Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This is why we needed Ken Lucas

by: Aaron Weinberg

Back in early February Larry Fitzgerald almost single handedly led his team through the playoffs to a Super Bowl. It became clear that Seattle would need a change on defense in order to stop the Cards from scoring at will.

I started a series called "How do we stop this man?" in hopes of answering that question by watching game tape. By using common sense, I theorized that the 6-3 215 lb Fitzgerald would have a tougher time with taller/bigger cornerbacks who couldn't be out-muscled or out-lept for balls.

By watching every game and analyzing who was generally assigned to Fitz, my hypothesis was proved resoundingly correct. The 6-0 taller crowd largely shut down Fitzgerald.

Apparently Ruskell noticed this too and picked up the 6-0, 205 lb Lucas. But, who knows if Mora will leave Trufant on Fitz or make the swap for that game. Ex-DC John Marshall felt comfortable leaving Trufant man-on-man with Fitz (well maybe not comfortable, but playing a cover-1 leaves your options limited). That didn't turn out so well. Lucas would have a favorable match-up with Boldin, allowing for a safety to double up on Fitz more confidently.

Anyway, here's my analysis in spreadsheet format. Click to enlarge:

Red indicates shorter than 6-0. All 6-0 and taller CBs held Fitzgerald to less than 100 yards except for ex-Seahawk Shawn Springs. And, as I wrote earlier, the huge play for a touchdown was not his fault.

Here's an excerpt from my story which has some surprising statistics:
Fitzgerald faced off against seven cornerbacks who stood 6-0 or taller. Of those seven games, Fitzgerald averaged 66.1 yards per game and 0.6 touchdowns a game.

During the other nine games Fitzgerald faced off against cornerbacks 5-11 or shorter and accumulated much better stats, with an average of 107.7 receiving yards and 0.89 touchdowns a game.

Fitzgerald likes to utilize his size to beat smaller cornerbacks in jump ball situations and also has physical strength to muscle the smaller corners out of position.

So taller CB's held Fitz to about 40 yards less per game and .3 less TD's.