Marcus Peters got beat deep twice against the Broncos.
It's true. Once was down the right sideline against Demaryius Thomas (who I'm almost certain pushed off, but it was subtle). Another was against a receiver on a post. Each time, Peyton Manning wasn't able to make Peters pay for getting beat.
Peters also got beat a few times on quick curls and crossing routes. This is absolutely true. See?
Told you he got beat.
Why am I beginning the article like this? It's pretty simple, honestly.
I'm beginning the Marcus Peters All-22 review like this because once I start talking about all the things he did right on Thursday, there's not going to be any room for the negative.
You think he was really good? I'm telling you he wasn't. He was better. He was phenomenal. He was superb the vast majority of the game. He did so many things well that the "negative" part to this column was always going to be a drop in the bucket.
And so we get that part out of the way so you go into this remembering two things: Marcus Peters is not perfect, and he's still a rookie. The odds of Peters being THIS good in every game are just not in his favor. Keep that in mind.
All that said, well ... maybe it's better if I just start off showing you what I'm talking about.
Had to make a better gif of that footwork. LOOK AT THAT FOOTWORK. pic.twitter.com/mczrLMhfD8— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) September 21, 2015
Does that help explain things a little better? If it doesn't, let's start out with the numbers.
(Note: if you're familiar with the methodology I use to grade corners, skip ahead to the next section)
As we've often discussed, traditional stats don't do you much good when evaluating a corner. Interceptions tell you nothing of value other than "when the ball hits his hands he can catch it." Tackles are a bad thing as often as a good thing, if not more so (for a CB to make a tackle generally he has to allow a catch first, you know?).
A lot of people feel the answer is to be found in "target" stats, something PFF and a few other sites do. They track the number of times a CB was targeted then figure out how successful the QB was targeting said CB. This is more useful, but still very incomplete. The most a CB is going to get targeted in a given game is around 15 times or so (maybe 20 on a day he's getting slaughtered). That leaves the majority of snaps completely out of the picture.
The way to get a clear picture is to track every snap of a corner (at least, every snap where the assignment is clear and there's a receiver running a route to cover) and gauge whether it was a "success" or a "failure" in coverage. By doing this, you can get an idea how a CB was throughout the game. Since this is the first article of the year of this nature, we'll define the "new" terms:
Success in Coverage: When a defensive player stays tight enough (or in good enough position) that it would require an exceptional throw and / or catch to beat the coverage. No coverage is perfect. Sometimes a CB is "successful" but just falls victim to a guy like Megatron going all Megatron. Also, by gauging the success of the coverage we can keep from penalizing CB's from falling victim to an Aaron Rodgers rocket.
Failure in Coverage: Essentially the opposite. If the CB allows enough room to where an average throw / catch lead to a completion, it's a failure.
Passes Defensed: A pass picked off or knocked aside is a pass defensed.
It's worth noting that even the best corners in the game fail multiple times every game. NFL receivers are too good, and the rules are too bent in their favor, for there to be any other way. In this fantastic article by Cian Fahey, you see that Richard Sherman at his peak was "successful" 81 percent of the time (though it's worth noting the methodology is slightly different, and subjective terms like these are prone to variation).
It's a tough way to grade corners, but it's far and away the most accurate. Anyway, now that I've got the boring part out of the way, the numbers...
|Snaps||Successful Coverage||Failure in Coverage||Success Percentage||Passes Defensed|
As you can see, Peters had a phenomenal success rate. When you factor in that he was matched up against two very, very good wide receivers all evening, it's even more impressive.
Peters demonstrated the complete package at corner against the Broncos. He possesses instincts and a knack for shading routes that is well beyond what you see from most rookies. He's got decent quickness, flexible hips, strong hands to spar with receivers, and good-enough long speed (the one concern I had with him after the draft was his long speed) to recover if he makes a mistake. He also has fantastic skills playing the ball. Truly exceptional in that regard, and not just "for a rookie." For an NFL corner, period.
If you need Peters to go stride for stride with a deep threat like Thomas, he can absolutely do that.
If you need him to demonstrate leaping ability and contest a jump ball, he can do that too. Remember the deep incomplete pass down the right side to Thomas, where Eric Berry knocked the ball loose as Thomas attempted a one-handed grab?
It's easy to say that a play like that was solely due to Berry closing quickly and hitting the receiver. However, that's an incomplete representation of the play. The reason Berry was able to knock it loose (Thomas has very strong hands) was because of the way Thomas was forced to awkwardly catch it due to the ball angle.
And why did the ball come at such an uncomfortable spot for Thomas? Because there wasn't room for the throw anywhere else.
Peters does a great job getting serious air and contesting the pass at its highest point. Manning made the only type of throw he could with Peters in position; a lofted pass over the top. Unfortunately for Thomas, a lofted pass gave Berry time to close and forced him to catch it in a less "secure" fashion.
