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What Can We Expect from Michael Griffin and George Wilson in 2013?

Using statistics of the past and present, maybe we cannot infer how the Titans' safeties will play in 2013.

Rick Stewart

Many believe that the addition of the former Buffalo Bill, George Wilson, will allow Michael Griffin to return to his 2008 form in 2013. After looking at some statistics, one cannot make this conclusion. Some statistics match the prediction while others contradict that a great strong safety is needed for a positive free safety.

I went to my favorite statistical website, Advanced NFL Stats, to investigate. I have used six statistical categories to determine whether a connection can be made between poor strong safety play and poor free safety play; furthermore, I compared 2008 Michael Griffin and Chris Hope, 2009 Michael Griffin and Chris Hope (a year that many consider a horrible season for the safeties), and 2012 Michael Griffin, Jordan Babineaux, Jairus Byrd, and George Wilson. I understand that Jairus Byrd is an outstanding safety, but Michael Griffin was too in 2008, which showed Titans' fans that he has the potential and physical ability to be great. I wanted to compare Jairus Byrd with and without George Wilson, but he has always played with the undrafted veteran.

I used the statistics of Success Counts, Tackles, Assisted Tackles, Interceptions, Pass Deflections, and Positive Expected Points Added (+EPA). For a description of what each stat means, such as +EPA, Advanced NFL Stats has a glossary here.

Now for my study (all stats courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats):

Statistics 2008 Griffin 2008 Hope 2009 Griffin 2009 Hope 2012 Griffin 2012 Babs 2012 Byrd 2012 Wilson
Success Count 33 33 27 28 23 31 40 36
Tackles 47 63 53 66 59 59 53 73
Assisted Tackles 17 15 18 14 19 28 23 25
Interceptions 7 4 1 3 4 1 5 0
Deflections 11 8 7 7 4 6 6 5
Positive EPA 43.8 33.1 32.4 28.3 26.9 20 46.1 19.8

The statistics in two-toned blue paint a disappointing picture. Chris Hope's statistics in 2009 are very close to the same as 2008, some better than others; however, the only statistic of Griffin's to really drop off are his interceptions. Looking at 2012, Griff's stats are near identical to 2009, except for interceptions (which we know look better than they actually were because of the two picks that I could have caught from Mark Sanchez). Now look at 2012 "Big Play" Babs. His statistics are very similar to 2008 and 2009 Chris Hope. Who else does he have similar statistics to? 2012 George Wilson. Although he racked up a dozen more tackles than Babs, that's less than one more tackle per game- a not big game changer. In fact, his +EPA is (not much) lower than Babineaux's.

Is George Wilson THAT much of an upgrade over Jordan Babineaux? Based off of these statistics, one cannot make that conclusion. The only major outlier is Jairus Byrd's play. According to this, in order for Michael Griffin to be able to have a better season, changing the strong safety will not make a difference. The difference will be Griffin's decision making, which many of us know to be very poor at times; therefore, I conclude that if George Wilson and Michael Griffin play as they did in 2012, we could be in for another long season.

The only thing that cannot be measured by these statistics is coverage ability. That may be the difference between Wilson and Babineaux, but based off of interceptions, pass deflections, and success counts, I cannot really make the conclusion that Wilson's coverage will be better than Jordan's.