Now that we have the full 2012 Football Outsiders Almanac we have a wealth of information for us regarding last season. We've discussed the disparity between Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn before, but we've never had the figures to back it up. Entering last season there were a lot of mixed feelings about both Gamble and Munnerlyn. The former was coming off the worst season of his career, one where he not only looked apathetic towards the game, but one where he quit on the team-- frustrated by the floundering futility of John Fox's final season. Meanwhile Captain Munnerlyn looked poised to break out. After a stellar rookie campaign that saw him excel at playing the nickel he was now being asked to take the step forward and become a full-time starter. As game one approached we all hopes Gamble would return to his old form, and that Munnerlyn would prove to be a genius late-round steal by Marty Hurney.
At least one of those things came true.
This isn't intended to bash Captain, but he just didn't look suited to cover starting NFL talent. It's far too easy (and lazy) to hang it on his size, but the truth is that his lack of awareness is what made the key difference and allowed decent pass plays to become huge ones.
More after the jump
In order to dive in and really look at the cornerback situation it would be remiss if we didn't include nickel-back Darius Butler in the conversation. Butler was a waiver pickup prior to the season, and the former second round pick looked okay in some games, and mediocre in others. His season was one mired with inconsistency, like the entire Panthers' secondary.
Against the run
Chris Gamble: 15 runs directed at him, 40% stop rate (44th in the NFL), 4.7 yards allowed average (8th in the NFL)
Captain Munnerlyn: 16 runs directed at him, 31% stop rate (59th in the NFL), 9.3 yards allowed average (63rd in the NFL)
Darius Butler: 10 runs directed at him, 40% stop rate (44th in the NFL), 13.9 yards allowed average (79th in the NFL)
It's a pretty ugly state of affairs. As great as Gamble was in some areas, his run defense stop rate was paltry, and he was joined with more mediocrity. It's easy to get caught up in that gaudy '8th' that Gamble has, but this doesn't account for where the CB was when he engaged the RB. It's far easier to make a play if you're already pressing the line of scrimmage than 10 yards off it.
Against the pass
Chris Gamble: 67% success rate (1st in the NFL), 5.9 average pass yards allowed (13th in the NFL)
Captain Munnerlyn: 43% success rate (74th in the NFL), 10.7 average pass yards allowed (79th in the NFL)
Darius Butler: 45% success rate (66th in the NFL), 9.0 average pass yards allowed (68th in the NFL)
It's here where Chris Gamble really shines. First in the NFL in success rate is huge, and the most important figure when looking at DBs. Yes, the average pass yards is important too-- but much like the run yards allowed it doesn't take into account the routes run, etc. For example, you'd expect Butler to have a far lower average yards allowed in the slot covering slants and drags, rather than Munnerlyn covering fly routes, posts etc.
Overall it paints the picture of a secondary in trouble. These are not promising numbers moving forward for anyone but Chris Gamble. For now Munnerlyn will take 1st team snaps to start training camp, but by accounts Josh Norman is flying up the depth chart and could very well take the starting job opposite Gamble. From here Munnerlyn would slot into the nickel while Brandon Hogan gets back to 100%, and it remains to be seen what role Darius Butler will play this season.