For many people, stats are for losers and Major League Baseball fans. OK, I get it. So does Steven Hawking, but we have to find his insights in a parallel universe.
What if those stats grade a player on every play? Well, I’d tend give them much more credence than the regurgitated stats provided by the newspaper’s ink stained wretches.
Where in the hell do they get this stuff? These fluff stats.
I’m bringing you Pro Football Focus statistics. This is the real deal, Lions fans. Every player graded on every play. You can look at every play if you like, and grade them yourself, if you are a masochist, that is.
So, we have thus far looked at TE Brandon Pettigrew, and DT Ndamukong Suh. There were some good nuggets there, and some coaching points as well.
The target of this article is CB Alphonso Smith. Now, Smith is one of my “pet cats” by virtue of his being a member in good standing of the “Square Peg Brigade.”
Smith’s road to Detroit has some interesting DNA. During the 2010 NFL draft, Detroit’s GM Martin Mayhew made his first ever multi-team trade.
Basically, Denver traded TE Tony Scheffler to Philadelphia, who flipped him, plus a 7th round pick to Detroit for LB Ernie Sims. Detroit shipped a 5th round pick in 2011 to Denver.
Got that? There’s gonna be a test, so take notes!
So, how does CB Alphonso Smith come into play here?
Well, Denver made no bones about wanting a blocking TE. Scheffler is not a blocking TE, and clashed with then head coach Josh McDaniels over his role.
Scheffler got that “Square Peg” tag, and packed his bags.
Now comes St. Martin with a cure for Denver’s blocking TE woes as the final training camp cuts are being made.
Detroit traded former seventh round TE Dan Gronkowski to Denver for former 2nd round CB Alphonso Smith.
Can you say “No Brainer?”
OK, enough for DNA, and the history lesson. Let’s dig into Smith!
Alphonso Smith played exactly 600 snaps at RCB. This was far behind LCB Chris Houston’s 907 snaps.
Since Smith’s snap levels were so low, I decided to look for some clues as to why.
Smith was signed days before the Lions played Week 1 in 2010. Obviously, there was a learning curve. Here’s how that worked out.
At Chicago in Week 1, Smith played 31 of 79 defensive snaps, but didn‘t start.
In Week 2, Smith played 34 of 73 defensive snaps against the Eagles, but didn‘t start.
In Week 3, Smith played 26 of 74 snaps against the Vikings, but Wade was starting.
In Week 4, Smith played 25 of 45 snaps against the Redskins, as the starter.
Getting the picture?
Smith was learning a new system, and being integrated into the Lions defensive scheme the smart way. At the same time, the Lions were distancing themselves from CB Jonathan Wade.
Smith was deemed ready to go full time in Week 5. Between Weeks 5 and 13, Smith played, and started at RCB. Smith played most of the snaps over that period.
Smith went on the IR in Week 13.
I suspect that the reason Smith went on IR was that he was beaten half to death by defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham after his Week 12 thermonuclear meltdown against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Smith was transformed into Chernobyl.
OK, we’ve solved the riddle of Smith’s playing time, but what did he bring to the party in the 600 snaps he did play?
PFF ranked a total of 210 CBs! Whew! Now, we can filter out those who played less than 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps. Oddly enough, Smith should have been included in the samples that looked at players who played 50, and 60 percent of the Lions defensive snaps.
He was not, and I have sent a nasty-gram to PFF, who will investigate.
While we are constrained to examine only players who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, this whittles the field down to 100 CBs on the nose. In this group, Smith was ranked 80th.
Not so hot, eh?
Note here that Jonathan Wade ranked 81st but only played 345 snaps. One would get the drift that Smith took Wade’s job, but overall didn’t blow him away.
Now, we have to examine the numbers. I’m scrubbed up, and ready for the Autopsy.
Smith was targeted 64 times, or roughly 10 percent of the snaps that he played. He allowed 43 receptions for a 67.2 percent completion rate. This ranks Smith 82nd out of 100 CBs. Since Smith ranked 62nd in targets there is some real reason for concern.
Those 43 receptions allowed yielded 639 yards for a 14.9 average. That average ranks Smith a lowly 84th.
That’s pretty alarming, but it gets worse.
Smith gave up 639 YAC. This gives Smith a ranking of 83rd.
Smith allowed four TDs (the longest was 79 yards). This was good enough to be ranked 55th, tied with 18 other players.
Now for the really bad news. Of those 18 other CBs, nine of them played over 900 snaps.
Coaching Point No. 1
Smith went off the reservation in the 2nd half against the Pats in Week 12. He got torched for two Deon Branch TDs in the 3rd quarter, and was benched.
Take away that incredible lack of professionalism (for which he publicly apologized), and many of Smith’s stats would have put him in the top 40.
Now, the news isn’t all grim. Those five interceptions of Smith’s put him in an 8th place tie. Smith played fewer snaps than the other three players he was tied with.
Finally, a ray of sunshine on Smith’s statistical wasteland. Not quite a “Nugget” stat, but not too shabby.
Smith had a QB rating of 88.0. This is the standard QB rating for passes thrown into Smith’s coverage. This was good enough to place him 52nd.
Again, what draws my attention is what might have been without that Week 12 nightmare.
Finally, let’s look at penalties. Smith racked up six penalties, with one offsetting. This put Smith in 84th place.
CBs are rarely called for minor five yard infractions. All of Smith’s penalties were of the pass interference variety. That’s the number one item on the CB menu of no-nos.
Coaching Point No. 2
Smith is too much of a gambler, who doesn’t trust his help. This is a serious, but correctable failure. We need to see some equally serious improvement in this area.
Smith will be entering his 3rd NFL season, but only his 2nd as a defensive positional player. He has many areas in which he can improve, and the hard lessons learned during the 2010 campaign should enable Smith to be more productive in 2011.
Next up: SS Louis Delmas.
Mike Sudds is a Syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.