#1 Ranked Pass Defense: Real or Mirage?

Going into last weeks game against Arizona, Carolina was atop the pass defense rankings.  Many thought this was more a product of the run defense struggling than actual talent on the defensive side.  But after an incredible five pick day of Kurt Warner, many are becoming believers.  This week, we have the Saints, and while similar to the Cardinals in many ways, they are a much different monster.  While the Cardinals focus more on the short to medium passes, letting Kurt Warner use his laser accuracy and rocket release to torch the defense, the Saints have a more vertical attack.  They will go deep down the seams and towards the sidelines.  Henderson, Moore, and Meachem are speed demons, while Colston and Shockey will out jump you for it.  The Saints also are potent out of the backfield, Bush and Thomas will both burn you with flats, screens, and swings.  Lets examine the stats and see if we can expect similar results today from our boys.  Please note gentlemen, that these stats and my interpretation of them are not foolproof, and the only way to truly judge a corner is to watch film.  


Lets first examine our top three corners.  Here are some stats I pulled off of another forum. 

Updated metrics through seven games:

Gamble TA 29 times, Allowed 21 receptions for 228 yards and 1 TD, catch percentage of 72% at 10.85 YPC.   

Marshall TA 33 times, Allowed 16 receptions for 159 yards and 2 INTs, catch percentage of 48% at 10 YPC.

Munnerlyn TA 22 times, Allowed 17 receptions for 194 yards and 1 TD, catch percentage of 77% at 11.4 YPC.

Other stats:

Marshall: 25 solo, 3 assist, 5 PD. 

Gamble: 16 solo, 2 assist, 4 PD. 

Munnerlynn: 20 solo, 1 assist, 1 PD. 

What do these stats tell us?  Well it doesn't take much to see that Marshall is clearly playing the best football of the group.  There are the stats most fans pay attention to, INT's and PD's to a lesser degree, and in that regard Marshall is no slouch.  2 INT's and 5 PD's halfway through the season is pretty good.  But Marshall is also playing out of his mind in the other, more important, less visible stats of catch percentage and catches allowed.  48% catch percentage is flipping insane!  It's made more impressive by the fact he's been thrown to 33 times!  The stats also show that Marshall is no finesse corner, if we assume every time he allowed a catch he made the solo tackle, that adds up to nine solo and 3 assists in run support.  With demons at linebacker like TD and Beaston, 12 total run support tackles in on isn't too shabby. 

As for our other corners, Gamble and Munnerlynn are playing pretty well too, not up to par with Marshall, but not too shabby either.  At a first glance, it would seem Munnerlynn is outperforming Gamble, allowing less yards and catches, but if you look closely you'll see Gamble is outperforming Munnerlynn in the key areas, catch percentage and YPC.  Gamble is allowing close to 1/2 yard less than Munnerlynn, and with the significant jump in targets between him and the Captain, that is pretty impressive.  Factor in Gambles PD's and it's clear that Gamble is the better cover corner.  BUT, Munnerlynn is more physical, as evidenced by the fact he is outperforming Gamble in tackles with less time.  4 total run support tackles in the nickel, pretty good considering how few times teams run towards the nickel.  

So to close, if we get pressure, we can repeat.  Marshall and Munnerlynn are both physical, tough guys, although Munnerlynn has a tendency to get beat deep.  If those two can knock them off their routes, and give the D-line time to get in Brees face, we have a ball hawk at safety now who can take advantage.  I call our #1 ranked pass defense the real deal.  GO PANTHERS!!!!! : )   

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