BGA: The Double Team Project – Part 6 (Coples)

Traditional statistics and most modern analytics measure how effective a player is without necessarily taking into account assignments or degree of difficulty. While I’ve made passing reference in my game analysis to how often certain players have been double teamed, nobody tracks this, so I’ve been keen to figure out whether the reality matches up to our expectations and my recollection from watching the film.

Over the course of this series, I’ve gone into detail about the process of tracking double teams, shared the numbers for each of the Jets linemen in run defense and when rushing the passer and added some extra context by comparing the numbers for Muhammad Wilkerson and the nose tackles with previous seasons and other players around the league. We’ll put up links to all these posts tomorrow.

After the jump, we’re going to wrap up with a quick look at Quinton Coples and what his double team numbers tell us about where he might be on the learning curve as he transitions into a more perimeter-based role.

Introduction

If you’ve been following this series closely, you’ll know that we’ve established that the number of double teams a player typically sees is a function of where he lines up. That’s why we’ve tried where possible to ensure we compare like with like. It makes little sense to compare an edge rusher with a nose tackle, because the nose tackle is always likely to see more initial double team attention.

Taking that a step further, when you look at pass rushing, this is impacted not necessarily by where the player lines up, but rather how they rush the passer. If someone lines up on the outside, but regularly stunts behind the defensive tackle or otherwise makes an inside move, then this is obviously going to lead to more double teams, purely because that’s where potential help is.

This is important for Coples, because although he lines up on the outside, he often rushes inside. We shouldn’t be comparing him with speed rushers because that’s not how he was employed. Many have taken to criticizing him for this, with a belief out there that Coples isn’t capable of being an edge rusher, but this is classic Rex Ryan; using a player to the best of his abilities.

Whether he continues to be used in that way or the reported weight loss is going to lead to him being primarily used as more of an outside rusher remains to be seen and is a discussion for another day.

In summary, we do need to be careful who we compare him with, not just in this project but also generally when comparing his production to that of other edge rushers.

What we’ve determined so far

Remember, in 2013, Coples averaged 21 doubles and 14 chips per 100 pass rush snaps. That’s well short of, for example, Wilkerson (30/33) but to emphasize how little edge rushers draw double team attention, Calvin Pace was doubled just seven times and chipped six times per 100 pass rush snaps. Part of this is due to the fact that Coples rushes inside rather than all of it being attributable to him being more dangerous or disruptive than Pace.

Double teaming elite edge rushers

While there isn’t any data out there for double teams, I was able to find a good representative sample of what might constitute a high level of double team attention for an elite edge rusher. In 2010, Clay Matthews was tearing it up off the edge, but when the Packers faced the Giants, a more focused approach towards stopping him led Packers OLB coach Kevin Greene to say this:

If you really look at this game and see how many double- and triple- teams that are going his way, it really is unbelievable.

So this is pretty perfect in terms of a good sample. I charted the game and, despite the fact the Matthews played every snap, he was doubled just three times and chipped 13 times as a pass rusher. That’s a lot, but Coples was doubled or chipped more than 16 times in four of his first seven games. Of course, before the bye, he was playing on the inside a bit more. After the bye, he may not have exceeded that number, but he did get doubled at least three times in every game.

As you can see, this doesn’t provide for a good comparison with someone who isn’t also primarily an outside speed rusher in the same vein as Matthews. As an interesting aside, the Packers have taken to lining Matthews up at middle linebacker on passing downs in recent years, further emphasizing the shift in importance to interior pressure. I would imagine his double team numbers in the last few years far outweigh what we saw in 2010.

So who is a good comparison?

We’re looking for a productive pass rusher, who lines up on the outside, but rushes on the interior causing them to draw double teams. We’ve already looked at one candidate in the previous installment. Chris Long, in games against Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay drew doubles at a rate of 23 per 100 snaps and chips at a rate of 29 per 100 snaps.

We can see that these are, as we might expect given the fact that Long is more established in that role, superior to Coples’ averages of 21 doubles and 14 peels. However, if we specifically look at Coples’ numbers against those same opponents, this rises to 25 doubles and 19 peels which reflects better on him. This is not ideal though, because Coples missed the Tampa Bay game so we end up with a pretty small sample of 68 pass rush snaps for Coples and 84 for Long.

Is there a better comparison though? I’m going to propose we compare Coples with Cameron Jordan.

But wait, I hear you say, wouldn’t Jordan – who is listed as a 3-4 defensive end – make a much better comparison for Muhammad Wilkerson, especially considering pro bowl voters selected Jordan but not Wilkerson to go to Honolulu this year?

