Kyle Arrington: Fact or Fiction?

No Patriots defensive back has been with the team longer than Kyle Arrington, who was signed off the practice squad in 2009, and certainly none has been the subject of more commentary, debate, and criticism among Pats fans. But what’s the truth about Kyle Arrington? Let’s look at three common statements about the 28-year-old from Hofstra.

Kyle Arrington stinks

Patriots fans sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, stirred from a nightmare in which Arrington is running after a receiver that burned him on a deep route. “Turn around and look for the ball!” they implore, lips trembling. But he never does.

The above is an exaggeration, but not much of one. It’s not hard to find Patriots fans who think Arrington is a sub-par player. And the surface numbers seem to back this up: According to ProFootballFocus.com, since the beginning of the 2012 season quarterbacks targeting Arrington have a 105.7 QB rating. That’s a considerably higher success rate than than the 89.3 league-average rating against all corners.

A lot of that comes down to interceptions, however. Arrington hauled in seven picks in 2011, his first year as starter, but has tallied just one since. Cornerbacks since 2012 have averaged an interception on 2.5% of targets (according to ProFootballFocus’ numbers), which translates to 4.5 interceptions in Arrington’s playing time. Given his ball-hawking in 2011 and the fact that’s he’s tipped at least two balls that were intercepted by teammates (against the Jets last year and against Tennessee in 2012), it appears the difference is mostly luck. That margin accounts for about eight points of the aforementioned QB rating. And contrary to what fans might think, Arrington has been targeted a bit less than average over that span, just once every 6.4 snaps, compared to once every 6.0 snaps for an average corner.

Then there are the little things. He’s a strong tackler and is solid against the run; PFF graded him as the 8th-best run defending corner in 2013 and he’s been above-average in every year he’s started. He has played in both the slot and outside (more on that later). He’s also been a very good special teams player, leading the Patriots in special teams tackles in 2009, logging another 11 in 2010, and continuing to play almost 40% of the special teams snaps last year (per Football Outsiders).

VERDICT: Some fact, some fiction. Arrington is a below-average cover corner whose performance in other facets of the game renders him an average player overall. Bleacher Report’s NFL 1000 named him the 56th-best corner in the NFL in 2013, and that seems about right.

Kyle Arrington is much better in the slot than outside

This is a common refrain, sung by everyone from Football Outsiders to bloggers over at MusketFire. Many of Arrington’s worst moments, such as getting torched by DeAndre Hopkins for a 66-yard gain in the Houston game last season, feature Arrington struggling to cover an outside receiver. But are these plays truly representative of his effectiveness? How much of a drop-off is there between his play in the slot and his coverage along the sidelines?

SLOT PERFORMANCE OUTSIDE PERFORMANCE
Year Snaps Ints NFL Rating Snaps / Target Comp% YPA YPC Snaps Ints NFL Rating Snaps / Target Comp% YPA YPC
2012 298 0 120.9 6.9 62.8% 10.4 16.5 282 0 109.5 8.1 65.7% 8.1 12.3
2013 303 1 98.7 5.3 61.4% 7.1 11.5 235 0 107.6 5.7 63.4% 8.7 13.8
2014 22 0 39.6 7.3 0.0% 0.0 N/A 39 0 65.6 9.8 50.0% 5.3 10.5
All 623 1 105.2 6.0 60.2% 8.2 13.7 556 0 106.3 7.0 63.8% 8.3 13.0

Data courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com

The numbers dating back to 2012 show little difference between Arrington’s statistical performance in the slot and his performance outside. The NFL QB ratings against him have been virtually identical regardless of role. He’s also given up a slightly higher completion percentage on the outside albeit with lower yards per catch (YPC), making the yards per attempt (YPA) similar to his slot play.Data courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com

Over the same period, the average slot corner allowed a 66.4% completion rate and 11.2 YPC, so Arrington gave up fewer catches but longer gains. The average outside corner allowed a 57.4% completion rate and 13.5 YPC, so Arrington gave up more catches but shorter ones. It’s difficult to know how to read that. It could be that Arrington’s versatility means he’s sometimes covering slot-type receivers that are playing outside and outside-type receivers playing in the slot, making his overall line look more uniform.

The most telling stat is how often the Patriots were willing to use him outside. He’s played more in the slot than outside, but not much more. If Head Coach Bill Belichick and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia thought he was incapable of playing on the outside, he certainly wouldn’t have gotten 500+ coverage snaps there over the past two-plus seasons.

VERDICT: Fiction.

Kyle Arrington is useful but he has a terrible contract

Grantland’s Bill Barnwell recently named Arrington to his All-Bad Contracts Team, calling him a “versatile, willing defensive back who is often picked on by opposing offenses.”  Arrington’s 4-year, $16M contract ranks 26th among corners in guaranteed money ($7.5M), 25th in total money, and 28th in average cap hit. That seems high; not many people would rank Arrington among the 30 best corners in the NFL.

There are 201 cornerbacks under contract according to overthecap.com, so Arrington’s deal presumably puts him among the top 15% at his position. But 120 of those CBs are still on their rookie contracts, so they aren’t really a fair comparison. And of the 55 veterans who are averaging less than Arrington’s $4M annually, 26 played fewer than 500 snaps, and just 13 played more than Arrington’s 838 defensive snaps.

VERDICT: Some fact, some fiction. Ultimately, Arrington’s contract is a middle-of-the-pack deal for a middle-of-the-pack player.

One thought on “Kyle Arrington: Fact or Fiction?

  1. Nice piece. 
     
    Initially I was baffled by the contract, but its become more palatable.  Its not that the numbers were terrible, its just that I never saw the demand for him from other teams that would require them to give out as much money as they did, especially with the signing bonus.  But ultimately its not that far off, he is clearly more than a $2M a year guy because he is consistently useful, and if we are squabbling over $1M for a position of weakness for us, it doesnt seem like a terrible overpay.  It just seems uncharacteristic of the Patriots because they so rarely overpay in any contract they give out.
     
    I think a big part of the ‘Arrington Stinks’ opinion comes from the type of plays he gives up.  The ones that really stick out in my memory are the long passes along the sideline where he ‘doesnt turn around’ as you mentioned.  I believe he gives up these more frequently than other corners in his skill range, and I think thats a big part of the reason that his QB rating is so bad on the outside, and its why he looks so much better in the slot because its covers up this weakness in his game.

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