Sig Stats: Slot Coverage

Jumping to the other side of the ball, Gordon McGuinness checks out the slot corners.

| 3 years ago

Sig Stats: Slot Coverage

2013-Slot-CoverThis 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.

Rank Name Team Slot Snaps Yards YPCS
1 Nate Allen PHI 115 64 0.56
2 Chris Crocker CIN 277 174 0.63
3 William Gay PIT 267 194 0.73
4 Leon Hall CIN 121 90 0.74
5 Kyle Wilson NYJ 279 221 0.79


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.

Rank Name Team Slot Snaps Yards YPCS
42 Robert McClain ATL 313 564 1.80
43 Malcolm Jenkins NO 176 324 1.84
44 Don Carey DET 113 210 1.86
45 Josh Robinson MIN 212 436 2.06
46 Marcus Sherels MIN 119 296 2.49


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.

Rank Name Team Slot Snaps Receptions CSPR
1 Jerraud Powers ARI 136 10 13.6
2 William Gay PIT 267 23 11.6
3 Kyle Wilson NYJ 279 24 11.6
4 Carlos Rogers SF 428 37 11.6
5 Chris Crocker CIN 277 24 11.5


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.

Rank Name Team Slot Snaps Receptions CSPR
42 Terrell Thomas NYG 315 45 7.0
42 Malcolm Jenkins NO 176 25 7.0
43 Mike Harris JAX 241 36 6.7
44 Don Carey DET 113 20 5.7
45 Josh Robinson MIN 212 39 5.4
46 Marcus Sherels MIN 119 22 5.4


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.


Follow Gordon on Twitter.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • padre the pegion

    If us steelers didnt get william gay, just think about how much worse our defense could have been!

    • Eric Toomer

      William Gay was good for us(Cardinals) too! Hated to see him go!

  • Harlan Lachman

    Well damn my lying eyes. As a Jet fan, I have not had high regard for Kyle Wilson. Assuming the reason he faired so well was not because our Safeties covering TEs and injured Cromartie having such a down year yielded much less resistance to opposing Qbs, Kyle appears to have had a great season. Who knew? Another example of the importance of analytics.

    • Ben

      A complaint analysts have with him is that he doesn’t force turnovers. He’s a pretty solid cb though (in the slot at least) despite his obnoxious celebrations for when he does nothing and the receiver doesn’t catch the ball…

  • Dalen Erickson

    Is there somewhere we can see the whole list?