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Actually, though, Jordan lines up on the outside a lot more than Wilkerson does and so we wouldn’t expect him to get as many double teams as Wilkerson does on the inside. Jordan does rush inside a lot though, so he’s an ideal comparison for Coples.

We’ve got a much bigger sample size this time too. Jordan faced Atlanta twice, Carolina twice and the other three AFC East teams so I’ve charted data for seven games and 283 pass rush snaps.

In these games, Jordan was doubled 18 times and chipped 21 times per 100 snaps. Coples averages were 21 and 14, but against these opponents, while the chip rate was the same, his double team rate rose to 26. That also means that his total doubles plus chips (40) was superior to Jordan’s (39).

All this tells us at the moment is that Coples did receive similar levels of attention to Jordan during last season. Of course Jordan was much more productive than he was. However, could the way the Saints use Jordan actually be something we should be looking out for with Coples? Jordan, like Coples has fluctated between about 275 and 295 since entering the league and is currently listed at 287 – a much closer comparison to Coples than the 315-pound Wilkerson.

Also, Jordan’s role has changed a couple of times and he had a breakout year in his third season with 12.5 sacks after having had just nine in his first two seasons. This is the kind of breakout the Jets are hoping for from Coples if he can stay healthy. I’m sure the Ryan brothers have been pooling ideas in terms of how to get production from their first round picks and hopefully Rex will benefit here from some of Rob’s experiences.

You can also see how Jordan wouldn’t have been a good comparison for Wilkerson, because once again Wilkerson saw a lot more doubles (30) and chips (33) per 100 snaps by virtue of being inside, but it does add a layer of context to the wisdom of Jordan getting a pro bowl berth on the basis of his superior sack and pressure numbers and Wilkerson not getting one although his production was under more difficult circumstances.

As we can see from this sample and the earlier (smaller) sample on Long, Coples’ double team numbers actually stack up pretty well with these guys. However, he isn’t chipped as often. That’s perhaps telling in that it shows where teams are making a concerted effort to try and take a guy like Jordan or Long out of the game, whereas with Coples, they’re having to adjust and react to pick him up and prevent him generating pressure.

Conclusions

Coples is by no means the finished article yet as a pass rusher. However, he did show some promising production over the second half of the year, which coincided with the fact he wasn’t being double teamed as much. For all the criticisms he was generating for his lack of production over the first half of the year, part of which has been attributed to his injury and also his change in role, it also had plenty to do with the fact he was drawing double team attention at a rate comparable to and in some cases more than some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

For the Jets, this is good news, because it’s further evidence of the way teams will have to allocate extra resources to stopping guys like Coples and Wilkerson next year, which means that either they’ll be contributing on the stat sheet or occupying blockers to free up someone else or take away an offensive option.

As noted, it doesn’t seem to be a fair comparison to look at Coples’ numbers in comparison with other 3-4 outside linebackers around the league, unless they rush the interior a lot in the same manner he does. However, the comparisons with Long and Jordan did prove informative.

It’s tempting to look at Jordan’s progression from year two to three and hope for the same things from Coples. However, while a similar level of production might be within the realms of possibility, it shouldn’t be understated how much of a beast Jordan is and how it might be unrealistic to expect that kind of jump. It’s certainly something for him to aspire to though and a good example of someone with a similar athletic profile and skill-set doing damage off the edge.

I hope you enjoyed this series. I learned a lot and hopefully you did too. As noted we’ll put up links to all six parts tomorrow.




19 comments
levi
levi

Hopefully Coples makes a jump this year and Barnes is healthy and productive. Offenses will have to bring in extra lineman for protection.

Brendan
Brendan

Great work as always, Bent. 


It really is a "pick your poison" dilemma for offenses when dealing with this defensive front. Throw in Dooz and Barnes on passing downs and teams will have their hands more than full. 

bob
bob

Coples had 4.5 sacks last year but he was hurt 1/2 the season Along with Wilkerson and Richardson and the rest of the D-line Q is the X factor and a talented one at that learning a different position took some time like anything I think Q  should be ready.  not to mention all the passes he'll be knocking down this year. All Q needs to do is find the quarter back more this year.

Q is the X factor and a talented one at that. some one you have to worry about in addition the  D-line talent.

jaygo
jaygo

LOL.  On eve of training camp, both Girlish Mehta and Colin Coherd pick Jets 9-7, Coherd saying they make the playoffs.  Media tide shifting for our team.  It may even be out of favor soon to dump on the team for the sake of dumping.

Tooned In
Tooned In

Great series. Thank you so much for putting these together. Fun and informative to read.

