Jalen Ramsey’s stats illustrate the curse of the NFL cornerback
LA Rams’ £82m man is doing a great job, even if his numbers don’t always add up
The NFL is back and what a weekend of football it was. Kansas did what everyone expected, Tom Brady played for the first time not wearing a Patriot uniform and Detroit did something very Detroit.
But before I get into that, there was a moment in the LA Rams v Dallas Cowboys game in the early hours of Monday morning when the Rams, leading by one score and gracing their new multi-billion-dollar stadium, were on defense.
Dak Prescott, the Cowboys quarterback, dropped back to escape the onrushing defenders and heaved a ball downfield. The pass fell incomplete at the feet of Michael Gallup, and a flag was thrown for pass interference against the Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
After a brief discussion, the flag was rescinded as the pass had been tipped, but the play wasn’t what was interesting. As the referees discussed the minutiae of the play, the commentators discussed how tight Ramsey was on Gallup and how close he had been to receivers all game.
Ramsey was a player the Rams gave up some significant draft picks for last year and earlier in the week had been signed to a new five-year £82 million contract. With the deal announced a debate raged online about the value of the player, because since arriving from Jacksonville he hasn’t lived up to expectations.
And this is the curse of the cornerback. Cornerbacks ply their trade, mostly, against receivers and the main metrics fans rave about with the players is interceptions and PBU or Pass Break Ups.
In his ten games in LA, Ramsey has just one interception and 14 passes defended, so why the big payout you ask?
With any corner who comes with a reputation, Ramsey gets targeted less. Over his season in the NFL the amount of times quarterbacks have passed in his direction has declined from 113 two years ago to just 68 last season.
What the commentators were discussing wasn’t about Ramsey’s impact in the backfield but the way he affects his defensive front. Ramsey was playing receivers tight and doing a good job. Later in the game, the only time he was beaten the referees pulled it back because he was impeded.
But by taking his receiver out of the game, he was allowing his front seven to pressure Prescott, the opposing quarterback, with much more regularity. Last year Aaron Donald had one sack when Ramsey joined the team. He finished the year with 12.5 sacks.
On Sunday the Rams managed three sacks of Prescott, and hit the quarterback on seven occasions, with Donald making up four of those.
So when the stats are counted at the end of a season, it’s essential to understand their value. Yes, a cornerback can make three interceptions but if the other passes thrown his way are caught for touchdowns, then how much value does he have for the team?
Ramsey won’t be happy without interceptions but head coach Sean McVay and the defensive line will encourage the back to keep up the good work, more importantly helping them make game-winning plays.
Around the league, six teams mounted fourth-quarter comebacks, none more surprising than Chicago. The Bears were down 23-6 to the Detroit Lions at the start of the fourth quarter, with a possible win percentage of 2 per cent. But Mitch Trubisky and the offence turned it around with three touchdowns to run out 27-23 winners.
Baltimore Ravens picked up from last year with a comprehensive 38-6 win over Cleveland, while Super Bowl champions Kansas won on Thursday. San Francisco 49ers will need to be better if they expect to return to the Super Bowl, after losing their opener to Arizona 24-20.
Meanwhile, Brady, pictured inset, in his first outing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have hoped for better. The quarterback started well, but two interceptions helped the Saints overcome the Bucs 34-23.
There were also opening-week wins for Jacksonville, Green Bay, Seattle and the now Las Vegas Raiders. At the same time, No 1 pick Joe Burrow managed to get the ball in to field goal range, only for kicker Randy Bullock to pull up with a calf injury as he connected with the ball, denying the quarterback his first win.
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