Thanks to recent metric advancements, a cornerback’s effectiveness can now be measured in many ways, well beyond just interceptions and passes defensed.
One of the advanced statistics Pro Football Focus uses is “Cover Snaps Per Reception Allowed,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
The higher the number the better, because it indicates a defensive back was in coverage often without allowing many receptions.
In 2016, Bills rookie Kevon Seymour’s season wasn’t spectacular by traditional numbers.
He played on 26.5% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps, broke up three passes and had 14 tackles in 15 games.
But by PFF’s “Cover Snaps Per Reception Allowed” metric, Seymour was the most impressive rookie corner.
Noteworthy takeaway here — in this statistic, Seymour outperformed two of the three cornerbacks the Panthers picked in the 2016 draft.
And, both Worley and Bradberry fit the size / length profile typically desired by team’s running Cover 3 or zone-based defenses.
In those zone-based defenses — especially Cover 3 schemes like McDermott’s — height and length are prioritized for cornerbacks.
In Cover 3, the two outside cornerbacks are responsible for the two outside deep 1/3s of the field. The idea is that if those cornerbacks are tall / have long arms, they’ll have a much easier time playing “ball-hawk” in the deep third to get their hands on passes. In zone, they’re watching the quarterback much more than their back is turned to him, so ball skills and “catch radius” are more important than ability to stick in the pocket of a receiver across the field.
Worley and Bradberry are both 6’1” with 33 3/8” arms. Seymour is 5’11” with 30 3/4” arms. Now, obviously, Worley and Bradberry had totally different assignments than Seymour did a season ago, as McDermott’s defense is vastly different from Rex Ryan’s, which likely factored into their contrasting figures.
In zone coverage, short receptions made “in front” of corners are typically more “acceptable” than they are in man coverage. But as an outside defensive back sinks into his deep third in Cover 3, the ability to stick with a wideout is important.
For context on how good Seymour’s 14.8 cover snaps per reception allowed number was, before the Super Bowl in February 2015, Richard Sherman led the NFL with a CSPR of 18.5 for that season. Darrelle Revis finished second at 15.9, and according to Field Gulls “all but 11 other corners (were) under 12.”
Therefore, it seems like Seymour may have had a better debut season in the NFL than originally believed, and McDermott will be happy to be inheriting him as a part of Buffalo’s secondary.