A Data Nerd's View: Our Cornerbacks

In light of recent news about Julio, I'm sure this post will fall on deaf ears...or I guess 'blind eyes' for writing. I have been tirelessly frustrated with our defensive performance this year. In that respect, I want to look at the entire defense eventually, but also want to limit the data overload for my fellow Falcoholics. This post will focus on our Cornerback performance for the first five games

Before I jump into just the cornerbacks, I have an interesting statistic to share about the entire defense. In 2012 through week 5, our defense generated 14 turnovers (9 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries), and the Falcons were +10 in the Turnover Differential. Through week 5 this year, they created 4 turnovers (3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery), and the Falcons are -2. Whatever the reason, our defense just has not made the big plays that made up for their deficiencies last year.

Now, on to our cornerbacks.

Receptions Yards Allowed (and per Target allowed)

I'm limiting the breakdown into a couple important stats when evaluating performance. The corners are listed in order of most to least snaps played. Snap counts are included for reference, though I'll focus on total yards allowed and Yards per Target. For a frame of reference, the League average for the latter is 7.6. Though not a perfect stat since corners cover different types of receivers, I think it's a good measure of relative performance.

Snaps in Coverage
Safety Week1 Week2 Week3 Week4 Week5
Opposing QB Brees Bradford Tannehill Brady Smith
Desmond Trufant 38 55 40 29 25
Robert McClain 37 53 31 30 18
Robert Alford 25 44 3 24
Asante Samuel 5 40 25

Safety Week1 Week2 Week3 Week4 Week5
Desmond Trufant 5 5 6 7 3
Robert McClain 7 9 8 6 1
Robert Alford 4 6 1 5
Asante Samuel 0 1 2
Reception Yards Allowed
Corner Week1 Week2 Week3 Week4 Week5
Desmond Trufant 42 19 44 53 24
Robert McClain 111 93 68 78 16
Robert Alford 19 68 4 12
Asante Samuel 0 0 9
Total 172 180 116 143 49

Yards per Target
Corner Week1 Week2 Week3 Week4 Week5
Desmond Trufant 8.4 3.8 7.3 7.6 8.0
Robert McClain 15.9 10.3 8.5 13.0 16.0
Robert Alford 4.8 11.3 4.0 2.4
Asante Samuel 0.0 0.0 4.5
Opposing QB Brees Bradford Tannehill Brady Smith

Trufant has played pretty solid coverage, regardless of being a rookie. He's held his own against some great QBs, and I think has churned out better performance than we could have guessed. Allowing 182 yards through 5 games and defending one pass in each, I'd say he's growing into the game pretty well.

On the flip side, we have Robert McClain. So far this year, he has allowed 366 yards - more than he allowed during the entire regular season last year with 335. In terms of yards per target, it's interesting to note that his best game (against Tannehill) matches Trufant's worst (against Brees and in his first NFL game). Bobby Mac is being picked on for those mid-range plays we all hate, and I would venture to guess a lot of them come in those pesky third-and-long situations. I think it's safe to say that his performance has fallen off, possibly due to his role transition with Asante Samuel on the sidelines.

Moving down the list, Alford's numbers may look impressive, but remember his only full game was against St. Louis. He played less than half the snaps in game 1, and a limited number in weeks 3 and 4. What's important is that second week, where I'm sure we all remember Bradford picking on Alford for easy completions. He has the speed and physicality, but still needs time to grow into the NFL. Hopefully, he'll have a chance to prove himself without someone having to get hurt first.

Asante Samuel has been missed...dearly. Though his play count has been limited due to injury, his 70 snaps in coverage have yielded only one reception for 9 yards, which came last week on the Jets' third play of the game. Either way you look at it, his performance has been impressive, and we can only hope he remains healthy for the rest of the season.

Overall Coverage Efficiency

Another way to look at total coverage efficiency is to measure the numbers of yards surrendered per coverage snap. As a frame of reference, the league average is 1.26:

Yards per Cover Snap
Corner Week1 Week2 Week3 Week4 Week5
Desmond Trufant 1.11 0.35 1.10 1.83 0.96
Robert McClain 3.00 1.75 2.19 2.60 0.89
Robert Alford 0.76 1.55 1.33 0.50
Asante Samuel - - 0.36
Opposing QB Brees Bradford Tannehill Brady Smith

Since Alford and Samuel played limited snaps (and the information shows pretty much the same thing as above), I'll focus on our primary two corners for the year. Trufant, while above showed higher than average yard per target, is allowing lower than average yards per snap. This reflects his ability to keep up with receivers and prevent the opposing QB from seeing his man open. The consistency has been a bit shaky, but it seems to be a reflections of the receiver quality. With more experience, this will hopefully continue to improve. It's a good sign when I rarely hear his name during games.

McClain, again, shows weakness here, being vulnerable to targets and receptions. His snaps were limited in week 5, but the four week prior showed worse than average performance...significantly worse. Where's the McClain from 2012 that allowed only .9 yards per snap?


Let me preface this by saying that the PFF totals don't match They're close enough for us, but the tables below are from PFF. The League cornerback average Tackles and Assists per Missed tackle is 6.8.

Corner Tackles Assists Missed Tackles T+A per MT
Desmond Trufant 21 0 2 10.5
Robert McClain 26 1 3 9
Robert Alford 7 2 2 4.5
Asante Samuel 3 0 0

You can see that we have some good tackling corners, a sure improvement over Dunta Robinson (8.6 last year and 3.3 for Kansas City this year). Also, McClain's stats on are 28 tackles and 2 assists, making him our leading tackler. Interestingly enough, he's ranked T61 in the League, with the top 53 players being either Safeties or Linebackers. Excluding them, McClain is the 2nd leading corner behind Oakland's Tracy Porter (12 tackles, 11 assists).

Our corner's 7 combined missed Tackles is good for 24th in the NFL, tied with three other teams. Alford definitely skews the number up with his limited snaps, but if we could exclude his 2 misses, the Falcons we be tied for 11th.

'Til Next Time...

If anyone is interested, I do have data on corners for the entire League. I'm happy to look at any other stat you may think of, or the same stats for players on other teams for comparison. It's very simple for me to pull together!

Next, I will post about either our Safeties or Linebackers. Let me know what you'd rather see, and share your thoughts below on our Cornerbacks.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>

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