Picking on Patterson, avoiding Asante

When Aaron Rodgers drops back to pass on Sunday afternoon, he'll be looking for No. 23.

As in Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who will be starting opposite Asante Samuel.

It's been a bit of a whirlwhind year for Patterson. At the beginning of the season, it appeared he'd only get on the field for defensive snaps in specialized packages. But after Ellis Hobbs got injured, Patterson assumed the starting role. Fans got behind him after he played well against the Colts and Redskins, but then things went downhill to the point that Sean McDermott benched him against the Vikings in the second half.

We all know that Rodgers will pick on Patterson over Samuel, but I wanted to get a better idea of just how often quarterbacks have been throwing at him. I took a look at the last 4-plus games where Samuel and Patterson were the starting cornerbacks: against the Colts, Redskins, Giants (twice) and Vikings. I only looked at the first half and the first series against Minnesota - before Patterson got benched.

I charted how often each Eagles cornerback was thrown at in schemes that called for man coverage. Here were my findings:

Samuel 7 2 2 2 1 14
Patterson 12 8 9 14 6 49
Hanson 7 1 4 4 2 18

Of the 81 throws that were aimed in a cornerback's direction against man coverage, 49 of them (60.5 percent) were thrown at Patterson.

As for Samuel, Peyton Manning wasn't afraid to throw at him, but every other quarterback was. There were only six attempts at Samuel in three games against the Redskins and Giants. The Vikings took two shots at Samuel, but only one while Patterson was still in the game.

And while Hanson isn't on the field as much as the other two, he isn't being picked on nearly as much as Patterson.

So that's how often they're thrown at the cornerbacks, but how successful have opposing quarterbacks been on those attempts? Let's start with Patterson:

  Comp. Att. Yds. YPA TDs
P. Manning 8 12 58 4.83 0
McNabb 5 8 101 12.63 0
E. Manning (1st time) 7 9 54 6.0 0
E. Manning (2nd time) 8 14 112 8.0 3
J. Webb 4 6 83 13.83 0
Total 32 49 408 8.33 3

Want the good news or the bad news?

Let's start with the good. Against the Colts, the longest pass completion Patterson gave up was for 18 yards. In the first meeting against the Giants, the longest completion he allowed was for 15 yards. That's the kind of effort the Eagles need on Sunday.

Ahh yes, but there is some bad news. Against the Giants the second time and in a little bit more than a half against the Vikings, Patterson was burned for three completions of 30 yards or more and three touchdowns.

It's those big plays that could doom the Eagles. If Patterson gives up a couple 9-yard gains on 3rd-and-7 or 3rd-and-8, that's fine. But if he gets beat deep for a couple big plays, those are game-changers.

Overall, in the four-plus games I looked at, quarterbacks completed 65.3 percent of their attempts against Patterson.

On the other end of the spectrum is Samuel. And I'm not sure we've fully appreciated the kind of year he had. Sure, there were the seven interceptions, but take a look at the lack of success opposing QBs had against him.

  Comp. Att. Yds. YPA TDs
P. Manning 2 7 15 2.14 0
McNabb 1 2 6 3.0 0
E. Manning (1st time) 0 2 0 0.0 0
E. Manning (2nd time) 1 2 9 4.5 0
J. Webb 0 1 0 0.0 0
Total 4 14 30 2.14 0

Impressive, huh? In four-plus games, Samuel allowed four total completions and one pass that gained more than 10 yards. While it'd be big for the Eagles to get an interception from him Sunday, I'm not sure how many chances he'll get.

Opposing QBs completed 26.7 percent of their attempts at him in these five games.

And finally, here are Hanson's numbers:

  Comp. Att. Yds. YPA TDs
P. Manning 5 7 27 3.86 0
McNabb 1 1 13 13.0 0
E. Manning (1st time) 1 4 5 1.25 1
E. Manning (2nd time) 2 4 20 5.0 0
J. Webb 1 2 3 1.5 0
Total 10 18 68 3.78 1

As you can see, Hanson's been playing good football. That's not to say he should have clearly been the choice to start ahead of Hanson, but he's doing an outstanding job in the slot. He allowed no completions of 20 yards or more in the games mentioned above and only three completions of 10 yards or more. Of course, playing on the outside is a different animal in terms of limiting big plays.

Those are the numbers. And you can be sure that Rodgers is aware of them. The Packers will throw at Patterson time and time again Sunday afternoon. If he can limit Rodgers' big plays, the Eagles have a good chance of moving on. If Patterson turns in a performance that resembles the second Giants game or the Vikings game, the Birds will be ready to start their offseason.

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