245 Comments

Data Entry: Zooming in on Coverage Players (Corners)

| June 29th, 2022

 


Today we’re going to shift from examining players who rush the passer to those who defend passes that are thrown. We’ll start by looking at the CBs, with an upcoming article to look at linebackers and safeties.

In order to do this, I’m using data from Pro Football Focus (PFF) that looks at how frequently and effectively individual players are targeted in coverage. I chose to set a threshold of 250 coverage snaps because it both gives a decent enough sample size to judge an individual player and gives a big enough grouping of players at each position to evaluate how somebody performed relative to their peers. This threshold gave a sample size of 106 cornerbacks, or 3.3 per NFL team.


First Look

The Bears have four notable veteran cornerbacks: returners Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley, and newcomer Tavon Young. The table below shows how they fared in a variety of coverage metrics last year, as well as their rank compared to 106 cornerbacks who had at least 250 coverage snaps. To give a broader frame of reference, the best, average, median, and worst values among that 106-player sample are also provided for each statistic. Categories highlighted in green indicated the player was in the top 25% relative to their peers, while red indicates the player was in the bottom 25%.

A few thoughts:

  • Let’s start with Jaylon Johnson, who is probably not as good as many Bears fans have made him out to be. To be fair to Johnson, he often shadowed the other team’s best WR in 2021, so quite a bit was asked of him, but his overall profile here shows a CB who is more average starter than great. Still, he is at least an average starter, and that’s something.
    • You can also see Johnson’s stylistic approach to CB show up through a few of the stats. Passes thrown at him are generally pretty deep because he plays tight man coverage and doesn’t give up easy stuff underneath. That leads to a low catch percentage, but also a high yards/catch value.
    • Overall, Johnson ends up around average in both yards/target and yards/coverage snap, which are probably the best 2 overall metrics to go to when evaluating CB play.
  • It’s a very different story for Kindle Vildor, who was the worst CB in the NFL in yards/target. Like Johnson, he likes to play tight coverage, which gives him a high average target and catch depth. Unlike Johnson, Vildor gave up a really high catch percentage, which is really bad when passes are deep. One good thing is that teams didn’t throw at him very often, but they were hugely successful when they did.
  • Finally, let’s take a look at Duke Shelley and Tavon Young, who have similar profiles because they both primarily play nickel. That means they see more short passes (low target depth and air yards/catch) but give up more catches (high catch %). Young was appreciably better at limiting yards after the catch, which meant his overall metrics (yards/target and yards/coverage snap) were around average, while Shelley’s were terrible.
    • It seems weird that Shelley was the worst CB in the NFL giving up yards after the catch despite being very good at avoiding missed tackles. That must mean many players who caught the ball had so much space between them and Shelley that they could keep moving without him having an attempted tackle to miss.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

157 Comments

Justin Fields Gets His First Win as Chicago Bears Quarterback: Rapid Fire Recap

| October 4th, 2021


This is a game of two emotions.

The Positive, First.

Justin Fields was excellent. Yes, he made some rookie mistakes, mostly regarding his clock in the pocket. But this was the kind of game you love to see from a talented rookie. He kept his eyes down the field. He went through his progressions. He extended plays with his legs. But most importantly, he made several, SEVERAL, absolutely gorgeous throws. There is no questioning the ability of this player. If he develops as the Bears hope, their future involves a star quarterback.

(There will be plenty of time to talk more Fields as the week progresses.)

The Negative, Second.

Everything about David Montgomery’s knee injury – his reaction, the reaction of teammates, the refusal of TV to show it a second time – leads one to believe it’s unlikely he’ll be on the field again this season. This is a devastating blow for the 2021 Chicago Bears. If you were someone who hoped this team would compete for a postseason spot, this injury should relegate those hopes moot.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , ,

341 Comments

Three Lessons Learned From the Three Practice Games

| August 30th, 2021


Lesson #1

Bears don’t have an answer at second corner spot.

Kindle Vildor was the darling of the practice sessions but thoroughly underwhelmed in game action. Desmond Trufant has wanted to prove he still has it but hasn’t been able to prove he can stay healthy. Duke Shelley? Tre Roberson? Thomas Graham? Artie Burns? They’re just bodies.

What the Bears should do is play Graham and live with his learning on the job. But that would require the organization understand where they are in the championship timeline and their handling of Justin Fields has proven they do not. They will go with the lowest risk option opposite Jaylon Johnson and be vulnerable there all season long.


Lesson #2

Rodney Adams can play NFL football.

Adams’ preseason performances were better than anything former Bear Javon Wims and should-be-former Bear Riley Ridley have put on tape during their careers. And his rapport with Fields can not be overlooked. If Adams does not find a space on the final 53, it’s safe to say Matt Nagy put no import on anything that happened in preseason games.


Lesson #3

Justin Fields is the club’s most exciting player.

Khalil Mack is great. Allen Robinson is steady. But Fields is a needle mover at the sport’s most important position. Every snap he takes under center brings the entirety of Chicago to full attention. Every snap he doesn’t play in 2021 is a complete waste of time.

Fields is ready. Every single analyst objectively watching the Bears knows it. If only the head coach did.

Tagged: , , , , ,

158 Comments

Advanced Defensive Stats: CB Pass Coverage

| July 1st, 2021

Finally, let’s end with a look at the cornerbacks, who will have some personnel changes from 2020. Gone are veterans Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine, while Desmond Trufant has been brought in to compete with a host of late round picks from the last few drafts.

____________________

The table below shows 2020 coverage stats for all 2020 Bears and Desmond Trufant, who was in Detroit last year. The * for Vildor and Shelley indicates that I included their playoff stats to increase their sample size, since they only played the last few games of the regular season. The rank compares their yards/target mark to all NFL CBs. The median value is included on the bottom, but you can view the full data here.



A few thoughts:

  • Losing Kyle Fuller, who was a cap casualty this offseason, is a massive blow for a secondary that was already full of questions. He was the best player in the secondary by a wide margin last year, and his departure leaves a cornerback group with nothing but questions.
  • However, there are some reasons for optimism among the cornerbacks, if you look closely enough. Desmond Trufant was very good in 2018 (6.2 yards/target) before struggling through injuries the last 2 years. He’ll be 31 at the start of the season, but maybe he can buck the odds, stay healthy and regain his prior form.
  • At nickelback, losing Skrine isn’t actually a problem, as he was not good last year. Skrine missed the last 5 games of the season (including playoffs) in 2020, and Duke Shelley stepped right in and matched his production.
  • Of course, that’s not to say Shelley was good, as he also ranked below average in yards/target. However, if you want to be optimistic, you can point out that Shelley was pretty solid outside of getting torched by Justin Jefferson in one game against Minnesota. In that one game, Shelley gave up 101 yards on 8 targets (11.2 yards/target), but he only allowed 75 yards on 14 targets (5.4 yards/target) in the other 4 games combined. Those other 4 games look good, but you can’t just ignore that he got destroyed by the best WR he faced.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,