Michael Huff vs. Ed Reed
No doubt about it, Ed Reed will go down in history as one of the best safeties in the game. But we all know that the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” business. Lately, Ed Reed has become pretty one-dimensional. Even if he dominates that one dimension; sitting back and feasting on balls that QBs dare to throw anywhere in his vicinity. His health is also a concern entering 2013, not to mention the Ravens tight salary cap situation. All of those things led to the Ravens making a tough business decision to move forward without the 11-year veteran.
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Enter, Michael Huff, who is a star in his own right. He hasn’t put up the gaudy numbers like Reed has throughout his career. But there is more to playing in the secondary then just racking up INTs and return yards. Bringing down ball carriers as the last line of defense, and these days you can find them attacking the line of scrimmage, making plays in the backfield. Versatility, being able to line up as a shutdown corner or nickel back if the package calls for it. Taking away the option of going to that receiver could be the extra half second the QB wastes which results in a sack for the defense.
Looking at the big picture, have the Ravens made the right move in going to Michael Huff over a future first ballot HOFer?
Focus on the run game in 2012, Ed Reed played the seventh most snaps on running plays of all safeties in the league, 431. He made just 26 tackles and missed seven more. He also lined up within eight yards of the LOS on just 15.8% of all snaps. Look at a guy like Eric Berry, who is becoming one of the best safeties in the game currently, he played 461 run snaps, and was lined up near the line 80% of the time. The top 20 safeties lined up near the LOS, did so over 40% of the time. Berry also missed seven tackles, but had made 50 of them. Not to mention being near the top of list as far as making defensive stops (preventing first downs). Berry’s 7.2% Run stop % is second best behind Eric Weddle (7.3%). Ed Reed, 50th place, 1.4%. Michael Huff posted a 1.6% Run stop %, but to be fair, he played cornerback in 2012. Not a position where they traditionally look for efficiency in stopping the run game. But a tackle is a tackle, and Huff missed just one.
In 2010 as a safety Huff recorded a 2.4% run stop percentage. Ed Reed, bottom of the list. 0.5% He would have been close to double secret probation. In 2011, Huff improved to 3.8%. Reed also improved to just 1.3%
Pro Football Focus also measures tackling efficiency. It’s a ratio of tackles attempted per missed tackle.
2010: Huff – 15.4 Reed – 7.2
2011: Huff – 8.2 Reed – 5.8.
2012: Huff – 7.4 Reed – 6.2
You really want to post above about 12.0 in tackling efficiency to be considered a good tackler. Huff’s 2010 rank at 15.4 was 9th best. The last two seasons left a little be desired in this area for Huff, but you can see the potential is there with that 2010 number. While there may be room for improvement, it’s an upgrade over Ed Reed in that department.
Shifting to the passing game, how often do these two men get focused on? How often does the quarterback say, “I know that’s Ed Reed over there, but I’m going to challenge him anyway,” and how many times is he successful.
2010: Huff – 33 targets, allowed 20 catches. QB success rate of 60.6%
Reed – 28 targets, allowed 13 catches. QB success rate of 46.4%
2011: Huff – 34 targets, 22 catches. 64.7% success rate
Reed – 28 targets, 17 catches. 60.7% success rate
2012: Huff (CB) – 82 targets, 42 catches. 51.2% success rate
Reed (FS) 32 targets, 19 catches. 59.3% success rate
Does that mean Huff is better suited as a corner? He gave up less catches per target with a larger sample size. However, when Michal Huff was targeted, QBs amassed a nice rating of 92.2. So when they are successful, it’s for big yards or touchdowns. The top five shut down corners as far as QB rating when targeted are Casey Hayward (31.1), Richard Sherman (40.5), Tim Jennings (53.3), Asante Samuel (60.3), and Patrick Peterson (64.8). So Huff as corner, maybe not. Unfortunately, these stats aren’t available for safeties.
Before Lardarius Webb suffered his season ending injury, opposing QBs rated 42.2 when throwing his way.
The numbers say Michael Huff is good, but not great. He won’t take away a portion of the field like Reed did. QBs will challenge him, and hopefully he wins more of those battles. Will we miss Ed Reed? In some aspects yes, and in other aspects not so much. But on the whole, taking all aspects of secondary play in account, Huff is a slight upgrade over the aging Reed. Some say getting Michael Huff at a three year, $6M contract was a steal for the former seventh overall pick. But I’m thinking more like that is about right.
Note: Neither Huff, nor Reed are guys who get involved in rushing the QB enough to measure their success there, which is why that was omitted from this analysis.