What the PFF Cover Notes Tell Us About Coverage | NFL News, Rankings & Stats

• Presenting Successful Coverage Against Expectations (SCOE), a metric created both to show who the best coverage advocates are and to help predict future coverage success.

• Among SCOE’s best cornerbacks since 2019: Tre’Davious White, Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey.

• Among SCOE’s top safeties since 2019: Justin Simmons, Tyrann Mathieu and Eddie Jackson.

• Among SCOE’s top linebackers since 2019: Fred Warner, Demario Davis and KJ Wright.


Since PFF’s “All Coverage” data began, we’ve begun to learn more about coverage – a typically complex facet of football – and its effect on NFL games.

Last month Timo Riske of PFF wrote a brilliant analysis about the importance of limiting separation in the evaluation of secondary play, and PFF research and development interns have written about perfectly covered partsillustrating the effects of secondary play as a weak link system.

Here, we dive into player-level results and what they tell us about the nature of coverage and the role that coaches and programs have in shaping the coverage game.

Successful coverage is defined by how often a player receives a PFF coverage rating of zero or higher, which is awarded to plays where the defender does their job without error. How important is an individual player’s good coverage to the production of a defence?

Over the course of a season, the raw coverage numbers are quite significant. The more coverage a team has, as noted above, the better the defensive Expected Added Points (EPA) figure for that team will be.

But these raw numbers lack critical context. Successful coverage rate can be skewed by players with easy play assignments or tough matches. Cornerbacks who play the deep third of Cover 3 are often left on islands while the flat defender stays in the flats, and deep cornerbacks must try to avoid getting beaten. This is a more difficult task than cornerbacks who sit in a deep quarter of 4 coverage, as they have more help on top and below the safeties.

And playing one-on-one coverage against Justin Jefferson isn’t the same as playing a man against a typical wide receiver. It takes context to better isolate the best performers in the coverage. So we created a model that adjusts for these factors to derive a successful coverage metric against expectations. We called this metric Successful coverage against expectations (SCOE).

It turns out that it is the expectation of successful hedging—rather than performing above or below expectations—that is more stable and predictive of future successful hedging.

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