I know that Drew Coleman was cut some time ago, but the move has really been bothering me lately. Why would the Jaguars cut a player that so many of us fans felt did a good job? Why would they cut a player they never tried on the outside during the season? Why all the mystery and the sudden move?
We’ve speculated numerous times about the players that will be replacing Coleman at the nickel corner spot. A spot that requires good coverage of slot receivers as well as playing the run decently.
And that’s where I just figured out why Coleman wasn’t quite up to snuff for the Jaguars front office.
No offense to Coleman, I quite liked the guy when he played for the Black and Teal, but he wasn’t really the best defensive back for the Jaguars when it came to stopping the run. Typically, nickel backs and safeties have higher run stops than outside corners. When looking at the numbers (provided by Pro Football Focus – Thanks!), Coleman did not rank among the top ten run game tackles.
But another Jaguar did – William Middleton.
Middleton has been a do-it-all type corner for the Jags for a number of years. He plays a bit of nickel, fills in on the outside when called upon, and he is easily coachable and hard working. All of which are traits that have earned him a spot under Gene Smith’s reign as general manager.
Middleton ranked 10th in total tackles in the run game with 16. But digging further, he ranks 8th in “defensive stops” or tackles that limit the offense to getting less than 40%, 60%, and 100% of required yardage on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd/4th downs respectively. Middleton had 10 defensive stops. And how did that compare to his total number of snaps played?
Middleton shot up the board to land at #3 for run stop percentage with 6.1% (tops was Antoine Winfiled with 6.7%). Middleton proved his worth both in coverage – which he has been doing for a while – and in the run game.
But he wasn’t the only Jaguar to make the list for top 10 in run stop percentage. And it wasn’t Drew Coleman either. It was Ashton Youboty at #7 with a 5.4%. Youboty played on the outside mostly last season when he came in after Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis were injured.
Assuming that Youboty and Middleton can keep those numbers similar for 2012 and that Mathis, Cox, and Ross all make the roster and play well at their respective positions (yet to be decided for Mathis and Ross as they battle for the outside), the Jags already have five excellent corners on the roster – enough to fill nickel and dime packages as all of them have experience in coverage.
Middleton and Youboty made Coleman redundant despite his solid nickel corner play. Had Coleman improved at run stopping during the season, it may have been more possible that he be around in 2012.
Alas, it is a competitive world in the NFL, and it seems that the competition was steeper at corner than it appeared at first glance.
- Luke N. Sims