TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions makes a touchdown catch over Aqib Talib #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the season opener at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Football Outsiders is starting to publish some of the numbers from their season's worth of charting every NFL game, and the results shouldn't surprise Bucs fans: Aqib Talib's stats look very good, while E.J. Biggers comes out as one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL.
Talib played through numerous minor injuries during the past season, and he eventually ended the year on injured reserve. Despite that, he comes out as the seventh-best cornerback in the NFL when judged by yards allowed per pass. If we add a little context he does slightly worse, but his ranking of 11th in the NFL is still pretty good. This confirms what the eyeball test had already shown: Talib had a pretty good year with two absolutely outstanding games (covering Greg Jennings and Nate Washington). If he didn't have all these off-field problems, he'd unquestioningly deserve a long-term contract extension.
The same can't be said for E.J. Biggers, however. Although the cornerback was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2010 according to Football Outsiders charting, he went down into the dumps in 2011. Part of it was simply exposure to better receivers, but part of it was simply poor play on Biggers' part. Although Biggers is a feisty corner who won't give up or get down on himself during a game, he lacks the skills to be anything more than a backup.
One caveat: I don't think these charting numbers mean all that much, because it's very hard to assign blame on a lot of pass plays. I've done quite a bit of charting for Football Outsiders, and there are a lot of close calls in coverage. In addition, the main player in coverage isn't always responsible fora play given up. This data is just one piece to the puzzle.