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Contrasting corners: Jackson and Tryon

3/21/2011

The Houston Texans were in dire need of a cornerback for 2010, and got one by using the 20th pick in the NFL draft on Kareem Jackson from Alabama.

The Colts were in dire need of a cornerback right before the season started, and got one by trading a seventh-round pick to Washington for Justin Tryon. He was originally a fourth-rounder from Arizona State in 2008.

Look no further for symbolism of how Indianapolis almost always manages to roll along and Houston struggles to gain traction.

Football Outsiders says Tryon, who played in 12 games with six starts, was third in the leagueallowing an average of 5.0 yards a catch and sixth in the league allowing an average of 2.2 yards after the catch (YAC).

Football Outsiders says Jackson, who started all 16 games, was dead last of the 83 cornerbacks who were ranked, in both average yards per pass (11.1) and average YAC (6.0).

FO looked at 83 corners, because that is how many were targeted at least 40 times.

So the Colts got an effective guy for a seventh-round pick and the Texans got an ineffective guy for their top pick.

Sure, there are factors out of a cornerback’s control that go into this. He’s got no control over whether his pass rush is effective or whether his safeties can provide consistent help or how much his scheme exposes him or helps cover for him. These numbers also vary widely year to year, which FO emphasizes makes them somewhat less definitive.

By nature, Tryon will surrender fewer yards playing in Indy's Cover-2 than Jackson will in Houston's scheme. Still, the difference shouldn't be that big.

And Jackson should have rated as the Texans first or second corner. When the Colts were healthy, Tryon could have rated as low as fourth. Given a hindsight choice between the two last season, you’d be crazy not to have taken Tryon. (Jackson was targeted 29 more times than Tryon, but I’d have taken my chances with Tryon for those extra snaps.)

Other AFC South notes on corners from FO’s two posts:

  • Tennessee’s Jason McCourtywas seventh in yards per pass (5.5), but 35th in YAC (3.2) while rookie Alterraun Verner was 20th (6.3) and 15th (2.6) respectively.

  • Indianapolis’ Jerraud Powerswas 10th in yards per pass (5.6) and 23rd in YAC (2.8). He was limited to 10 games because of injuries.

  • Jacksonville’s Rashean Mathiswas 78th in yards per pass (10.1) and 79th in YAC (4.9).

  • Houston's Glover Quin was middle of the pack: 41st in yards per pass (9.9) and 49th in YAC (3.7).

  • One of the corners who ranked ahead of Tryon at the start of things for the Colts, Jacob Lacey, was 75th in yards per pass (9.5) and 69th in YAC (4.5).

  • Author Aaron Schatz pointed out to me that Jacksonville's David Jones had fewer than 40 target passes but was awful. He was targeted 30 times. His 12 yards per pass would have been the league's worst if he qualified.