I get a kick out of fans who describe a cornerback as being a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 corner on a team roster. The false assumption that a No. 1 CB will matchup against a No. 1 WR is nowhere near the truth.
Cornerbacks, unlike their safety secondary counterparts, are rarely interchangeable. They play either right corner (RCB), or left corner (LCB). Are there exceptions? Yes, but only one that comes to mind—Darrelle Revis.
Not even Nnamdi Asomugha plays both CB positions. He’s a right CB, pure and simple. Asomugha is wrongly characterized as a shutdown cover/press, No. 1 CB.
It’s laughable, actually.
Houston was acquired in a 2010 trade with Atlanta, where he was square pegged after the Falcons signed bombshell FA Dunta Robinson. Detroit gave up a sixth- and a conditional seventh-round pick in the deal.
Did the Lions' think tank see something in Houston that suggested that a move to LCB was warranted? Let’s look at his 2008-10 Pro Football Focus stats for some possible insights based on a comparative analysis.
Games Played, Started, and Snaps Played
In 2008, Houston played and started all 16 games. He played 1,023 snaps.
In 2009, Houston played 12 games, starting 10. He played 724 snaps.
In 2010, Houston played and started 15 games. He played 906 snaps
Houston played more defensive snaps than any other Lions defender other than Ndamukong Suh in 2010.
QB Sacks, Hits, and Pressures
For Houston, this was a flatline. He had only one QB pressure (2010) which suggests that Houston’s involvement in blitz packages is a rare event.
Solo Tackles, Assists, Missed Tackles, and Stops
2008: 54 - 2 - 4 - 13
2009: 39 - 4 - 5 - 9
2010: 50 - 3 - 6 - 10
That PFF Stops category is tackles for a loss plus interceptions plus passes defended. In PFF’s words: “Any play considered an offensive failure.”
Now that we have some raw data to work with, how did Houston’s stats look on a per snap basis?
In 2008, Houston made one tackle or assist for every 18.3 snaps played.
In 2009, Houston made one tackle or assist for every 16.8 snaps played.
In 2010, Houston made one tackle or assist for every 17.1 snaps played.
What about those missed tackles?
In 2008, Houston missed one tackle for every 255.8 snaps played.
In 2009, Houston missed one tackle for every 144.8 snaps played.
In 2010, Houston missed one tackle for every 151 snaps played.
How about those “stops?”
In 2008, Houston recorded a stop for every 78.7 snaps played.
In 2009, Houston recorded a stop for every 80.4 snaps played.
In 2010, Houston recorded a stop for every 90.6 snaps played.
It’s difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from the above stats. Houston, as an LCB for the Lions, looked to have roughly similar numbers as he did in 2008 as a RCB for the Falcons.
PFF records the number of times Houston was targeted, receptions allowed, percentage of receptions allowed, total receiving yards allowed, average yards per catch allowed, total yards after the catch, TDs allowed, interceptions, passes defended, and QB rating against.
How was Houston targeted as a RCB in 2008-09, as opposed to a Lions LCB in 2010?
2008: Allowed 53 receptions out of 93 targets (57 percent).
2009: Allowed 42 receptions out of 63 targets (66.7 percent).
2010: Allowed 51 receptions out of 85 targets (60 percent).
Houston’s total yards allowed, average yards allowed, and yards after the catch (YAC) look like this:
2008: Allowed 703 total receiving yards (13.3 avg), and 185 YAC.
2009: Allowed 502 total receiving yards (12.0 avg), and 98 YAC.
2010: Allowed 542 total receiving yards (10.6 avg), and 150 YAC.
Houston’s TDs allowed, interceptions (INTs), passes defended (PD), and QB rating (QBR) against look like this:
2008: Allowed two TDs, made two INTs, had 13 PD, and a 79.3 QBR.
2009: Allowed two TDs, made one INT, had four PD, and a 94.8 QBR.
2010: Allowed three TDs, made one INT, had nine PD, and a 85.5 QBR.
Once again, let’s apply the pass defense stats across the snaps played by Houston for some additional insights.
Houston was targeted once per every 11 snaps played in 2008. He was targeted once per every 11.5 snaps played in 2009. In 2010, Houston was targeted once per every 10.7 snaps played.
Next, I wanted to see what percentage of Houston’s total receiving yards allowed were yards after the catch.
In 2008, Houston’s 185 YAC was 26.3 percent of his 703 yards allowed. In 2009, his 98 YAC was 19.5 percent of his 502 yards allowed. In 2010, his 150 YAC was 27.7 percent of his 542 yards allowed.
Houston acclimated nicely to his change from RCB to LCB for the Lions. Overall, his 2010 stats lines look quite similar to those of his 2008 season, his best as a pro.
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to Houston. The good news is that a comparison between Houston and the two Lions players who played 945 snaps at RCB (Jonathan Wade and Alphonso Smith) proved that Houston was superior in most statistical categories.
The bad news is that Houston struggles to be an average LCB. For Lions fans, even an average CB performance is a relief from what we’ve endured in seasons past.
Where can Houston improve in 2011? Pass defense, pass defense and pass defense.
If Houston can get his receptions allowed percentage down to around 50 percent, he will be looked upon as a stud. If Houston can increase his interceptions and passes defended stats up, he will be proclaimed as a shutdown CB.
Altogether, Houston looks rather iffy.
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.