Every cornerback in the NFL wants to be known as a player that can play zone or man, that can tackle in the open field, and who can be a ball hawk when given the opportunity. But all of that falls short of the one label every cornerback longs for. The one they aspire to be described with.
You know the word. One that makes opposing offenses tremble and wide receivers frustrated.
That’s the label Cincinnati Bengals‘ cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was honored with in a recent article by The Next Gen Stats Analytics Team via NFL.com. And it’s not hard to figure out why.
Awuzie has been lights out this season and is a huge reason why the Bengals boast one of the best pass defenses in the league. Being able to trust a cornerback like Awuzie in coverage allows defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo to keep the versatility of this defense on full display.
The 27-year-old cornerback has put up impressive stats this year.
Through six weeks of the season, Awuzie has six forced incompletions and has allowed only a 58.1 passer rating when targeted. Quarterbacks are completing only 40% of their passes when targeting the Bengals’ starting cornerback (second best in the NFL among qualifying cornerbacks per PFF).
In the article for NFL.com, the always insightful Next Gen Stats team ranked the Top 10 shutdown corners in the league. Awuzie was ranked as the eighth-best corner and here’s how they came to it:
“Awuzie’s play has remained at an elite level in his second season in Cincinnati. Via the Next Gen Stats completion probability model, which estimates how likely any given pass is to be completed based on factors including, but not limited to, receiver separation, air distance of the pass, and sideline distance, Awuzie has allowed -6.6 fewer receptions than expected this season, trailing only James Bradberry.”
While they still need to clean up their run defense, this Bengals team is set up with a unit that will keep up Joe Burrow and company in it no matter who the rival is. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, having that balance could go a long way in upsetting the favorites like the Buffalo Bills.
Featured image via Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORKCould not load the poll.