Chris Gamble: The unfairly critiqued Panther

We've all heard the adage 'football is a game of inches', and while it may be a loose interpretation of Vince Lombardi's words, for the average fan it's something that's said, but not really believed. Fans today want football to be about 50 yard TD passes, bone shattering sacks, astounding jukes and big time interceptions; inches don't make Sportscenter.

What this means for a player like Chris Gamble is that he will be chided for not making the plays that have been deemed to fit the CB rubric, namely, interceptions. Since arriving in the NFL (and by extension the Panthers) Gamble has never been one to get large INT totals, or get the game changing pick. For whatever reason he just doesn't have the ball hawking nature that leads to interceptions. It's curious that Panthers fans were so willing to excuse Julius Peppers' less-than-elite sacks totals, yet when the conversation shifts to Gamble one of the primary reasons he's not considered an elite, shutdown cornerback is that he doesn't get interceptions.

One thing is abundantly clear though when it comes to Chris Gamble- top WRs normally have bad days when lined up across from him, and Pro Football Focus may have given us an answer... 

After the jump

There's a curious trend I'm seeing in the coverage of the Carolina Panthers this off-season. The national, major outlets are all ensuring they get their boots in, as can be expected when discussing the worst team of 2010. However, there is a subtle undertone of the advanced statistical outlets giving Panthers fans cause for great optimism; whether it's saying that Charles Johnson is an elite DE or Geoff Schwartz is a 'secret superstar' the Carolina Panthers have been getting a lot of love from Pro Football Focus, and that continues today.

The folks at PFF put together rankings for CBs based on how often opposing teams throw to the receiver they're covering. The result was not surprising to me, but rather welcome.

Rank Player Team Cover Snaps Thrown At TA/COV
1 Nnamdi Asomugha OAK 441 29 6.58%
2 Sean Smith MIA 448 44 9.82%
3 Asante Samuel PHI 446 46 10.31%
4 Darrelle Revis NYJ 592 67 11.32%
5 Rashean Mathis JAX 567 66 11.64%
6 Shawntae Spencer SF 622 77 12.38%
7 Chris Gamble CAR 377 47 12.47%
8 Kelly Jennings SEA 625 78 12.48%
9 Sam Shields GB 543 68 12.52%
10 Vontae Davis MIA 566 72 12.72%

That's right. When looking purely at the metric of how often opposing QBs are willing to test Gamble's side of the field he rates 7th in the NFL and is tested just 1.15% more often than Darrelle Revis. A sidebar is also seeing just how dominant Nnamdi Asomugha is at the position... only getting tested 6.58% of the time is the definition of a lock down corner.

Perhaps now we can see the thinking behind not taking Patrick Peterson with the #1 overall pick, or why the Panthers were willing to wait until the 4th round of the NFL draft to take a CB. Sure, we may see Gamble as a rather boring player who doesn't make big plays- but the reality is that when he's on the field his man is locked down.

Look no further than last year when Gamble missed significant time due to being in Coach Fox's doghouse. Gamble started 9 games in 2010, and look what happened to opponent's passing games: 

- With Gamble on the field: 214.4 yards per game

- Without Gamble on the field: 245.5 yards per game

It's clear that the Carolina Panthers have a better passing defense with Gamble than without him, and we've seen that according to Pro Football Focus opposing QBs have an aversion to throwing to his side of the field. So, is Chris Gamble a 'lock down corner'? I'm not 100% sure, but I'd wager he's a lot closer than you may think he is.

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