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Cornerback Targets

According to Pro Football Focus, Richard Sherman was targeted just 65 times last season. That number is even more remarkably low when you consider that Sherman was in on 552 pass plays for the Seahawks last season.

We all know that Sherman generally sticks to the defense’s left side of the field; as a result, offenses tend to put their best wide receiver on the offense’s left, in order to avoid having to throw at Sherman. But that’s what I want to look at today: which cornerbacks are targeted the least?

Based on data from Pro Football Focus, the average cornerback was targeted on 16.4% of his pass snaps last year. That means an average cornerback would be expected to see about 90.5 targets on 552 snaps; in other words, Sherman saw 25.5 fewer targets than we would expect.

That’s the most impressive number of any cornerback in the league last year, with “impressive” here being a synonym for not being targeted. The second largest number belongs to Darrelle Revis, which perhaps isn’t much of a surprise, either. While with the Patriots, Revis was targeted 79 times on 606 pass snaps, or 20.4 fewer targets than we would expect.

The table below shows that data for each cornerback that was in on at least 175 snaps last season:

RkCornerbackTeamSnapsTargetsTar Above Avg
1Richard ShermanSEA5526525.5
2Darrelle RevisNE6067920.4
3Casey HaywardGB2762619.2
4Tim JenningsCHI6018216.5
5Rashean MathisDET6438916.4
6Antonio CromartieARZ5948116.4
7Demetrius McCrayJAX4325713.8
8Chris HarrisDEN6238913.1
9Josh WilsonATL3063713.2
10Brice McCainPIT3875112.4
103William GayPIT544104-14.8
104A.J. BouyeHST42185-16
105Bradley FletcherPHI599115-16.8
106Jamar TaylorMIA20149-16
107Blidi Wreh-WilsonTEN36276-16.7
108Joe HadenCLV583113-17.4
109Kyle FullerCHI501101-18.9
110Buster SkrineCLV625123-20.5
111Jason McCourtyTEN576125-30.6
112Johnathan JosephHST526117-30.8
  • Packers nickel cornerback Casey Hayward played in less than half of his team’s defensive snaps last season, despite appearing in every game. But 82% of his snaps came in the slot, which means Hayward was more specialist than starter. But now that Tramon Williams is in Cleveland and Davon House is a Jaguar, Green Bay may try to expand Hayward’s role. At a minimum, the Packers could keep Hayward in the slot in nickel sets, but try to get him on the field more in base formations. Because teams sure do seem eager to not throw in his direction.
  • I was a bit surprised to see Cleveland’s top two cornerbacks, Joe Haden and Buster Skrine, rank in the bottom five in this metric. After all, Cleveland finished in the top five in both NY/A and ANY/A last year. I’m not 100% sure of the explanation but I think a few things combine to hurt them. The Browns had the sixth worst sack rate, which means only a small number of pass plays didn’t yield a target. Cleveland didn’t use as much nickel or dime as most teams (at least, I think) and Cleveland safeties Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner were very good in coverage, factors that would combine to make Haden and Skrine see a lot of targets. Also, the Browns have Karlos Dansby, who is in the discussion for best coverage inside linebacker in the NFL. And, of course, Cleveland also ranked 7th in just raw pass attempts faced last year.

What players stand out to you in the above chart? What do you think of this metric? What would you say this metric measures, and what tweaks would you be interested in making?

  • Johnathen Adair

    In the case of Sherman, we know that he spends the majority of his snaps on the right. If I’m not mistaken Darrell Revis didn’t move all that much either while working with Browner. Now in NJ, working with the still impressive Cromartie and Bowles as HC, I’ll be interested to see if he adopts a more “Sherman” approach. As the quality of his supporting cast is closer to the LoB.

    For all the flak thrown at Sherman for not following top receivers, I’d be curious to see how many CB actually do the majority of the time? Whether it’s more a product of their individual skill, or as I suspect, a by product of their surrounding talent and scheme.

    By majority, I would arbitrarily say less than 70-75% of snaps spent in usual spot. Depending how motivated/interested you are, I would be curious about past years and how this may change over a CB’s career.

    • Johnathen Adair

      To comment on this article though, sorry. I’m wondering if it confirms my feeling that Peterson had a down year (or Cromartie out played him or both). Or if it shows that Peterson traveled more and was less avoidable? I’m surprised to not see Brent Grimes higher on this list, even Chris Harris should be top 5 imo.

    • LightsOut85

      (Way late response, buuut)

      PFF actually did an article on “tracking” https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/06/10/the-art-of-tracking-and-the-nfls-best-cornerbacks/ (although sadly it didn’t list snaps). There was also another article (that sadly I can’t find, even just trying to google relevant keywords), that listed the numbers of games the CB was asked (for most of the game), to track a WR, and the % of snaps they were across from a #1WR (however that distinction was made). From what I remember, Revis, Patrick Peterson, & Joe Haden are the only players who do it a noticeable amount (and only Revis was actually good at it, the others only at LCB).

