SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 19: Safety Eric Weddle #32 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a sack against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium on September 19 2010 in San Diego California. The Chargers won 38-13. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The closer the free agency period gets, the more I (and other Chargers fans) start worrying about the prospect of losing Free Safety Eric Weddle. If you had to name a specific "key player" for what the Chargers do on defense, he'd certainly one of the first few names you thought of....and now he's facing the possibility of being an unrestricted free agent.
The question I keep asking myself is....how good is Weddle, really? Safety is such a hard position to gauge unless you're causing/creating turnovers like Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed, and Weddle doesn't do that. He matched his career high in turnovers this year with 2. So I wanted to take a look at his stats, both standard and advanced, and see just how good Eric Weddle is.
|2010 - Eric Weddle||16||.500||4||2||64||1||79||16||95|
95 tackles, half of a sack, 2 interceptions and 1 TD. These stats are almost exactly the same as his 2009, where he had 82 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 1 TD in 13 games instead of 16. Are those good stats? Certainly, but how does he match up against the consensus "best safeties in the league"?
Well, Polamalu is averaging about half an interception per game over the last three seasons. That's not an exaggeration, in his last two full seasons he's gotten 7(!) interceptions. Last year he picked off opposing QBs 3 times in jury 5 games. However, he averages about 20-30 less tackles per season than Weddle and, shockingly, they both only have 3 career defensive touchdowns in the regular season.
Whereas Polamalu has only been getting high interception figures over the past three seasons, Reed has been doing it since day 1. In 127 career regular-season games, he has 54 interceptions. 54! And he's forced 10 fumbles! He blows even Troy away in terms of game-changing turnovers, but Polamalu plays more of a "Wild Card" role in his defense. However, his yearly tackling totals are pretty low.
So Weddle gets less turnovers, but is more often playing the "safety valve" role and leading the team in tackles. Perhaps if he played on a team with a front-7 as dominating as the Ravens and Steelers he'd have more interceptions, but you never can tell. However, I want to look at what ProFootballFocus thinks of Weddle....since they rate players more on if they do their assignment well rather than the stats.
For 2010, Weddle was the third-ranked Safety in the league according to PFF. This is fantastic news until you realize that the two guys in front of him were Quintin Mikell and Michael Huff. Hmmmm, maybe something is broken in their system for rating Safeties. However, Polamalu and Reed to show up right beneath Weddle as the 5th and 6th best Safeties this season. Where Weddle seems to gain ground on them is by avoiding penalties.
The funny thing about PFF's rating on Weddle is how dramatically it shifts from year to year. With 0 as an "average", here's Eric's rankings for the last three seasons:
That's certainly heading in the right direction. According to these PFF rankings, I can conclude that Weddle is a Top 5 Safety in the league and still improving....however, a reasonable NFL fan will tell you that on a team that has a #1 CB with bad hands there is going to be some reliance on the Free Safety to create turnovers.
If you remember, the Chargers went almost the entire month of October without getting a single turnover in 2010 (and went 1-3 during that stretch). At least part of that needs to be thought about as the Chargers negotiate with Weddle and consider the possibility of losing him to another team.