Mark Phelan
Mark Phelan

Your trouble finding a 'productive pass rusher who rushes inside' gives me pause.  Perhaps there is a reason they are so difficult to find.

Daniel Diffin
Daniel Diffin

Before Coples was drafted, my opinion was "Please let them draft anyone but Coples". I had heard the questions about his motor--how he took a certain percentage of plays off, and didn't give 100%. That was his rep--and so far he has lived up to it. No doubt he is a great athlete, and has enough talent to be a key player for the team. But the questions about his motor live on. Hopefully, this is the year that he puts those questions to rest. I really hope he proves Joe Klecko and all his other doubters wrong--but I will remain skeptical until he shows real grit.

Iain Bartholomew
Iain Bartholomew

@jaygo I wouldn't be so sure. They're more likely setting a narrative up that paints the Jets as a likely or inevitable playoff team so they can attack Rex and the team if that outcome looks in doubt at any stage.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Mark Phelan


There are loads of productive pass rushers who rush inside a lot.  The trouble is, unlike Coples, the majority line up inside or didn't have a comparable workload against a set of common opponents.


You seem to be suggesting that if a team's edge rusher can only rush inside then that can't work, but we've already seen from some of the Jets and Saints performances that it can.  Also, the weight Coples has shed might mean he is capable of being more effective rushing outside which will improve his versatility.

harold
harold

@Daniel Diffin

I always ask people show me all the plays he takes off.

All I hear in response is "that is what everyone says".

I watch games along with everyone else and don't see any thing to suggest he is lazy.  Coples is a good young player who should be good for years to come. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@Daniel Diffin I honestly think this is a red herring.  If it isn't then that would suggest Coples could be even more productive than he already was just by trying harder.  With Rex motivating him, that's a good situation for the Jets.


I don't think so though.  I see nothing on film that suggests he "takes plays off" any more than anyone else and I don't really know where that comes from.  Bassett spent a weekend with him when he was a rookie and reported back that absolutely everyone gushed about how driven, hard-working and determined he was and that this just appeared to be a lazy narrative that stuck with him since his college days.


I don't see how you can reconcile a guy with a lazy streak playing over 80% of the snaps on a top ranked run defense and eventually becoming really productive while getting double teamed as much as some of the top players.


It takes a lot to convince me that a young player is ready to make the leap - I'm not sold on any of the other rookies from that draft yet (Bush, Allen, Hill and Davis).  I'm cautiously optimistic about Coples though.  He just needs to stay healthy and prove that what Bassett heard about his drive was true.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Iain Bartholomew @jaygo Yep, this strikes me as hedging their bets.  For example, I predict Joey will predict the Jets to go 9-7 but then give us a list of things that could go wrong that would mean they fall short of this so that either way he can claim he was right and this is probably the same as that.

Steven Windeler
Steven Windeler

@Bent @Daniel Diffin 

You can't let small details like 'seeing it with your own two eyes' get in the way of a good narrative.


I'm constantly mystified by these analysts, and beat reporters that make no attempt to hide the fact that they didn't look at any film, but instead rely on word of mouth to form their opinions.

I mean what in the world do they do all day that prevents them from watching some tape that they could have their interns put together?


As far as Klecko goes, he said the sane about Wilk. I realize Joe set the bar high for motor, and now Sheldon has as well. He needs to realize that everyone cannot play that way and still be standing in the 4th quarter.



Brendan
Brendan

@Bent I never understood the narrative out of college, to be honest. He's a guy who played multiple positions as his teammates got injured around him, and played well. Then, his senior year most of his buddies get suspended and he's, again, left playing multiple roles to cover for missing players around him. Never complained, just did what was asked of him. 


I'd ask the people who lobbed this criticism to show me the college tape of a guy who takes zero plays off. I have a feeling I'd be waiting a long, long time. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@Brendan @Bent


He's a laid back kinda guy so maybe the perception comes from that, especially when UNC struggled in his senior year and he was perhaps perceived as not caring.  That's just a guess on my part though.

bklyndude
bklyndude

@Bent @Brendan

It's the Jadeveon Clowney thing.  When all of the cameras are focused on the best player especially in college,  you tend to notice more things,  both good and bad.  The problem is expectations.  

People see a great big super fast athlete and they expect greatness on every play otherwise something is wrong.  Must not be giving it his all.  It's also easy to compare his level of play to Wilkerson and Richardson, and expect Coples to produce at their levels because he's also a first rounder with immense potential.

Bent
Bent moderator

@bklyndude @Bent @Brendan Looking forward to watching Clowney this year.  That's gotta be one of the most interesting non-Jets things I'll be keeping tabs on.