Football Scientist: Giants vs. Jets, Part 2: The secondary

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
12:10
PM ET
This is Part 2 of a seven-part series looking at which team is better from a metric perspective, the Giants or the Jets? The Jets took the lead in Part 1, which was a review of each team's pass catchers. In today's installment, we compare the teams' secondaries. This analysis will revolve around the pass-coverage skills of each player.

Left Cornerback: Corey Webster vs. Darrelle Revis

Might as well start with the highest-profile and potentially most controversial pick of this entire series. Revis was a dominant cornerback in 2009, but this year he has been off his game due to injury and rust. He has allowed 171 yards on 22 targets, or a 7.8 yards per attempt (YPA) mark.

Webster has been the anchor of the Giants' secondary so far this year. He has allowed 134 yards on 21 attempts, or a 6.4 YPA. That gives him nearly a yard-and-a-half lead over Revis in that category, but he also keeps up with Revis in success percentage (defined as when a pass directed at a cornerback ends up as an incompletion or an offensive pass-interference penalty). Webster has 14 successful plays in those 21 attempts (66.7 percent success rate) versus Revis' 14 successful plays in 22 attempts (63.6 percent success rate).

Edge: When he is at his best, Revis is the better CB -- but he hasn't been at his best at any time this year, and it isn't a given that he will get back to that level in 2010. That being the case, Webster is, at this moment, the better CB.

Right Cornerback: Terrell Thomas vs. Antonio Cromartie

Thomas' YPA has been steadily rising all season long and now stands at 8.3 (388 yards allowed on 47 attempts). Cromartie has struggled at times, but all told he has allowed 413 yards on 55 passes, for a 7.5 YPA. His success rate is also higher (52.7 percent for Cromartie, 46.8 percent for Thomas). In addition, it is worth noting that Cromartie is playing his best ball of the season now, and Thomas most certainly is not.

Edge: A definite win for the Jets.

Nickel Cornerback: Bruce Johnson/Aaron Ross vs. Drew Coleman/Dwight Lowery/Kyle Wilson

This one is a bit difficult, because the Giants' nickel cornerbacks haven't been thrown at nearly as often as the Jets' nickel CBs have. Between them, Johnson and Ross have been targeted only 18 times this year. Coleman (15 targets) and Lowery (12 targets) both have nearly equaled that total on their own, and that doesn't include the passes that have been thrown Wilson's way when he has played as an extra cornerback.

Having said that, the Giants are in a much worse way here, because the bulk of their targets have been directed at Ross and he has been the definition of a coverage liability this year. He has allowed 156 yards on the 13 passes thrown his way, for a ridiculously high 12.0 YPA. To put that into perspective, the 10-yard YPA mark is the benchmark for unacceptable performance and Ross' YPA is two yards higher than that.

The Jets' CBs have had issues of their own (Lowery's 12.2 YPA being chief among them), but Coleman and his 6.1 YPA total give them the lead at this position.

Edge: Coleman scores one for Gang Green.

Strong Safety: Kenny Phillips vs. Jim Leonhard

In the TFS grading system, safeties have two different types of coverage. The first is direct coverage, meaning the safety is the primary coverage person on the pass. The second is deep assist coverage, which is where the safety is helping another defender with over-the-top coverage. Strong safeties do a lot more direct coverage than deep assist coverage, so that is the metric primarily used to grade their coverage abilities.

In the case of Phillips vs. Leonhard, neither player has performed particularly well in this metric. Phillips has allowed 58 yards on seven direct coverage passes for an 8.3 YPA. Generally speaking, a YPA of that level is adequate but isn't anything to write home about.

Leonhard has given up 137 yards on 11 targets, or a 12.5 YPA. Double-digit YPAs in this category are much like double-digit YPAs for cornerbacks -- they are unacceptable, and a mark that someone is not playing well.

Edge: Phillips and the G-Men get the win here.

Free Safety: Antrel Rolle vs. Brodney Pool

The deep assist coverage metric is a tough one to gauge for many reasons, not the least of which is small sample sizes. But it generally does a good job of showing when a free safety is and isn't doing his job well.

Let's start with Pool. Of the five passes on which he has helped over the top on a targeted pass, only one was completed -- for a 37-yard gain. A second target ended up as a 27-yard pass-interference call on the cornerback. Those are not normally tallied as yardage against the safety (unless the safety is the one responsible for the penalty) but for the sake of argument, let's add it in and say Pool has a 12.8 deep assist YPA.

Now let's contrast that to Rolle. Four of the five plays where he had deep assist coverage on a target ended up in completions, totaling 155 yards. That equates to a 31-yard deep assist YPA. That alone could charge him with a loss here, but it is also worth remembering the gaffes he had in the Detroit game. He is taking far too many risks.

Edge: Pool pulls out a win for the Jets.

Bottom Line: The Jets lead in the coverage realm, 3 to 2. Since neither team has done much in the ball-hawking department (the Jets have five interceptions, the Giants seven), the coverage metrics end up taking the day. That means another Gang Green victory, and thus a 2-0 lead for Rex Ryan's crew in this best-of-seven series.

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