Peters was a huge part of that incomplete pass, but not in a way that shows up on any stat sheet. And he was doing it all evening. After halftime Peyton was looking is way much less frequently (a pick-6 will do that to you).
Beyond all the physical ability Peters demonstrates, though, it's his instincts that shine the most. Watch the pick (that's the link the word "pick-6" links to, surprisingly enough!) again. Peters does a great job reading the route Thomas is running before he even looks at Manning. That pick happens in part due to a poor throw, but also in large part because Peters saw the route and started moving himself in a position to jump the throw before turning his eyes to Manning.
Being able to read a receiver's route is crucial in that it prevents quarterback watching, a classic rookie mistake that leads to blown coverage. It seems like a lot of young corners either stare at the QB or ignore him entirely. Peters, quite often, keeps himself in a position to watch both.
One reasons Peters has such impressive ball skills is that he knows when the ball is coming. This seems like such an obvious, basic thing for a corner, but some never learn how to accurately read receivers and QB's. Remember the years of watching Brandon Carr be in perfect position, only to allow a catch because he never saw the ball coming? Peters is light years ahead of most rookies in that regard.
Peters is also very good at stopping WRs immediately after they make the catch. This crucial skill prevents big plays, and it also allows for Peters to cause a play that LOOKS like it will go for decent yardage end up with a minimal gain. If you watch this play, Peters uses his combination of recognition, reflexes, physicality, and and speed to make a semi-promising play end up with virtually nothing.
Oh, you're curious about his fluidity and whether or not he can change direction if he's caught turned the wrong way?
Interesting play for Peters. Caught telling Houston play/assignment, flips hips fast enough to stick w/ Sanders. pic.twitter.com/kP3KWwCyDw— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) September 21, 2015
Here, Peters is telling Justin Houston SOMETHING. It could be something basic, like "I know this is a bad time, but I think you're the greatest." It's more likely he's talking about the play, but I'm not going to rule out his fanhood of Houston getting the best of him.
See how Peters whips his head around to make sure Sanders isn't cutting back to the outside? I love it. Also, he gives inside leverage to Sanders down the field, recognizing that Parker is helping deep. Parker comes through and knocks the ball away (it was all negated by a hold on Houston, unfortunately). Peters could have panicked when the ball was snapped, but he kept his head and stayed with a tough assignment despite the handicap of having his momentum going the wrong way at the snap.
Peters is just ... IMPRESSIVE.
I suppose this is the part where we talk about the 16-yard reception Peters gave up to Thomas on the Broncos comeback drive. Well, sure, let's talk about that.
Peters was all over Thomas like drool on a baby. He did a good job playing the ball and gave both Thomas and the ball a solid shot. Thomas just made a fantastic catch.
It's plays like this that make tracking "successes" and "failures" in coverage so important. Peters didn't fail here. He was just victim to a spectacular play by a really, really, really good wide receiver.
In other words, if you want to beat Peters you need to do something exceptional. Bring any weak crap his way and he will absolutely knock it (and you) into oblivion.
Making a play on the ball. Peters had a really, really good game guys. pic.twitter.com/OtKiiEb1Kn— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) September 21, 2015
Peters ATTACKS the ball in the air. The NFL rulebook has an exception to defensive pass interference when the defensive player is making a play on the ball. Peters uses that exception as well as any player I can recall watching. The moment the ball is in the air Peters goes after it. If the receiver happens to be in his way, well, that's just too bad for the receiver.
That hyper aggression to the ball, coupled with the fact that he's a rookie and QB's have been challenging him, has led Peters to the NFL leader board with seven passes defensed and two interceptions (he's tied for the NFL lead in that category). In other words, Peters has knocked down or caught nine passes thrown his direction. In two games. That's insane.
Per ESPN (every stats site is a little different, we're rolling with ESPN today because it's the first one I clicked on), the league leader in passes defensed (if you combine interceptions and knockdowns) last season had 23 total "defenses." Peters is already over a third of the way there. Again, this is in two games.
I said it to start off the column, and I'll say it again; Marcus Peters is not perfect, and he's not a shutdown corner as of right now. You never know how things will swing for a rookie corner one week to the next (consistency is always the killer for them). However, he's playing as well as any rookie corner I've ever seen. He hasn't been good for a rookie. He's been flat-out GOOD.
When Sean Smith returns to the fold, the combination of Peters, Smith, and Phillip Gaines (who has played very well in his own right, by the way) is going to be absolutely ridiculous. And Peters might be the best of the three way sooner than even his biggest supporters thought.
One more for the road.
You look cold, Demaryius. Let's get you a nice warm Peters blanket to warm you up. pic.twitter.com/cnFbzkMrte— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) September 21, 2015