Antoine Winfield had a pretty good season for the Vikings this year, but that was somewhat masked by the fact that so many of the players that surrounded him in the Minnesota secondary this season ranged from "bleh" to "outright freaking awful." But the good folks at Football Outsiders have managed to encapsulate just how good a season #26 had with the naming of their "All-Intangibles" team.
The folks at Football Outsiders ranked the NFL's cornerbacks in two different categories when it comes to pass coverage. The first one is Yards per Pass, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. They took the number of times that teams threw at Winfield, added up the yards, and figured out how much success other teams had when they did throw in Winfield's direction.
The answer? They didn't do very well at all. In the 62 passes that teams threw in the direction of Antoine Winfield in 2010, they averaged a pathetic 3.8 yards/pass. That's nearly a full yard per pass better than the second-best player in that category (by FO's numbers), St. Louis' Ron Bartell, who allowed 4.7 yards/pass on 78 passes thrown his direction.
The other category that Football Outsiders used for ranking corners is a stat they call "success rate." This is the percentage of the time that a cornerback prevented an offensive play from being successful, based on the following criteria.
Success rate is another Football Outsiders game-charting metric that indicates the percentage of plays targeting a defensive player on which the offense was unsuccessful. "Unsuccessful" plays include incompletions, interceptions and the inability to gain 45 percent of necessary conversion yardage on first downs, 60 percent on second downs, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.
Antoine Winfield's success rate in 2010? 71%. . .exactly the same as super duper ultra mega uber awesome elite cornerback Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets. I'm guessing that Football Outsiders put Winfield at #1 and Revis at #2 because Winfield had a few more passes thrown his way than Revis did. . .and by "a few," I mean "four."
A couple of conclusions to be drawn from this. . .first off, even though Antoine Winfield is getting older, he's also getting better. Quite frankly, any discussion of the best corners in the National Football League that doesn't include the name Antoine Winfield isn't a complete discussion. (Heck, when was the last time I talked about Antoine Winfield for this long without using the words "run support" or "tackling?")
Second of all. . .I hope like hell that Cedric Griffin is okay next year. Prior to his ACL tear in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, he was showing signs of turning into a pretty darn good cornerback. Unfortunately, 2010 ended up being a lost year for him, but if he can come back healthy in 2011 and give us a competent corner across from Winfield as opposed to the assortment of junk that was thrown out there in 2010, this secondary can make a mammoth leap in 2011. . .and, call me crazy, but such a thing just might help the pass rush get better, too. After all, Jared Allen, according to the same link, finished third in quarterback hits among defensive ends with 16, and Kevin Williams led all NFL defensive tackles in quarterback hurries with 21. The extra second or so that having someone like Griffin in coverage would provide could turn those "hits" and "hurries" into sacks and potential turnovers.
Or, they could do what I've always suggested. . .move Griffin to the safety position, where I think he'd be outstanding, and hope that someone like Prince Amukamara falls in their lap at 12. Or go after a corner in free agency. The talent in the front seven is still there, folks. . .it just needs to be supplemented at the back with corners that. . .well, that aren't Asher Allen and Frank Walker.