  • Jason Congleton

    I think this would be a more useful tool if you included receptions allowed (and maybe yards/TDs/PD/INT)

    • Richie

      Why? The point here is to see which cornerbacks are avoided the most by opposing offenses. Whether the ball was caught or not is irrelevant.

      • Jason Congleton

        So that you can see how a corner did when targeted. If Sherman gave up 40 yard passes every time he was targeted who cares if he was targeted the least in the league he still gave up a lot of catches and yards. Obviously he didn’t, but the point is just because you weren’t targeted much doesn’t really tell you anything.

        • eYeDEF

          It does tell you something because if a cornerback is giving up 40 yards on every target he’d implicitly be targeted a lot more. The number of times he was targeted per snap directly factors into how often a cornerback “shuts down” his assignment. That said, I agree that yards per cover snap and receptions per cover snap are also useful stats, which PFF also tracks. But to say that targets per snap doesn’t tell you anything isn’t accurate either.

          • Jason Congleton

            Having both just gives you a complete picture which is what I was getting at, without both it’s a very incomplete picture.

            • eYeDEF

              It’s still pretty useful in determining whether a CB is what’s known as a “shutdown corner” if we’re going to boil it down to one metric. Those other metrics aren’t near as useful of a predictor. Demetrius McCray of Jacksonville ranked 4th last year in yardage given up per coverage snap at .78. Would anyone consider him a lockdown corner when opposing QBs had an 81.0 rating when targeting him? No, not really.

              • Jason Congleton

                Did you just prove my point for me? He is 7th on this targeted list, yet, when targeted gave up an 81 qb rating which as you indicated is hardly a shut down corner.

                • eYeDEF

                  True. I just believe it’s the most accurate indication of a lockdown corner more so than than yards. Giving up a few long yard receptions can affect the results that would make it a less reliable indicator. You could make a case for receptions per coverage snap, but that’s also directly tied into targets.

                  • Jason Congleton

                    I guess what makes me look at this list the most unsuitable is Brandon Carr showing up as the 15th best corner using this metric alone. I know that he couldn’t play the ball in the air to save his life so of his targets a large percentage were probably completed (it’s why I wanted to see the supplemental data).

                    • Richie

                      This is not a list of “best” cornerbacks.

                    • Jason Congleton

                      I’m well aware of what this is and isn’t, but thanks

                    • Richie

                      Just making sure, since you said “Brandon Carr showing up as the 15th best corner” .

                    • Jason Congleton

                      Context is a very important part of reading comprehension. I clearly added, “using this metric alone.”

                    • Richie

                      But why would you try to rate cornerbacks using this metric alone?

                    • Jason Congleton

                      Voila! That’s exactly why I wanted more data than this alone.

                    • eYeDEF

                      Yeah Brandon Carr also gave up a 116.6 QB rating when targeted including 6 touchdowns. He also gave up a ton of yards that made him 56th in yards per coverage snap, so I see you point. It’s true targets alone is insufficient to getting a complete picture.

                    • Jason Congleton

                      Do you get those numbers from pff gold or somewhere else? I am a cheapskate but think I may bite the bullet and pay for it

                    • eYeDEF

                      Premium stats in their sig stats section. Their sig stats are probably the most useful thing they have to offer. I find it far more informative than their player grade evaluations.

                    • Dr__P

                      I agree with the superiority of the signature stats, if only as the methodology is different. Their standard stats are based on each game. Then their seasonal scores are the sums of each game. Thus if you miss a few games, you are at a disadvantage to others who played more games.

                      Their signature stats are seasonal stats from the beginning.

  • The targets number is too raw to really delve into, without including filters like (1) total passes defended [intercepted or knocked down] (2) catchable targets [discounting throws out of play, or overthrows/underthrows caused more by QB pressure] (3) completed receptions and ypr, to account for guys sitting in zones giving up more short targets/completions vs the downfield backbreakers [see: Fletcher, Bradley]

  • Jack

    Look for Gilmore (Buf) to rise further on this list next year. Benefits from an impeccable D-line and is developing a “rep” in his own right.

  • Adrian

    Surprised to see Cary Williams here. Puts 3 seahawk corners in the top 20

  • Nick Bradley

    residual target rate over actual target rate would be cool. Here:

