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[Film Study] Bradley Roby’s role in the Saints secondary

Here’s how the former Texans corner can help Dennis Allen’s defense

NFL: Houston Texans at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday morning, news broke that the New Orleans Saints had acquired defensive back Bradley Roby from the Houston Texans. Roby, a seven-year veteran and a former first round pick back in 2014, will be suspended for the first week of the season against the Green Bay Packers, but will be available afterwards to bring much needed help to the Saints’ secondary.

Roby fills a spot that has been a serious question mark heading into the season, as he’s expected to take up the cornerback spot opposite Marshon Lattimore. In the 2020 season, Roby played 505 of his 613 snaps as a wide corner rather than in the slot, so he has experience out wide. The issue comes with wanting to see how well Roby adapts to playing in the left cornerback slot rather than the right, where both he and Lattimore have played the majority of their snaps in every season of their respesctive playing careers.

Roby’s season was cut short in 2020 due to a suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, a suspension which will end up being the reason he’s held out for the 2021 opener. However when he did play in 2020, he was solid for a very bad Houston Texans team, including plays like this in the Texans’ week 5 contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Roby excelled in zone coverage in 2020, a concept the Texans ran in this play. With Jacksonville having just entered the red zone, the Texans go with what looks like a Cover 4 concept with Roby in the deep right outside zone. DJ Chark (Jacksonville #17) lines up on the outside and runs a slant route, which Roby jumps all over and makes the stop for a four-yard gain.

With the depature of Janoris Jenkins, Bradley Roby will be expected to step into his role and replicate his defensive production from a season ago. Jenkins was in man coverage on 41.2% of snaps, while Roby was in man on just 34.1% of snaps, a percentage that’s lower than any Saints’ cornerback in 2020. The results themselves tell why that could be an issue for the Saints.

Bradley Roby stats in man coverage vs zone coverage

Scheme % of snaps PFF grade Pass Rtg Snaps per Target Snaps per Reception TDs allowed
Scheme % of snaps PFF grade Pass Rtg Snaps per Target Snaps per Reception TDs allowed
Man 34.10% 56.3 107.8 6.5 11.6 2
Zone 59.30% 84.2 69.6 10.3 15.1 0

Despite playing a significant amount of snaps more in zone defense vs man (200 in zone vs 115 in man), Roby was targeted just three more times in zone coverage and conceded just four more catches. His snaps per target almost halved when playing in man coverage, meaning he was targeted more the more he was on the field, and the snaps per reception tell the same story. Bradley Roby excels at zone coverage. If the Saints expect him to be a like-for-like Janoris Jenkins replacement, they’re going to have a bad time. However if the Saints move to more of a zone scheme to let Roby flourish in that role, the Saints could have a gem on their hands.

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