Signature Stats: First Downs Allowed – Safeties

Khaled Elsayed concludes his analysis of NFL pass coverage - using the new PFF Signature Stat, First Downs Allowed - by taking a look at the league's safeties.

| 4 years ago

Signature Stats: First Downs Allowed – Safeties

On Monday we debuted a new signature stat at Pro Football Focus — First Downs Allowed.

A more sophisticated look at pass coverage, this stat doesn’t just consider how any first downs a player allowed, but rather how that worked as a percentage of their total snaps in coverage.

It’s groundbreaking stuff, I tell you.

In any case, Monday was the turn of cornerbacks and yesterday I looked at linebackers. Now, for the final installment, I’m looking at safeties.

First Downs Allowed in Coverage

As we’ve done all week, it’s time to start with which individual has been responsible for the most combined first downs and touchdowns. If I was to give you one guess, who would you say? Which safety so often looks out of place in coverage it almost speaks for itself?

If you said Roman Harper, you were right. The defensive back best known for his blitzing allowed 28 first downs into his coverage, as well as two touchdowns. No wonder he was losing playing time as the season went on. That combined figure of 30 was one more than the Broncos’ Mike Adams, who at least as the excuse of playing a significant amount of man coverage in the Denver nickel defense. Those two were some way ahead of the 24 combined first downs and touchdowns third placed Mark Barron and Quintin Mikell gave up.


Most First Downs and Touchdowns Allowed

NameTeam1st DownsTDs1st Downs & TDs
Roman HarperNO28230
Mike C. AdamsDEN23629
Mark BarronTB20424
Quintin MikellSL24024
Jordan BabineauxTEN19423
Morgan BurnettGB20222
Donte WhitnerSF14822
Eric BerryKC17522
Danny McCrayDAL20222
Atari BigbySD20121


Beaten Again… and Again

However, if you said that any of those names mentioned got beaten the most frequently, well you’d be wrong. No, while Adams (third), Harper (fourth) and Mikell (seventh) all finished in the Bottom 10 for the percentage of their coverage snaps on which they were beaten to move the chains or for a touchdown, it was Danny McCray who put them all to shame.

The Cowboy didn’t cover himself in glory, getting beat for 22 combined first downs and touchdowns on 347 snaps in coverage. That meant his 6.34% of all coverage snaps converted for a first down or touchdown was the worst of all safeties. It meant Atari Bigby finished only second-worst, while ‘Pro Bowlers’ Eric Berry and LaRon Landry also both finished in the Bottom 10.


Bottom 10 First Downs and Touchdowns Allowed

NameTeamSnaps1st Downs & TDs1st Downs & TDs %
Danny McCrayDAL347226.34%
Atari BigbySD348216.03%
Mike C. AdamsDEN528295.49%
Roman HarperNO569305.27%
Jordan BabineauxTEN438235.25%
Eric BerryKC468224.70%
Quintin MikellSL529244.54%
Tavon WilsonNE301134.32%
Malcolm JenkinsNO466204.29%
LaRon LandryNYJ488204.10%


Top of the Crop

While there’s a ringing endorsement coming up for some of the guys we felt should have been First team All-Pro, it was the Dolphins Chris Clemons who actually had the lowest percentage of plays into his coverage converted. His 0.96% was impressive and bodes well for his chances of getting paid in free agency.

It was so good that Eric Weddle could finish only second, while the Steelers’ Ryan Clark proved how reliable he is with a score of 1.21% in third. The interesting thing, especially for viewers of the AFC East, is that they play home to two duos both in the Top 10. There’s a tendency for these stats to favor those guys who play as deep safeties, but Reshad Jones in sixth spot, and George Wilson in 10th (with Jairus Byrd in fifth) show that if you’re good enough you’ll make the list.


Top 10 First Downs and Touchdowns Allowed

RankNameTeamSnaps1st Downs & TDs1st Downs & TDs %
1Chris D. ClemonsMIA62860.96%
2Eric WeddleSD59271.18%
3Ryan ClarkPIT49761.21%
4Jairus ByrdBUF56171.25%
5Reshad JonesMIA59781.34%
6M.D. JenningsGB35351.42%
7Harrison SmithMIN62291.45%
8Isa Abdul-QuddusNO32051.56%
9Rahim MooreDEN609101.64%
10T.J. WardCLV53991.67%
10George WilsonBUF47881.67%


Stay tuned for more stats like this as the PFF Signature Stat area continues to grow.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • Felton Suthon

    Khaled – with Spangnuolo gone, it seems fair to ask whether it’s the system or the players as the Saints evaluate Jenkins and Harper.  AQ and Rafael Bush played well in limited roles, but thet does not always extrapolate to a larger role.  Your thoughts?  Thanks!

  • Miamiron9

    wow,Miami #1 and #5 too bad the corner back play sucked

    • Anthony Famiglietti

      The scheme sucked, at least for the first half.
      Remember they went from Vontae Davis to Richard Marshall to Nolan Carroll to
      Jimmy Wilson as starters between preseason and week 8 and they tried to change
      the scheme every week to accommodate it. Once they got things settled down, in
      the second half of the season, Miami gave up 210.25 passing yards per game.

  • Rick

    This is so cool. My first question is: how does cornerback play reflect on these Safety stats. And is there any relationship between 1st D and TD % and run support ability?

  • Bhandy1956

    If a QB have enough time to pass the ball there is nothing a safety or CB can do to stop a completed forward pass.

  • JJ

    Somewhere there is a GM considering using PFF numbers like sabremetrics for free agency.

  • griffin

    Earl Thomas?