KC Joyner article on Revis and Jackson

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KC Joyner article on Revis and Jackson

Post by Cfatboy83 on Mon Jun 14, 2010 7:36 pm

One of the most surprising results Bill James found early in his research of professional baseball is the lack of impact individual players have on the success of their ballclubs. James was so shocked, he eventually created more than a dozen different ways to analyze individual player impact on team performance.

Every one of the studies came to the same conclusion: Most star players in their prime add an impact of no more than three wins a season. It takes a team effort to post wins and not even the best players can do much to change that.

The reason this message resonates is that there are two NFL stars -- Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets and Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers -- whose recent OTA attendance status indicates they may believe they could be exceptions to this rule.

If that is their mindset, the metrics certainly don't back up the claim.

Let's start with Revis. He is absolutely -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- the best cornerback in the league, something backed up by his No. 1 ranking in the cornerback yards-per-attempt (YPA) numbers from the KC Joyner Metricmania section of ESPN's Fantasy Football Magazine.

With that being said, it should also be noted which cornerback ranked No. 2 in YPA -- that was Revis' teammate, Dwight Lowery. The Jets also placed a third cornerback, Lito Sheppard, in the top 20 in that category last year, making them the only team in the league to reach that statistical distinction.

That alone indicates just how much head coach Rex Ryan's scheme helps cornerbacks, but Sheppard's case is even more notable when looking at his coverage history prior to coming to New York. In the three years before joining Ryan's defense, Sheppard posted YPA marks of 13.0 (2008), 8.1 (2007) and 8.2 (2006).

Now contrast that to his New York YPA mark of 6.0. He went from posting one of the worst YPA totals in the league to one of the best, yet the Jets sat him down in the playoffs and let him go after the season. That almost certainly means they realize it was the scheme more than his physical skills that accounted for Sheppard's improvement.

If that is the case, the Jets' management also has to realize the type of impact this scheme could have on Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie posted a 7.4 YPA in San Diego last season, in what was widely acknowledged as an off year for him. Playing up to his talent level could shave a yard off of that total, and if the Jets' scheme does its usual magic and cuts it down by 1 or 2 additional yards, Cromartie could end up with a YPA fairly close to Revis' 3.6 mark.

That means, in the worst-case scenario of a long-term Revis holdout, New York could place Lowery on the field opposite Cromartie and start first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson at the nickel cornerback position. That would still give the Jets one of the best secondaries in the league despite the absence of Revis Island.

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Now, Jackson is much like Revis -- he is without a doubt an elite player; but the Chargers are in a similar situation in that they have a capable replacement for Jackson, wide receiver Malcolm Floyd.

For proof, just consider how Jackson and Floyd's 2009 metrics stack up. Their overall YPA totals were close (11.3 for Jackson, 10.8 for Floyd) and their vertical numbers were even closer (13.1 for Jackson, 12.9 for Floyd).

The caveat here is that Floyd posted his numbers on 77 attempts versus Jackson's 110 attempts, but that actually could be construed in favor of Floyd. All he would have to do is extend his performance over the course of 33 more pass attempts to adequately replace Jackson.

That would leave San Diego with the much easier issue of replacing Floyd's production. A 10.8 YPA would be difficult to replicate (only eight receivers in the league posted a total that high last year) but look at it this way: The median YPA at the wide receiver position last year was 7.9 yards, or about 3 yards fewer than Floyd's total. Multiply that 3-yard difference by 77 pass attempts and it means San Diego would be out 231 yards.

In other words, it would hurt the Chargers' offense but it would not cripple it by any means.

All of this isn't meant to say New York and San Diego should play hardball with Revis and Jackson, but it does indicate the players aren't the only entities in these poker-like negotiations with a good hand.

KC Joyner, aka the Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. He also can be found on Twitter (@kcjoynertfs) and at his Web site.


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