Which defender is the best in each category and how they rank compared to rest of the NFL.
Unfortunately NFL Gamepass decided now was the perfect time to update their user interface and game footage is no longer available for the time being. Instead of breaking down film, this article will use data from Sports Info Solutions to paint a picture of where each position group ranks in coverage.
In 2020 while lined up on either side of the defensive formation, 52 cornerbacks were targeted at least 30 times (all coverages vs all routes).
- 49.2% Completion percentage (10th)
- QBR Against 81.2 (25th)
- 8.1 Yards per attempt (34th)
- 51.3% Completion percentage (14th)
- QBR Against 88.7 (23rd)
- 6.6 Yards per attempt (13th)
- 56.6% Completion percentage (30th)
- QBR Against 98.7 (40th)
- 7.7 Yards per attempt (33rd)
Damon Arnette and Isaiah Johnson unfortunately didn’t make this list (minimum target requirements) therefore their numbers in coverage can be thrown out the window. Mullen is transitioning to a new scheme that Hayward has already mastered. Hayward will likely have a consistent season while there could be some bumps in the road for Mullen.
Mullen should get his feet completely under him by mid year and hopefully be the end of the season take the crown as the Raiders best shut down corner.
In 2020 while lined up either at safety or slot cornerback, there were 59 players who were targeted at least 25 times (all coverages against all routes).
- 60.7% Completion percentage (30th)
- QBR Against 113.5 (44th)
- 6.0 Yards per attempt (11th)
Nevin Lawson is the only Raider currently rostered to be eligible for this list (minimum attempts). He had similar numbers to Lamarcus Joyner in coverage however transition from a Cover 1/Cover 2 scheme to a Heavy Cover 3/Cover 4 scheme there isn’t a good barometer for how his production will cross-over as a starter (better or worse).
He is currently competing with rookie Nate Hobbs and 2nd year DB Amik Robertson for command of the starting nickel position. As much as Raiders fans will likely cringe at the idea of Lawson starting in the slot, his stats paint the picture of an average nickel CB in the NFL (albeit one who can’t catch to save his life).
His two game suspension going into the 2021 season means a young player will play the first two games and to this writer, that is even more concerning than Lawson starting at the Nickel spot. For reference, Nate Hobbs allowed a passer rating of 118.5 and a completion percentage of 87.5%…it would be a miracle if those numbers somehow improved going up against the best quarterbacks in the world.
Lined up at either Safety or Linebacker depth, there were 48 safeties in the NFL who were targeted at least 15 times in 2020 (all coverages against all routes).
- 62.5% Completion percentage (27th)
- QBR Against 129.2 (43rd)
- 8.5 Yards per attempt (26th)
- 75% completion percentage (43rd)
- QBR Against 129.2 (44th)
- 14 yards per attempt (46th)
These numbers lend credence to Jon Gruden’s recent comments during a press conference that the safety position is “a question mark.” Neither Joseph or Abram are known for their coverage chops and either have been a liability so far in the NFL.
For Joseph it’s his consistent defeat at the hands of TEs, and for Abram it’s his lack of discipline that bites him. For reference, Moehrig allowed a 51.7 passer rating in coverage and a completion percentage of 48.8% both marks were 8th best amongst draft eligible safeties in 2020 (per PFF).
Obviously Moehrig’s stats can’t be compared to playing in the NFL but it’s an indicator that the rookie safety will soon surpass whoever starts at strong safety for the title of the Raiders best coverage safety (a low bar to hurdle at this point).
In 2020 there were 67 linebackers who were targeted at least 15 times (all coverages against all routes).
- 45.5% completion percentage (3rd)
- QBR Against 54.5 (7th)
- 3.5 yards per attempt (3rd)
- 52.2% completion percentage (6th)
- QBR Against 51.2 (6th)
- 5.7 yards per attempt (26th)
- 60.9% completion percentage (18th)
- QBR Against 55.5 (8th)
- 5.0 yards per attempt (17th)
After charting the Raiders defense for the last few years, these numbers actually don’t come as a surprise. Nicholas Morrow has acquitted himself as a top 10 linebacker in coverage this past year and is primed to start in the middle in Gus Bradley’s new scheme.
Meanwhile, even though Cory Littleton drew much tougher assignments in coverage (slot, M2M on TEs, even playing DB at times), his yards per attempt reflects a deeper average depth of target. But he still made it tough for QBs when targeted down the field.
Nick Kwiatkoski also had a good year in coverage, while not as steady as Morrow, he was still very solid and wouldn’t be a liability if either Morrow or Littleton get banged up.
vs Wide Receivers
In 2020 there were 101 players who received 30 or more targets vs wide receivers. Casey Hayward surrendered a 48.2% completion percentage good for 14th best in the NFL. Meanwhile Trayvon Mullen allowed a 68.2 QBR when targeted while defending a wide receiver, good for 20th best mark in the NFL. These two players have the starting cornerback positions sewn up. Cornerbacks playing on the outside in Bradley’s scheme receive the vast majority of their targets vs wide outs.
vs Tight Ends
In 2020 there were 95 players (all positions) who received 10 or more targets while defending a tight end. Rasul Douglas allowed a completion on only 41.7 percent of throws, that marked was tied for 8th best in the NFL last year. His 33.3 QBR when defending TEs also comes in tied for 6th best in the NFL last year. If the Raiders see fit, Douglas could be a potent match-up player vs Tight Ends in the division when the defense mixes up personnel.
Cory Littleton yielded a catch vs TEs on 57.1% of throws, 15th best for linebackers only, while Nick Kwiatkoski allowed a 40.1 QBR in coverage vs TEs, good for 6th best in the NFL.
vs Running Backs
In 2020 there were 35 players who were targeted at least 10 times while covering a back. Nicholas Morrow allowed 52.9% completion percentage (6th best), 3.7 yards per attempt (10th best), and a QBR of 61.6 (10th best).