We spent part of Wednesday discussing the Cincinnati Bengals' cornerback situation and whether the position was an area of weakness. We're still debating that in the poll that's in the link, but the following is evidence that the Bengals' corners and safeties actually did fairly well last season.
I present Thursday's Bengals factoid: 20.4
OK, so we're only two decimal spots away from Wednesday's factoid of 20.2. So, no, not a big change there. That particular factoid, however, dealt with the difference in completion percentage for quarterback Andy Dalton on long throws versus shorter and intermediate routes last year. His completion percentage on shorter and intermediate throws was 20.2 percent higher than his completion percentage on deep passes. For the exercise, "deep" stood for anything that traveled 15 yards or more in the air.
As for 20.4, this number refers to the disrupted dropback percentage Bengals defensive backs had last season. Let's make it clear, this percentage only pertains to safeties and cornerbacks. It doesn't directly relate to what other defensive units did in order to disrupt opposing quarterback dropbacks. Of course, the linemen and linebackers did have an indirect impact on this figure. That's based purely on the varying forms of pressure they put on opposing quarterbacks or even the lack of pressure they also had on occasion. The better the pressure up front, the better the players on the back end had a chance at breaking up or intercepting a pass downfield.
Now, what all does disrupted dropback percentage entail? It's a rate that's calculated by adding the sacks, interceptions, defended passes and batted balls a defense or defensive player has, and dividing that by the opponents total number of dropbacks. That means that 20.4 percent of the 674 dropbacks the Bengals' defensive backs were part of in 2013 resulted in disrupted plays for the unit. That was good enough to rank sixth among all defensive back units for the year. Buffalo's DBs paced the league in this statistic, disrupting 23.6 percent of the dropbacks that occurred on their watch. The Super Bowl champion Seahawks, praised for having arguably the league's best overall secondary, ranked just ahead of the Bengals at fifth. Seattle's DBs disrupted 20.8 percent of their opposing dropbacks.
Cincinnati's relatively strong secondary play correlates to its overall solid defensive play. The Bengals ranked third in total defense last season and were fourth in ESPN Stats & Information's defensive QBR rating. Opposing quarterbacks compiled an average QBR of 39.0 (on a 100-point scale) against them. Seattle had the lowest defensive QBR in the NFL at 29.0. Buffalo ranked second at 36.0.
See? Disrupted dropback percentage, defensive QBR, total defense ... it all relates.
While the Bengals are indeed a year older and have one of their best players returning from his second major injury in three seasons, they still bring back a solid core of last year's defensive backfield. Their only losses this offseason have been Brandon Ghee and Chris Crocker. Ghee jetted off to San Diego early in free agency and Crocker had been expected to return to retirement. With their departures, Cincinnati added veterans Danieal Manning and R.J. Stanford and rookies Darqueze Dennard, Lavelle Westbrooks and Isaiah Lewis. The Bengals' first-round pick, Dennard has a chance to play in a limited capacity this season. In theory, though, it should be tough for him to crack the deep cornerback depth chart. The Bengals are, after all, returning the heart of a group that ranked sixth in the league in disrupting quarterback dropbacks.