by: Michael Steffes
As per request, here are some of the numbers from the Seattle secondary, as per Football Outsiders and the Pro Football Prospectus.
The specific question was about Marcus Trufant and whether he was the real deal. Here is the books take.
"And in a year where the Eagles and Raiders raised the bar on cornerback salaries, Seattle's decision to re-sin Trufant to a six year $50.2 million contract extension already looks like a bargain."It is clear from the numbers that Marcus is both a very good corner, and also that Tim Ruskell is right when he says that he is in the second tier. While Marcus plays his position very well, he is by no means within the bounds of what is known as a "shutdown corner." What supports this is that Marcus was targeted 113 times, 24% of the time the opposing team passed. Compare this to Kelly Jennings who was targeted 21% of the time. Nnamdi Asomugha, the closest thing going to a shutdown corner was targeted 38 times a mere 11% of pass plays against Oak. You can see Marcus defends well, by doesn't encourage teams to avoid his side of field as often as others.
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First to note is that Marcus usually draws a top receiver. He was even moved around at times and left on a island so that the team could use safety help for other corners. The average distance of the passes Marcus covered on were 12.9 yards, slightly less than Jennings 13.4. In the Hawks defense, the safeties cover deeper balls, specifically Brian Russell(15.8). Thankfully Russell is pretty good in coverage, successfully defending the pass 56% of the time for a rank of 18. Trufant has a 53% success rate (29th) and Jennings has 54% success rate (23rd).
One thing Trufant was praised for last year was his run defense and tackling. Surprisingly the numbers don't bear this out. Tru allowed 6 yards a rush, with a run stop % of only 38%. These numbers rank him 37th and 53rd respectively. Jennings, who many often demean for his size allowed only 3.9 yds per for a ranking of 4th. He stopped the play 50% of the time for a rank of 21st. The player who excelled the best in this area was Deon Grant. He allowed 3.8 yards per rush with a 72% stop rate. This puts him 3rd and 1st respectively in these important categories. This almost makes up for Russell's abysmal 79th and 54th ranking, allowing a robust 9.9 yards a rush. Of course we already mentions he seems to be the player deepest in the defensive backfield. This could be related.
Of course, in standard metrics like passes defended and interceptions, Marcus was the tops on the team in both. These are the stats that earned him that deal. Also, overall the Seahawks were dynamite against #1 receivers, ranking 6th in the league. So really, I would say the combo of Tru and the new safeties are what made Marcus an exceptional player last year. I am of strong belief that cornerback play is very dependent on both safety play and pass rush, and separating these things is almost futile. Just ask Nate Clements or Champ Bailey how they did with no rush and stiff safeties last year.
The rankings are by position, league wide of all players that met these conditions:
Corners: 45 charted passes, or 8 games started
Safeties: 16 charted passes or 24 tackles on running plays