Defense Grading

Back again from last season, had a busy week last week so couldn't fully grade the game in time. But just finished grading the defense from the Cowboys game (got into the 3rd Q for the offense before I 'got bored' and wanted to do the defense instead).

I watch every play probably 30 times - the first few times just to take in the overall scheme by both our defense and what their offense is trying to do, to nail down what roles guys SHOULD be in so I know what to look for when grading etc. And then 2-3-5 times through for each player after which I notate how they did on a scale from -5 to +5 in a McSpreadsheet. Typical rule of thumb is a +1 is a "good" result, +2 is "great", and +3 would be "elite". 4s are saved for amazing +3 worthy plays usually in clutch situations, and 5s would rarely ever be handed out but for truly game-changing efforts that are the result of just phenomenal plays. I also only give out grades when players are "active", so that I can collectively ignore plays where they are "inactive" (not really doing much of anything meaningful) so as to not clutter their grading with a bunch of erroneous 0s.

This is obviously all my opinion because everything I'm doing is subjective and based on how I feel guys performed each play. I'm not looking at the box score, just going by what I see on film. If a pass-rusher looks dangerous and beat his initial man but got picked up by another helping lineman, that's still a +1 or 2 in my book (depending how quick he beat the 1st guy) even though the box score won't record a pressure. If a CB gets cooked on a route but the ball goes elsewhere, he's getting a -2 even though he wasn't targeted etc.

I'm going to go by position group, and use PFF grading for comparison to see how mine stack up. Only for my grading, I can provide an audit trail because I know how many +'s, -'s, and 0's each player got to arrive at their respective grading.

Also my run/pass snaps might not match the PFF totals because I treat RPOs and screens differently and assign run/pass based on individual responsibilities on the play. Meaning I'll give the DL run def grades on an RPO where they play what they think is a run against the OL who is run blocking, but then give DBs coverage grades for stopping the pass etc.

The way the averages work out is that a +0 per play should mirror a 60 from PFF, where it's a fairly average grade. The scale should work something like this for my per-play averages:

+1.00 > 90 > A+ > Elite

+0.66 > 80 > A > Great

+0.33 > 70 > B > Good

+0.00 > 60 > C > Average

-0.33 > 50 > D > Bel Avg

-0.66 > 40 > F > Poor

-1.00 > 30 > F- > Bad

Onto the grading...(the section on the left are snap counts, color-coded by how many of the overall snaps they played for total/run/pass...the middle section is active snaps, and on the right is the grading)


IMO Reader looked dominant just about all the time. PFF agreed and gave him an 88 for his performance, the highest overall for our defense that day. I had him with 16 wins in the run game compared to only 3 0's and 2 losses - 5 of those 16 wins were big wins. 5 wins with 3 big wins and no losses as a pass rusher - they pull him quite frequently in pass rushing scenarios but it's not because he can't rush the passer, rather it's just to keep him fresh for run downs. The man is a monster.

This was not one of the better performances from Hill, and I was higher on him than PFF who gave him a 41 against the run and 52 rushing the passer. An equal amount of losses vs the run (8) compared to wins (7) is not a good recipe. He's definitely a different player than Jobi was, relying more on gap integrity and playing smart rather than using athleticism to shoot gaps and blow up plays. Unlike Reader, Hill stayed on to rush the passer but was also kind of mediocre with 6 wins vs 4 losses over 17 active snaps.

PFF agrees here, giving Tupou roughly a 50 for both run def and pass rush. For a guy that's supposed to be in there for his run defense, 5 wins to 9 losses over 18 active snaps is not pretty. And he's nearly invisible as a pass rusher - 3 0's and 1 loss in his 4 active reps.

PFF agrees here as well, giving Carter a 40 for his run defense and an average 60 for his pass rush (only 1 active snap). He's obviously a work in progress against the run and showed it in this game - no wins and 3 losses over 8 active reps with 1 bad loss. For our defense to be as good as it was last year, Carter has to take on the BJ Hill role as the DT4 (while Hill has taken on Jobi's starting spot) - these types of performances aren't gonna cut it.


PFF wasn't as high on Trey as I was, giving him a worse grade in both facets but I'd be interested to see their audit trail behind it. He wasn't great against the run with just 2 wins compared to 6 losses over 16 active snaps, but he did have 1 very big win where he swooped under the LT to make a tackle 5yds in the backfield. But it's his pass rush numbers I'd be more interested in - I thought he had 13 wins to just 1 loss over 20 active reps, which is obviously a great showing, and 4 of those were big wins. IMO he was working the rookie 1st rounder at LT.

PFF gave Hubbard pretty average marks in both phases as well (61 Run D, 55 Rush). Not as many wins in the run game as I'd like to have seen - only 5 wins with 2 losses over his 17 active snaps. Pass rush was pretty similar with 5 wins to 3 losses over 21 snaps - only 5 wins in 21 rush snaps is not quite good enough IMO.

A fairly average day from Ossai considering it came over just 8 snaps - PFF gave him pretty average marks in both phases as well. I had him with 1 win and 0 losses in his 2 reps against the run, but he disappointed more as a pass-rusher with just 1 win and 2 losses over 6 reps.

I was just a touch higher on Sample than PFF was (60 Run D, 50 Rush). Definitely better against the run at this point with 3 wins and 1 loss over 7 reps, while only managing 2 wins with 3 losses over 9 active reps rushing the passer. He was used inside a lot in nickel subpackages, but just not generating a lot of heat.


