Last season was a ride for the ages.
While Trevor Lawrence and the offense garnered much of the attention both from the media and the fans, two of the team’s defensive backs were at the top of the league last season.
Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams both ranked as top-10 coverage players according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
NFL.com’s Nick Shook compiled a top 10 list based on players that logged over 300 snaps, 40 targets as the nearest defender, and tallied a negative catch rate for receivers.
Coming in at ninth best in the league was Darious Williams.
In his first year in teal, Williams allowed a passer rating of 70.8 and a catch rate allowed below expectation of -12.2%.
Williams’ catch rate below expectation means that he’s breaking up would-be catches at a clip that is second-best in the NFL, behind only the list’s no. 1 corner James Bradberry.
There’s only one true explanation for why Williams didn’t land higher on this list, which is ordered by targeted EPA: Opposing defenses likely didn’t test him on high-value passes.
Williams’ numbers are strange in that he allowed one of the best catch rates below expected at -12.2 percent, posted a tight-window rate of 26.5 percent and recorded 16 passes defensed, yet finished with a targeted EPA of just -11.7 despite surrendering only one touchdown as the nearest defender. It seems like his targeted EPA should be better — unless he just didn’t see targets on passes that could have produced greater outcomes for opposing offenses.
Williams’ catch rate allowed below expectation was the second-best of any player in this top 10, trailing only Philadelphia’s James Bradberry. He had a very solid season, especially in man coverage, recording nine passes defensed and a targeted EPA of -9.4. At 5-foot-9, he just didn’t produce enough interceptions — he’s actually gone pick-less in each of the past two seasons after nabbing four in 2020 — to boost his targeted EPA into an elite range.
EPA is an interesting concept in that it measures the overall value an offense is to earn given where the team is on the field.
A negative EPA means that when targeting Williams, teams had a tough time creating plays that advanced their field position and overall scoring chances.
Williams’ numbers are likely also a bit out of the ordinary since he started the year in the slot, but moved outside full-time in Week 14. Shook notes that his EPA is skewed due to not being pressured in big-time moments, but that is likely due to those big-moment passes being thrown toward Shaquill Griffin.
Overall, though, when a corner’s name is not called, that generally means he is blanking the receiver opposite of him. Williams did just that in 2022.
Ranking even higher than Williams was Jacksonville’s 2021 second-round pick Tyson Campbell.
Campbell has quietly earned himself a spot as one of the premier corners in all of football, and his Next Gen Stats back that up.
Somewhat surprisingly, the second-year player out of Georgia actually allowed a worse passer rating than Williams at 75.9 and a lower catch rate below expectation at just -1.7%.
Where Campbell shined was in his passes defensed, which then translated to his target rate.
Campbell was responsible for 15 passes defended last season, one of the best clips in the league. Funnily enough, his passes defensed trailed Williams by one.
But by showing his ball-hawking ability, teams only targeted Campbell 14.1% of the time, which is lower than all three corners ranked ahead of him.
Campbell ended up being responsible for six touchdowns as the nearest targeted defender, which would typically tank a player’s targeted EPA. That wasn’t the case for this cover man because of how often he disrupted other pass attempts.
Campbell finished with the fifth-highest ballhawk rate of any player in this top 10 at 19 percent, a number carried by his 15 passes defensed. Only three other players in this group outperformed Campbell in passes defensed. Campbell’s numbers weren’t quite as stellar across the board, but he also saw the lowest amount of attention in terms of target rate among any of these players at 14.1 percent, meaning Campbell consistently made an impact even when he didn’t see as many coverage opportunities as others.
In short, Campbell did a very good job despite tying for the third-fewest targets of any player on this list (and the second-fewest among cornerbacks on this list). And as you’ve already discovered, he isn’t the only Jaguar to make this top 10, either. That Jacksonville defense was better than most likely remember, thanks to the performance of players like Campbell.
The last sentence of Campbell’s assessment reigns supreme above all other numbers and metrics. The Jaguars indeed had a good defense, and Campbell and Williams made impact plays when it mattered.
Campbell snagged a pick that helped win the Jaguars the AFC South title just last year, while Williams broke up seven passes over the final six games of the regular season.
After just one season together, and not even after a full season of the two playing their natural spots, the Jaguars have found themselves a duo that can rival any in the league. And the numbers back it up.