Who are the top players at defending against the pass in 2018? Let’s look at that specifically through pass coverage (rather than the pass rush) We will use the player’s ranking in our Total Points stat as the basis for judgment.
What is Total Points? Total Points takes the Expected Points stat and distributes the value gained or lost on a play to the different players involved based on their impact on the play. An article “Introducing Total Points” published on Football Outsiders explains this in more detail. You can read the article in full here. As it notes:
Unsurprisingly, Total Points rewards ball-hawking defensive backs for defensing passes and forcing interceptions. Beyond that, though, the sure tacklers and shutdown defenders finally get their due statistically.
|Most Points Added on Pass Coverage|
|Eddie Jackson||Bears S||38.5|
|Darron Lee||Jets LB||28.3|
|Damontae Kazee||Falcons S||28.3|
|Matt Milano||Bills LB||23|
The leader here is a leader by a large margin, Bears safety Eddie Jackson. There’s an intuitive reason for this. Jackson has five interceptions, two of which he’s returned for touchdowns. He’s also returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown. But there’s a little more to it than that.
Opposing quarterbacks are 11-of-33 when throwing at Jackson. The 33 percent completion percentage is tied for the lowest in the NFL with Adrian Phillips of the Chargers. The quarterback rating against Jackson is 26.1, second-lowest in the NFL. He’s deserving of the top spot in more ways than one.
Jackson’s Bears rank No. 1 when looking at the stat from a team perspective. Their players have saved 68.6 points in pass coverage, way ahead of the second-place Bills (49.6). The Redskins (34.0), Vikings (19.4) and Jaguars (13.1) round out the top five.
Falcons safety Damontae Kazee ranks tied for second among individuals, largely because of his six interceptions, though unlike Jackson, Kazee hasn’t scored on one. He’s tied with currently suspended Jets linebacker Darron Lee, who has three interceptions, including one for a score. Lee allowed a play with a positive expected result 40 percent of the time, which ranked in the top 10 percent of all players with at least 30 targets against them
Among cornerbacks, Desmond King of the Chargers ranks first (18.9 points added). King has three interceptions, one for a touchdown. One thing that helps hold his value high is that he’s allowed only one touchdown pass on 51 targets. King has limited damage. He’s allowed only two completions on passes at least 15 yards downfield.
On the other end of the list is Falcons defensive back Robert Alford, who ranks last in Points Saved (-50.4) by a wide margin. He’s allowed 788 yards on passes against him, the most in the NFL and 12.1 yards per attempt, which ranks first among those with at least 30 targets against. His seven touchdowns allowed is one shy of the NFL lead. The Falcons defense ranks last in this stat. Alford has been benched for this week.