PFF gave Wilson a fairly average overall score with a 56 Run D and 66 Coverage, so they were a bit higher on him than I was. What bothered me with him was a lot of passive play against the run - ZERO outright wins compared to 10 losses over 24 active snaps. He didn't shed blocks well and while he did get into his gaps at times there wasn't any aggressiveness and he was often waiting too long to attack. In coverage he was better with 5 wins to just 3 losses (17 active reps) - the only problem was all 3 of those losses were bad losses which is why they outweigh the 5 wins for a -0.1 average score.

A sizeable variance between my numbers for Pratt and the PFF grading - they gave him a 47 overall which does match mine but with 68 Run D and 39 Coverage scores. Those would correspond to a +0.3 and -0.6 on my scale. Contrasting Wilson, Pratt was much more aggressive and decisive against the run, totaling 7 wins against 10 losses over 24 active reps. I had him active in coverage just 7 times (since he comes off the field a lot in passing situations), and he managed 5 0's and 2 losses.

ADG played just 9 snaps all in subpackages and was active just 5 times, so sample size will be in play here. I had him with 0 wins and 1 loss in 2 run snaps, but he did post 2 wins and 0 losses in 3 active pass reps. Tough to gather much here.

And the same goes for Bailey, who played twice early in the game (1st Q) but was never seen again. I gave him 1 win and 1 loss in his 2 run snaps.


Chido had a fairly average day IMO - lots of ups and downs. 11 wins and 7 losses across his 21 active coverage reps - 7 losses is too many to have any kind of good day. PFF gave him a 62 in coverage so they agreed here.

Apple was worse than Chido (mind-blowing I know). He was active more in the run game because he was the corner usually stacked over the TE when we were in zone and they put both WRs to the other side. He did have 2 wins against the run with 2 losses, so nothing special there. He wasn't terrible in coverage with 5 wins and 5 losses (19 active reps), but the big issue is 3 of those losses were big losses. He gave up a big completion for 28yds near the end of the 1st, was flagged for holding Noah Brown in the 3rd, and then got beat in what wound up being the deciding play of the game with 31 seconds to go when he allowed Lamb an easy 10yd grab to move the Cowboys solidly into FG range. PFF gave him a 30, which equates to about as bad as you can score in their system - I certainly didn't think he was that bad but they might weigh some of those bad losses more.

PFF nearly gave Hilton an 80 for his coverage, which was quite a bit higher than my +0.3 (which converts to roughly a 70 on their scale). I was surprised how little he was involved against the run in this one, with just 4 active snaps. More positives than negatives in coverage - 8 vs 4 over 18 reps. He also had 2 big wins to end successive drives in the 2nd quarter - he snuffed out a screen on the first with what would've been a 2yd loss if the pass was actually completed instead of bouncing off the RB's hands, while the 2nd was a near-INT that would've taken 3 points off the board for the Cowboys at the end of the half.

PFF slammed Flowers but it is important to keep sample size in mind here - I had him with only 7 active reps. I put him down for 2 wins and 3 losses (1 bad loss) over those 7 snaps, so this could be a case of PFF slamming him for the bad loss harder than I did.


Bates played a very average game IMO. The first thing to notice is, given that he plays deep CF on the majority of his snaps (PFF had him with 44 snaps at deep-safety and 39 of those were as a single-high) that means he has fewer chances to be involved in the action because teams don't run deep routes all the time. This is especially true for run plays, where he was only active on 6 of the 24 snaps - I mentioned in another thread that this looked like 2021 Bates, where he was quite lazy on run plays and not getting into the box to hit anyone, likely to protect his health. In coverage he did have more wins than losses (5 to 3) but 2 of the losses were bad losses which is what dragged his grade down. Both of these came on the 1st drive - the first was when he bit on an underneath route and gave up a 17yd gain in behind him while playing underneath in a Cover-3, while the 2nd was the obvious stupid misplay against Brown in the end zone to give up the TD. PFF agreed with me for the most part, giving him a 60 against the run and 50 against the pass.

Bell fared better than his counterpart, posting +0.4s in both phases. His run defense was solid with 10 wins to 4 losses over 20 reps. His coverage was surprisingly good in this game with 6 wins and just 1 loss, with 2 of those being big wins. While he isn't ever making too many big plays (unless JuJu is around), there was very little to complain about with Bell in this one.

I know we're all sad about how little Dax is being used, but the fact is he can't/hasn't beaten out Flowers for the dimeback role yet, and he just isn't going to play over Bates/Bell. Dax did actually get 1 snap in the Flowers "TE Eraser" role, at the 2.55 mark in the 3rd Q he lined up in dime across from Schultz. No idea why they went with Dax here over Flowers. He did get 1 other snap in the Ricardo Allen FS role late in the 4th. This was the dimeback set we used last year before they started using Flowers, and it involved Bates and Bell playing lurker roles with Allen as the deep CF behind everyone. This is how they lined up on the 2.24 4th Q play, with Dax playing the deep CF role and Bates/Bell underneath him. But then on the last drive Flowers was back in for 3 more dimeback snaps to man-up the TE.

Here's the overall audit log for total +'s and -'s. The + column's are only for +1 grading, while I have lumped all 2/3/4/5 grades into the ++ and -- columns.


This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan, which is as important as the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors.