During the 2014 offseason, Colts Authority is making a concentrated effort to have a complex understanding of as many of the players on the roster as possible. It’s all a part of the Colts Authority Charting Project, an intentional effort to chart as many statistical and strategical details about the team as we can. In that vein, we have several film-review series going thoughout the next few months. You can see all of the 2014 film review pieces at the CA Charting Project page.
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Whatever you think of the Polian regime’s last years, aside from Jerraud Powers, the cornerback cupboard was utterly bare when Ryan Grigson arrived. Jacob Lacey, Kevin Thomas and Chris Rucker were the next three on the depth chart. Yikes.
Josh Gordy, who arrived from St. Louis via trade in August 2012, was one of Grigson’s early efforts at upgrading the position. He cost the Colts a conditional pick that wound up being the 26th selection in the seventh round in 2014. He’s been well worth that price, compiling a Pro Football Focus grade of 1.6 in 467 snaps.
In his limited role last year, Gordy was terrific in coverage. According to PFF, among cornerbacks who played at least as many regular season coverage snaps as Gordy’s 135, only Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, New England’s Logan Ryan and Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner allowed a lower passer rating than Gordy’s 57.3. Only Sherman, Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis and Denver’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had more snaps per reception allowed than Gordy’s 15.0 (Verner was also at 15.0). Not a bad couple of lists to crack.
I started on this, my last contribution to our Dregs of the Roster series, thinking Gordy was a nondescript depth guy. But the man can play. While he’s unproven in a starting role, he’s an excellent backup.
Here are my results from charting Gordy’s 2013 snaps:
And here’s how he broke down by week:
(I defined “open” as Gordy not being in position to make a play on the ball if it was thrown when the receiver made his break; obviously, it’s a subjective stat. “Corner” means Gordy was lined up over a receiver with no corner outside of him, while “slot” means one or more corners were between him and the sideline. “Safety” means he was not lined up over a receiver. Also, PFF and I differed on who was responsible in coverage for a few plays, and I didn’t count things like kneel-downs and false starts.)
I don’t have a definitive figure for how often cornerbacks allow receivers to get open, but when I charted Da’Rick Rogers using the same standards, he was open 45.4% of the time. And Rogers is not great at getting open. Gordy is quite good at covering receivers, and his aforementioned PFF figures bear that out. Quarterbacks tend to glance in his direction, see that he’s all over his man and move on to their next read.
The Colts like their corners to be physical and work on the border between pass interference and a clean play. Gordy does that extremely well, as you can see on these two plays from the first Kansas City game. In the first, he’s called for pass interference on Bowe – and he deserves it:
But later in that same quarter, he has figured out how much contact the official will permit. He plays with the perfect amount of physicality, avoiding a penalty and knocking away a similar throw:
Gordy’s snap-to-whistle concentration is tremendous, so he rarely loses his receiver late in the play. Watch him stick with Bowe here; it’s a slow-developing route, but Gordy stays right on him until the ball hits the ground:
Even when he momentarily loses tight coverage following a receiver’s break, Gordy has the quickness to close again immediately, as he does here:
Unsurprisingly, Gordy’s marks don’t receive many targets; among players with at least has many regular season coverage snaps as Gordy in 2013, only Sherman and Revis had more coverage snaps per target than his 8.4. Again, his numbers scream elite cornerback, and while it’s foolish to assume a player can maintain his performance over a limited sample when given more snaps, it’s hard to overstate how well he played last year.
You might have noticed that I’ve been referencing Gordy’s regular season coverage snaps. He played pretty well in the Chiefs playoff game, aside from one play (more on that in a moment). But Tom Brady diced him up – and not for the first time. The Patriots are Gordy’s kryptonite. He’s had two PFF pass coverage grades below -0.7 in his two years with the Colts, and both came against the Pats: -1.9 in the 2012 blowout and -1.1 in the playoff loss. Per PFF, Brady has gone 8-for-11 for 103 yards against him. Gordy is usually good at bumping receivers, but the Pats were able to beat him on slants and crossing routes into the middle of the field three times, including on this missed bump (that’s Austin Collie in a Pats jersey, making Colts fans everywhere throw up in their mouths a little):
The Pats figured out how to exploit one of Gordy’s few significant weaknesses: he doesn’t have great lateral quickness, particularly when he’s working with a big chunk of field behind him.
When he has to turn and run with a receiver, however, Gordy has good top-end speed. Nearly every time he had to keep up with a ‘go’ route, he was right on the receiver throughout, and even when he fell a step behind, he was usually in position to defend anything but a perfect throw, as on the third of these frames:
The only time all year when Gordy was beaten deep was this pass to DeAndre Hopkins:
It’s hard to fault Gordy too much, since Hopkins makes an impressive play, and every corner gets beaten once in a while. The 39-yard gain was the longest he allowed all year by 12 yards.
Gordy was incredibly good at limiting yards after the catch in 2013. He gave up 52 YAC on 14 receptions, an average of 3.7. Per sportingcharts.com, the Buccaneers were last in the league last year with an average of 3.96 YAC, which was still better than what Gordy allowed. Even more impressively, 26 of his 52 YAC allowed came on one play in the Chiefs playoff game when he was taken out by a pick. That was the only time all year he gave up more than 7 YAC. Subtracting the one slip-up, he allowed 26 YAC on 13 receptions, an average of 2.0. He was almost always in position to make an immediate tackle when he gave up a catch, as on this play:
In fairness, many of Gordy’s snaps came against guys like Bowe and Hopkins – decent players, but a cut below the league’s elite. When he tried to cover Denver’s Wes Welker, he was beaten for this 18-yard catch (though notice that he gives up zero YAC on the play):
And while he plays the simpler routes well, double moves sometimes leave him flat-footed or trailing:
On the other hand, he’s useful against even the best receivers in red zone situations, when his physicality is more important than his quickness. Here, for example, he suffocates Larry Fitzgerald on a fade:
Gordy has given up only one touchdown in his time with the Colts, during a rough week 5 outing against Green Bay in 2012. In 2013, by my count, he collected four defensed passes, one interception, 13 solo tackles and four assisted tackles while missing only one tackle. As you can see in several of the GIFs above, he’s a sure, steady tackler.
Despite the dire situation three years ago, the Colts have collected a good group of corners: Vontae Davis is a passable No. 1 at worst, Greg Toler is at least average when healthy, Darius Butler has the skills to be a very good slot corner, and Gordy is a capable backup. They only run into trouble when someone (usually Toler) gets hurt and Butler and Gordy have to slide up a spot. But whatever role the Colts use him in, Gordy has shown he’s capable of playing at a high level.