Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do the Redskin Cornerbacks Really Suck? The Metrics Answer

The Redskin CBs were a very strong group last year, particularly with Shawn Springs healthy, and even seemed to become a (gasp!) playmaking unit when DeAngelo Hall was added to the mix. In the Redskin way of royally fucking up in the offseason, the reliable veteran, Shawn Springs, was unceremoniously released, and the flashy big-name, Hall, was given a fat new contract.

Since then, the group has come under fire early this season, which seems to represent the fruits of 'the Redskin way'. "Under fire" is also probably an appropriate term, as that is what causes this. Given the varying perception of the top-3 corners, Hall, Carlos Rogers, and Fred Smoot, I decided to dig into the Football Outsiders (FO) metrics to get a better idea of what kind of talent the Redskins possess. Unfortunately, FO does not maintain individual player stats yet on their site, despite my yearly monetary commitment for premium content. Fortunately, I have kept the FO books from 2007, 2008, and 2009, so have been able to create the following spreadsheet:

The abbreviations are confusing, so here is an explanation:

vs Pass Stats:

Tgts - Targets: Numbers of times a pass thrown to a player the CB was covering.

Succ % Rk - Success % Rank: FO tracks the # of times a pass targeted toward the CB is complete, with an incomplete considered a success for the CB. I have removed the raw success % and simply kept the ranking amongst all CBs, with 1 being the best.

Adj Yd Rk - Adjusted Yards Rank: Adjusted yards is the average number of yards per completed pass against the CB, adjusted for opponent (not specific receiver covering though). The fewer yards per pass, the better. As with success rate, this is a ranking amongst all CBs, with 1 being the best.

PD+Int - Passes Defended plus Interceptions: Number of passes defended plus interceptions. I am using this as a way to determine the 'playmaking' ability of the CB.

vs Run Stats:

Yd Rk - Yards Rank: Yards is the average number of yards per run stopped by the CB. The fewer yards per run, the better. This is a ranking amongst all CBs, with 1 being the best. This does not account for missed tackles (stop smiling DeAngelo).

St% Rk - Stop % Rank: Stop % is the % of run plays involving the CB that prevent the offense from from having a successful run, as determined by down and distance (2 yards on 1st down would be a stop, but 2 yards on 4th and 1 would not). The higher the Stop %, the better. This is a ranking amongst all CBs, with 1 being the best. This does not account for missed tackles.

So what does this chart tell us for each player?

DeAngelo Hall - While he has steadily improved in success % and adjusted yards in the 3 years analyzed against #1 WRs, he is still not an elite corner. In addition, his run defense has steadily declined and never been great. The good news is that while Hall would have ranked 51st and 53rd in success % and adjusted yards for his 9 weeks in Oakland, he would have ranked 14th and 4th in those same categories for his 7 weeks in DC; so he was pretty awesome for us last year, but that seems to be a bit of a fluke coming from an easy schedule, easy role against non-#1 WRs, and playing for his career in some ways. There are technically 32 #1 CBs, but he is clearly on the fringe of this group and should be considered as a great #2, or a bad #1, and nowhere near worthy of his contract. As a comparison, Asante Samuel ranked 22nd and 29th in success % and adjusted yards last year, while being a much better ballhawk and earning similar money.

Carlos Rogers - Firstly, it is very easy to forget that he is 28 this season, and is 2 years older than Hall. Rogers played like an okay #2 in 2006, but took a huuuuge leap in 2007 before succumbing to injury. The asterisks in the chart are because he did not play enough to qualify for the rankings, but his success rate would have been the best in the NFL.........by a mile. His success rate was 66%, with second place a distant 61%. This was no fluke, as his adjusted yards would have ranked 4th and made him arguably the best CB in the NFL for the time he played. I did not research his ranking for the run, but want to show that his raw numbers improved and that he has steadily progressed and become a good corner against the run. So he was elite in 2007, but what happened in 2008? We all know Rogers started off as great, then had a rough 2nd half (you could insert almost any Redskin into that sentence instead of Rogers). His numbers are still good though, showing him to be a solid #1 CB and despite criticisms, being about as much of a ballhawk as DeAngelo. I would imagine that his first half numbers were again elite, and the 2nd half more befitting of a fringe #1 CB. The big question is why he was better in the 1st half of the season coming off an injury; shouldn't it have been the other way around?

