.

This has certainly been a hot-button issue after the Jaguars’ scheme inexplicably left Paul Posluszny in man coverage on Travis Benjamin (who runs a 4.36 40-yard dash), yielding predictable results.


In our grading, he hasn’t finished a season above-average since 2011, and even his reworked deal last year was for more money than we’d value his performance at. Posluszny did have a handful of productive years when he broke into the league, but at 31 years old, those are long gone. Myles Jack is the future here, and there’s really little sense at this point in not seeing what the rookie out of UCLA can do.

I’ve always been one who’s banged the drum for Drew Brees in the all-important elite quarterback conversation. When you look at the defenses New Orleans has fielded during his tenure there, it’s staggering. Since the Saints won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season, the defense has finished above 20th in the league in coverage grade only once. With all things being equal, the odds of that randomly happening are only 4.4 percent. That’s six years with one passable defense. And that one year, 2013, they went 11-5 and won a playoff game. Over that same span, the exact opposite was true for the Patriots. They finished 20th or worse in coverage grade only once, with every other season finishing inside the top-10.

I have a hunch that you already know the answer to this question, but I’ll go ahead and oblige you: they’ve been pretty dang good. So good, in fact, that I wrote about how they’re the most-improved team in the NFL. They effectively shut down Drew Brees, only allowing 6 yards per attempt and no pass targeted over 20+ yards to be completed on them last week. The biggest revelation of the group? Landon Collins. He was a busted-coverage machine as a rookie, and likely would have won my season award had this mailbag been around last season. The fifth-lowest graded safety in the league a year ago, Collins now sits comfortably in the top 10 for the position. Quite the turnaround.

You’ve got a good set of eyes yourself, as you’re correct—Kyle Williams has seen a considerable downturn in production of late. Where that has been most apparent has been rushing the passer, and at 33 years of age, it may never return. From 2012–2014 he averaged 3.5 pressures per game. The past two seasons, that number has dropped to 2.1. Injuries haven’t helped his cause, but they’re a fact of life when you’re a 10-year vet.

I’d love to put the Titans in that conversation, because they are headed in the right direction, but right now the Texans are top-to-bottom the better team (despite how they looked Thursday night). I’d take Marcus Mariota and the Titans‘ offensive line over the Texans, but that’s where the advantages for Tennessee end. The Titans’ defense has held up much better than I expected, though, and if they beat the Raiders, this week I’ll get back to you in next week’s mailbag.

Definitely one of the odder requests I’ve received for the mailbag, but it’s easy enough to answer, so here you go. Before I get to that, though, it’s important to remember that run direction doesn’t necessarily mean that side of the offensive line is making the key blocks. That’s usually the case on runs like power or pin-and-pull, but on zone runs, the opposite side can be the most important.

Direction Percentage
Left 48.8%
Right 51.2%

Groundbreaking stuff, I know.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • jdg3

    So to answer the 1st tweet’s question……Will the Raiders secondary improve? Do they need time to gel?

  • Jon Su

    Wait according to the links you posted, the texans oline is way better than the titans oline. I’m confused, are you saying that you would take mariota in combination with the significantly worse oline over the combination of a slightly worse osweiler and his oline?

    • Mike Renner

      Injuries for Houston

  • crosseyedlemon

    No Twitter questions but I’m wondering how many pleas, threats and bribes Mike has to resort to in order to earn Analyst of the Week honors. Truth be told, his articles are always informative & interesting and he’s smart enough not to take himself or the game to seriously.

    • Mike Renner

      It was hotly debated tbh. We’ll see who comes out on top next week.

      Also…too* seriously. Had to do it. Thanks for reading CEL