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Advanced Stats Review: The Safety Duo

I review Donte Whitner's and Eric Reid's game against the St. Louis Rams.

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

By and large, the statistics in this post are coming from Pro Football Focus. They have signature stats that are more conventionally comprehensible (like how many QB hurries a lineman gives up). In addition, though, PFF provides weekly "grades" that are overall numbered scores. You can read about their grading process HERE. Positive numbers are good while negative numbers are bad. Anything above +1 is a really good game; anything below -1 is quite a bad game. The grade is a composite grade of different smaller grades (like "pass blocking"). I will typically highlight the strengths and/or weaknesses of a particular performance by looking at these composite grades.

The safety duo of Donte Whitner and Eric Reid has been very good this year. We have seen improved pass coverage, strong run defense, and less flags off of questionable hits. Save a couple of head injuries, this duo has been a revelation for the defense. I thought it would be worth looking at both men's last game.

Both safeties played well, or so I thought. The Rams could never really get much going on offense, except for a couple of nice drives they had here and there. Moreover, as we shall soon see, both Whitner and Reid had nice baseline statistics. But, their PFF pass coverage grades aren't as good as one would expect. This, I think, speaks to the virtues of PFF's grading attempts, even if they are occasionally not great. There were quite a few times when a Rams player just dropped a ball. Just flat out dropped a ball. If Reid or Whitner allowed that man to get open, then they should have their grade hurt. They didn't cause him to drop the ball, unless they hit him as he was coming down.

But, onto the stats!

Eric Reid: -1.3 PFF Pass Coverage Grade, 4 Tackles, 1 Assist, 6 Targets, 1 Reception

Mr. Reid, when targeted 6 times, only gave up 1 reception for 20 yards and no TDs. This is on 41 cover snaps total. Of course, these are great numbers. In fact, if you look up the QB rating against Reid, you would continue to find these numbers strong: when targeting Reid, the Kellen Clemens had a QB rating of 41.0. Again, this is excellent.

But, PFF still rating his pass coverage poorly, giving him a -1.3. This is, of course, not nearly as good as the numbers above would suggest. While the explanation I supplied above (the Rams seemed allergic to catching the football) likely has something to do with it, I wonder if we can find another explanation too. Perhaps, and this is just speculation, but perhaps the fact that Reid was targeted so many times speaks to the fact that he was letting people get open. By and large, Reid's coverage has been excellent this season. Better, I think, than most of us expected from a rookie. Even if he did have a down game against the Rams, I'm glad he still got a little bit lucky.

Donte Whitner: 0.5 PFF Pass Coverage Grade, 1 Int, 5 Tackles, 1 QB Hurry, 3 Targets, 1 Reception

On half the amount of targets as Reid saw, Mr. Whitner allowed the same amount of receptions. His 1 reception that he gave up on the day only went for 4 yards. Whitner added a very nice interception.

Like Reid, Whitner likewise gave up a stingy passer rating when targeted: 42.4. And, like Reid, I expected that his PFF pass coverage grade would have been a bit higher. By no means is 0.5 bad. It's an above decent showing, for sure. But, for me at least, it was a touch unexpected. This is why it is important to be reviewing stats. It helps us all clarify our own "eyeball" test.