Football Outsiders on the Jaguars: How does a rookie defensive back field usually fare?

Football Outsiders tells Big Cat Country how a defensive backfield loaded with rookies typically fares.

Each year Football Outsiders puts out their season almanac, which goes through and previews NFL teams for the upcoming season based off some metrics, including the previous and past season's Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) among other formulas and statistics.

Each year prior to the start of the season, we try to partner up with Football Outsiders and discuss the Jacksonville Jaguars outlook based on their metrics and projections. I asked Brian McIntyre, who wrote the Jaguars portion of the 2013 Football Outsiders NFL Almanac, some specific questions pertaining to the 2013 season.

What is the outlook typically for a defense playing multiple rookies in the defensive backfield?

Typically, a defense playing multiple rookies in major roles on defense is going to go through some struggles. The speed of the game is greater than in college, receivers are more precise in their routes, referees do not give rookies the benefit the doubt and the best quarterbacks in the world pick on them on a weekly basis. A nice success story in recent years was the 2009 Miami Dolphins, who took cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith with two of their first three picks in that draft. Both rookie corners started and played a lot — Smith, the second-rounder, was a full-time starter ahead of Davis, the first-round pick — and Miami's defense (which also included fifth-round pick Chris Clemons in a very minor role) ranked 13th in passing DVOA, a showing that was due in large part to a front seven that led the league in "Adjusted Sack Rate".

If Jaguars fans are looking for a best-case scenario, the ultimate outlier is the 2011 Seattle Seahawks defense with Gus Bradley as coordinator. 2010 first-round pick Earl Thomas returned as the starting free safety, with 2010 fifth-round pick Kam Chancellor (who played 11.76 percent of the snaps largely as a seventh defensive back in a "Bandit" formation as a rookie) at strong safety. CFL All-Star Brandon Browner won a starting job at one corner and injuries to Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond had 2011 fifth-round pick Richard Sherman in the starting lineup by the end of October. The starters combined for 16 of the team's 22 interceptions, the Seahawks finished ninth in pass defense DVOA and 75 percent of the starters made the Pro Bowl, with the one non-Pro Bowler (Sherman) playing the best football of the group by season's end.

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