Does Perception Match Reality with Terrell McClain and Sione Fua?

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 9: Terrell McClain #97 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after making a tackle against Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints during the first half at Bank of America Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

It seems apropos that on the back of Ron Rivera ostensibly telling fans to 'chill' regarding the decision not to draft a defensive tackle, we now have charting statistics from Football Outsiders to show us the production of McClain and Fua, two third round picks we hope can develop into solid defensive tackles. The overwhelming sentiment from fans in 2011 was 'both these guys are terrible'. As time went on we saw both players improve, but the sense was that most thought McClain showed more, and Fua was a mess- this was incongruous with what we were hearing from statisticians who routinely alluded to Fua being the stronger of the two, and center Ryan Kalil lauding his ability.

As it stands FO only have charting on McClain and Fua for the 2011 season, my thought is they're working from rookies backwards. Rest assured as soon as the rest are available we'll talk about those numbers too. So, without further ado- here's how the rookies did:

- Terrell McClain: 18 plays, 13 stops, 5 defeats- 3.1 yards allowed per play (72.2% stop rate)

- Sione Fua: 9 plays, 8 stops, 1 defeat- 2.1 yards allowed per play (88.8% stop rate)

It's really important to understand FO's terms when evaluating players.

'Plays' refer to the number of times a player got involved in a defensive play

'Stops' refer to any time a player makes a play that resulted in an offense not having a successful play

'Defeat' is a big play. These can include sacks, TFL, FF and INT

We'll look at what this means, and where the DTs need to improve after the jump

Make no mistake, guys like Football Outsiders aren't the only ones who are running advanced metrics, teams are too. These promising numbers surely played into their decision to pass on defensive tackle. I say these are promising because both McClain and Fua fit the archetype of what they should be doing at their position.

The under tackle should be shedding his block and getting down-field, this increases the number of big plays they can create. It's very promising that McClain had five offensive defeats on the year, and shows he has the ability to penetrate.

The nose tackle wont have as many chances to make plays, but when they emerge he should be reliable. Having an extremely high stop rate when he's involved in a play is great, as is not allowing a high yards per play.

Clearly the most concerning area is that both McClain and Fua hardly got involved in 2011. Twenty-seven plays between two players is very poor, but in looking at more players it's really not so ugly. Nick Fairley of the Lions had 15 plays on the year with a 66% stop rate, while fellow 1st round pick Corey Liuget finished with 25 plays and a 71% stop rate.

Fans will get a better sense for the abilities of McClain and Fua when training camp starts, but I have a feeling with a year in the strength and conditioning program coupled with experience- we could see much improved DTs in 2012.

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