    Cornerback
    Team
    residual target rate/actual

    Casey Hayward
    GB
    -44.22%

    Tharold Simon
    SEA
    -41.68%

    Jimmy Wilson
    MIA
    -32.82%

    Richard Sherman
    SEA
    -26.81%

    Josh Wilson
    ATL
    -27.60%

    Kyle Wilson
    NYJ
    -23.31%

    Jimmie Ward
    SF
    -22.37%

    Brice McCain
    PIT
    -19.72%

    Darrelle Revis
    NE
    -18.71%

    Melvin White
    CAR
    -19.74%

    Demetrius McCray
    JAX
    -19.08%

    Micah Hyde
    GB
    -19.88%

    Jimmy Smith
    BLT
    -18.23%

    Chykie Brown
    NYG
    -17.14%

    Darius Butler
    IND
    -15.76%

    Antonio Cromartie
    ARZ
    -15.07%

    Tim Jennings
    CHI
    -14.99%

    Alan Ball
    JAX
    -15.12%

    E.J. Biggers
    WAS
    -14.71%

    Rashean Mathis
    DET
    -13.54%

    Patrick Robinson
    NO
    -14.11%

    Tarell Brown
    OAK
    -13.59%

    Stephon Gilmore
    BUF
    -12.92%

    Demontre Hurst
    CHI
    -13.16%

    Leon Hall
    CIN
    -11.60%

    Zackary Bowman
    NYG
    -12.65%

    Chris Harris
    DEN
    -10.89%

    Orlando Scandrick
    DAL
    -11.02%

    Cassius Vaughn
    DET
    -12.06%

    Trumaine Johnson
    SL
    -11.43%

    Sean Smith
    KC
    -9.87%

    Brandon Carr
    DAL
    -9.79%

    Brandon Browner
    NE
    -9.53%

    Kyle Arrington
    NE
    -9.69%

    Captain Munnerlyn
    MIN
    -8.60%

    Vontae Davis
    IND
    -8.64%

    Chris Culliver
    SF
    -8.25%

    Xavier Rhodes
    MIN
    -7.98%

    Lardarius Webb
    BLT
    -7.90%

    Robert Alford
    ATL
    -7.38%

    Cary Williams
    PHI
    -6.27%

    Josh Norman
    CAR
    -6.91%

    Nickell Robey
    BUF
    -6.27%

    Sterling Moore
    DAL
    -5.63%

    Desmond Trufant
    ATL
    -4.86%

    Shareece Wright
    SD
    -5.04%

    Corey Graham
    BUF
    -4.16%

    Will Blackmon
    JAX
    -4.80%

    Dontae Johnson
    SF
    -3.64%

    Marcus Williams
    NYJ
    -3.61%

    Kareem Jackson
    HST
    -2.68%

    Adam Jones
    CIN
    -2.32%

    Phillip Gaines
    KC
    -3.83%

    E.J. Gaines
    SL
    -1.07%

    Bradley Roby
    DEN
    -0.77%

    Josh Gordy
    IND
    -2.56%

    Darius Slay
    DET
    0.09%

    Aqib Talib
    DEN
    0.13%

    Patrick Peterson
    ARZ
    0.78%

    Janoris Jenkins
    SL
    0.64%

    Coty Sensabaugh
    TEN
    0.75%

    D.J. Hayden
    OAK
    0.99%

    Alterraun Verner
    TB
    1.53%

    Brandon Flowers
    SD
    1.50%

    Dwayne Gratz
    JAX
    1.58%

    Johnthan Banks
    TB
    1.84%

    Prince Amukamara
    NYG
    1.21%

    Brent Grimes
    MIA
    3.47%

    Brandon Boykin
    PHI
    3.11%

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
    NYG
    4.05%

    Cortland Finnegan
    MIA
    3.97%

    Bené Benwikere
    CAR
    3.85%

    Sam Shields
    GB
    4.79%

    Keenan Lewis
    NO
    5.12%

    Leonard Johnson
    TB
    3.98%

    Tramon Williams
    GB
    5.66%

    Josh Robinson
    MIN
    6.17%

    Byron Maxwell
    SEA
    6.54%

    Travis Carrie
    OAK
    6.17%

    Antoine Cason
    CAR
    7.28%

    Chris Owens
    KC
    8.42%

    Perrish Cox
    SF
    10.47%

    David Amerson
    WAS
    10.62%

    Greg Toler
    IND
    10.96%

    Carlos Rogers
    OAK
    9.18%

    Robert McClain
    ATL
    11.23%

    Leodis McKelvin
    BUF
    11.44%

    Bashaud Breeland
    WAS
    12.41%

    Jerraud Powers
    ARZ
    12.64%

    Davon House
    GB
    11.76%

    Logan Ryan
    NE
    12.83%

    Justin Gilbert
    CLV
    12.49%

    Darrin Walls
    NYJ
    13.71%

    Terence Newman
    CIN
    16.08%

    William Gay
    PIT
    18.37%

    Bradley Fletcher
    PHI
    19.32%

    Corey White
    NO
    18.96%

    Antonio Allen
    NYJ
    18.75%

    Joe Haden
    CLV
    20.33%

    Buster Skrine
    CLV
    22.48%

    A.J. Bouye
    HST
    23.50%

    Kyle Fuller
    CHI
    24.35%

    K’Waun Williams
    CLV
    25.07%

    Blidi Wreh-Wilson
    TEN
    27.33%

    Cortez Allen
    PIT
    27.21%

    Marcus Burley
    SEA
    26.72%

    Antwon Blake
    PIT
    27.36%

    Asa Jackson
    BLT
    31.47%

    Marcus Cooper
    KC
    32.19%

    Jason McCourty
    TEN
    34.58%

    Johnathan Joseph
    HST
    37.43%

    Jamar Taylor
    MIA
    41.22%

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