Fred Smoot - Bet you didn't know little Fred Smoot was the best CB against the run in 2007, and is consistently elite against the run. Unfortunately for Smooty, CBs don't keep their pockets straight from stopping the run. One should also note that Smoot's numbers are probably not as great as they appear, because he has covered #2 or #3 WRs in those 3 years charted, so has had easier competition. That said, in very limited time in 2007, his numbers were phenomenal as a nickel corner, but he fell off a cliff last year. His run numbers were still strong, but his pass numbers from 2008 are Leigh Torrence-esque. He did face a few #2 WRs last year with Springs hurt and DeAngelo not yet on the team, but those numbers still suck. For that type of performance, the Redskins could employ a younger, cheaper, and I would usually say better player, but Justin Tryon and Kevin Barnes are about as good as tackling dummies right now.

So what have we learned here? DeAngelo Hall was/is/will continue to be an abortion for the money we are paying him. Yes, he seems to be a 'playmaker', but he fails to stop the offense from moving the ball. He was great for us over 7 weeks, but has already shown that to be the exception to the rule. Meanwhile, Carlos Rogers has seemingly outplayed Hall against the pass and run, but struggled with injuries. Did anyone else notice that Rogers, and not Hall, covered the Rams #1 WR Donnie Avery (the fact that he is a #1 is not a typo)? Rogers is a bigger guy, so can theoretically cover bigger WRs better than Hall, but it was DeAngelo who was assigned to the larger Laurent Robinson. The result: Avery had 1 catch and Robinson, well, he had 6 catches and a TD. In fairness, Rogers did give-up a short pass in his zone on another play, but he was superb on Sunday in an easy matchup. It would appear that Rogers, and not Hall, deserves that contract.

Not all is bad for the Skins though, because we do have a great pair of starting CBs. This sentiment is echoed by FO metrics showing that last year's pass D was very good against WRs despite Springs missing time, Smoot sucking, and Hall missing half the season. The problem, as it has been for years with almost every unit, is that we have no depth. If Rogers or Hall gets hurt, Smoot, Tryon, or Barnes will be incredibly overmatched. I shudder to think what would happen if Rogers walks at the end of this season; the Skins will have a bad #1 and the Tryon-Barnes pu-pu platter. I love Smooty, but we are probably a #3 CB short of being an elite unit right now, and an injury away from being horrific. As long their health holds-up though, our group is pretty good; the problem is that football is a contact sport, and DeAngelo Hall's contract may prevent us from keeping the real #1 CB on our roster.


  1. Great stuff, and here's a case where the stats support what my eyes tell me: that Hall is overrated and 'Los is underrated.

    You raise questions that get to the core of Snyderrato's moronic approach to team building: substance versus style. The goal of a corner is to prevent WRs from getting completions; interceptions are an awesome bonus and get all the attention, but hardly indicative of overall abilities. If Snyder owned the Wizards, he'd pay billions for sick dunkers like Chris Anderson and Stromile Swift: vicious dunks are big plays that just don't outweigh the other factors in the equation.

    Having Hall supplement 'Los is awesome. Relying on Hall to carry the DBs is just ignorant.

    Another lucid transmission from the Crackpipe.

  2. Excellent post.

    For some reason I thought that Hall was the older of the two starters...wow.

    As for Smoot, he's always seemed strong against the run, so the metrics there don't surprise me. His 2007 metrics against the pass are phenomenal, but most likely an aberration, and they seemed to even out in 2008. Those metrics (83rd and 70th) put him in the average to above average range of nickel cornerbacks.

    Would like to get more production out of him, but it's pretty apparent he's on the decline.

  3. numbers are overrated


  4. and what doth thine eyes tell you, jb, in their infinite wisdom?

  5. it appears this jb character is a nutless fly-by commenter.

  6. He's busy crunching none other than numbers on wall street. Go figure.

  7. My eyes tell me that Deangelo Hall sucks at coverage, Smoot is mediocre, and Rogers is a little inconsistent. I also don't trust Landry very much. This secondary is short an impact FS who can cause turnovers AND cover the intermediate/deep middle...

    If we lose to the Lions, I'm becoming a Bengals fan the rest of the year.

    Back to number crunching



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