Domata Peko Falls Short Of Being One Of The League's Top Defensive Tackles (But He's Still Awesome)

NFL.com's Pat Kirwan recently ranked Bengals Domata Peko as one of the league's top 4-3 defensive tackles writing:

You can't miss Peko's long hair flying out the back of his helmet, or his quickness on the Bengals' front. His production doesn't show up in big numbers, but Peko is a disruptive force inside as well as working down the line of scrimmage.

Our ol' buddy C Byers at Stripe Hype agreed, writing that Peko is a "disruptive force that may not always be racking up monster stats, but is effective in the middle." (note: this was also brought up in a recent FanShot)

We really like Peko's leadership this offseason, his personality is awesome. I mean, how do you have hair like that and not be awesome? However, we have to take a slight disagreement with both assessments.

According to Pro Football Focus -- a site that grades every play from every player based on the position the player plays -- Peko graded out as the worst Bengals defensive player against the run last year with a -5.9. That was actually a slight improvement from -7.6 in 2009.

True. Improved statistical properties isn't just the icing on cake; it's boon for massive raises and extended contracts. But there is a point that a defensive tackles job is to disrupt, clog lanes and free up linebackers that flow to the point of attack. A novice football fan will point this out to virtually anyone that wants to listen. However 37 defensive tackles, all of whom deal with the same situations that Peko does, recorded at least 50% their his respective team's snaps in 2010. Peko was one of them and he ranked 32nd in the NFL at his position against the run; that means only five defensive tackles in the NFL, using that qualification, were worse against the run.

It's not just Peko either. The Bengals defensive line is routinely graded as below average. According to Football Outsiders, the Bengals defensive line ranks 19th with 4.19 Adjusted Line Yards, which weighs rushes based on the results. (example: losses are weighed at 120% value, 0-4 yard gains are valued at 100% with 5-10 yard gains valued at 50%). Additionally, the Bengals defensive line grades as the worst fronts against power success (percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown). There is often praise for the youth movement on the defensive line, otherwise known as the Fisher Price package. But that's mostly against the pass, not the run.

And when opposing teams run up the middle between the guards, where Peko usually hangs out with a foaming mouth and hair that could double as a venus fly trap, the Bengals allow a 4.32 adjusted line yard average -- 23rd in the NFL.

All that being said, Peko is actually a personality I like. He's tough, takes a beating and just deals with it. When the team needs to get together, he's one of those on the phone, scheduling workouts with players. Traits of a leader. That doesn't mean I can't hold reservations about calling him one of the top defensive tackles in the league. Even though statistics is an often used excuse for defensive tackles, it's those that take a deeper look with a detailed grade of players that do not view him as one of the league's best.

And so what if he's not. He's still our mad Samoan sacrificing his body by taking on double teams while guys like Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, Dhani Jones, Pat Sims, among others, benefit with single-blockers or no blockers at all (which is actually a detriment for Rey "sometimes overshooting" Maualuga). But to call him one of the league's best? I'm not there yet. That doesn't mean I don't like him. He's one of my favorite personalities on this team.

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