Why Dunta Robinson Will Remain A Houston Texan in 2010

I know he's not popular with any Houston Texans fan, but Dunta Robinson WILL be back in Houston in 2010.

Why would I state such a alcohol-fueled stupid ridiculous bold claim? Well, I state that for a few reasons. First, there's no real plausible upgrade in free agency or in the draft. The top-rated CB in the draft? Florida's Joe Haden who leads a class of maybe two or three first-round CBs. The top-rated free agent? It's either the Vikings' Antoine Winfield or Terence Newman from the Cowboys.

I know you're probably saying the following: "Fuck Dunta!" "Surely, those corners are better than Dunta." "What the hell are you on?" "Fuck Dunta!" "I think you've had more than enough to drink." "Anyone's better than Dunta." "Fuck Dunta!" "He's always getting burned. I see it every week!" "The Texans would be stupid to offer him any sort of contract!" "Fuck Dunta!"

Not so fast, my fellow Texan fans. Haden is a good corner, but he should be gone by pick 12 with the 2nd best corner, Michigan's Donovan Warren, soon to follow while Florida State CB Patrick Robinson is projected as a late 1st to mid-2nd round pick. Personally, I'd love to see Boise State CB Kyle Wilson or Alabama's Javier Arenas taken in the 3rd round, but they obviously won't be able to immediately step into the #1 role.

On the pro side, Winfield is a great run stopper, but QBs throwing at him have a 117.4 QB rating (7th worst of CBs to take at least 25% of snaps). Newman's considered a top corner in the NFL, but it's expected he'll re-sign with Jerah and America's South Oklahoma's team. Also, both Winfield and Newman are pushing 33, and teams tend to shy away from big money deals with players past their primes. Besides that, Dunta's actually not so bad in coverage.

After the jump, I'm going to break down the coverage (since this is a CB's primary job) stats of Dunta and his teammates using two well-known stat geek sites.

Pro Football Outsiders: Texans pass coverage versus #1 WRs
18th ranked versus #1 WRs: 13.4% DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), 7.4 Passes/Game and 58.9 yards per game.
NFL average versus #1 WRs: 0.5% (which makes sense since it's the average) DVOA, 7.9 Pa/Gm, and 63.8 yards per game.

Despite the ranking (which is based on DVOA for which only 14 teams had negative DVOA), The Texans are slightly better than average versus #1s. Why does that matter? Well, Dunta usually covers an opponent's top receiver. For the record, the Texans were a little worse against #2 WRs (22nd for Mr. Glover Quin), good against 3s and 4s (13th), really struggled against TEs (29th), and were the NFL leaders versus RBs looking to catch a pass.

On the season, only one #1 WR went for over 100 yards on the Texans: Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco. Moss, Fitzgerald, and Wayne didn't gain more than 80 yards against the Texans. Whether you hate Dunta or simply dislike him, that's pretty solid play.

Pro Football Focus:
Out of 108 CBs who have taken at least 25% of snaps, Dunta rates 58th on coverage - the best of any Houston Texan. Dunta is one spot ahead of Jacques Reeves and 30 spots ahead of Quin - the worst listed Texan. In Quin's defense, he and Reeves are 19th and 35th against the run respectively while Dunta sits 85th, but I digress from the coverage stats.

Of the 39 CBs who took 75% or more of their team's snaps (Dunta took 1,002 snaps, 3rd on the Houston defense behind LBs DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing), Dunta sits 20th in fewest yards against and tied for 18th on TDs allowed. That's roughly in the middle as all of the PFF and PFO stats have shown. For a quick comparison, Newman gave up more yards (698), and both Newman and Winfield gave up more TDs (4 and 6) than Dunta (594 and 3).

Overall, Dunta improved over the 2nd half of the season. PFF has him at -7.3 overall rating for the 1st half of the season and -4.4 for the second half for an overall of -11.7 (-8.0 of that on penalties). Why the improvement? Well, there's no easy answer, but you can toss out weak schedule since that 2nd half includes the Colts twice and the Patriots.

Speaking of Indy, we'll look at the Colts since that's easily the best passing attack we see every year. Against the Indianapolis Mannings, Dunta gave up 6 receptions, 43 yards, and 1 TD in two games versus Reggie Wayne. The 2nd Houston-Indy game was, in fact, Wayne's worst game of the season. Overall, Dunta gave up 9 receptions for 69 yards and 1 TD in two games against the 2nd best passing offense in the NFL. In the six games against the AFC South, Dunta did his part with per game averages of 3.3 receptions for 32.3 yards and 0.3 TDs. Yup, those numbers are the numbers of a man who gets abused every week. That's also why people like Jerome Solomon believe Dunta will get a contract offer from the Texans.

Of course, there are some things that the eye test does get correct. Dunta doesn't tackle as well as he used to. His 10 missed tackles in 2009 set a career high. However, as we try to find some silver lining here, the majority of those missed tackles came in the first half of the season. He had 15 tackles for a loss or no gain, two-thirds of those tackles came in the second half of the season.

Then there's the other glaring weakness for Dunta: penalties. According to PFF, Texan players were flagged with 111 accepted penalties which was around the middle of the pack in the NFL, so Dunta wasn't the only one drawing yellow on the team. Dunta was tied with LT Duane Brown (who also had the worst protection numbers on the line that's another post for another day) for the second-most penalties on the team with 8. DE Antonio Smith was the most penalized Texan with 9. In one-third of the snaps of the aforementioned starters, DE Connor Barwin had 6 penalties.

Dunta's flags break down as such: 8 penalties, 1 declined, 7 for pass interference, 91 free yards, and 5 flags occuring on drives where no points were scored. Three flags did occur on drives where TDs were scored, and one of those came on a 3rd down.

For the curious types, Rams LT Alex Barron led the NFL with 14 penalties while Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant and Oakland's Stanford Routt led all DBs with 9.

Yes, the 8 penalties are among the league's worst. Yes, the holdout and shoe deal was douchey. Yes, the rust hurt us some. Overall though? Well, Dunta's quite average to even solid in coverage. Yes, I'm still sober as I write that. Yes, you read that correctly. This horrible season where Dunta was getting burned has him at an average cover corner and the best on this team. That's something else when you consider he's going against #1 WRs with a pass rush that rated among the league's worst (25th). Could Dunta improve with a full offseason of OTAs and training camp where he's getting into shape and constantly facing the best WR walking the planet? Could he improve if the Texans added a massive NT to aid their defensive line and pass rush? Could he (and the pass defense) improve with a ball-hawking FS there for support?

Luckily for Dunta, there's no one better out there who can plausibly be brought in which makes the situation more interesting. Is he going to get top-five (or ten) franchise CB money? No, Dunta will not receive an offer worth the amount he "earned" this season, but what if the Texans offered him a three-year deal for $10-15 million with team options for two additonal years and incentive bonuses for time played, stats, and awards/honors? Would that number lower expectations from fans? Would that be getting the best value?

Of course, for Dunta to return it is going to come down to two questions: what does Dunta think he is worth? How badly does Dunta want to remain part of the Texans? If he really wants to come back to Houston then will he accept, what I assume will be, a more modest offer from GM Richard Smith? If he does accept then Dunta will be back, and maybe it won't be the apocalyptic nightmare fans assume it will be.