Hello…Newman

Earlier this week, Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer did one of his “20 Questions” sessions on Twitter, where he answers questions sent in by his followers. One of those questions was regarding which of the Bengals players Reedy felt was most under-appreciated by the fans, to which Reedy replied: Terence Newman.

I thought it was an interesting response, mainly because I sensed that I too tend to under-appreciate Newman and what he provides for the Bengals defense. Last year, I even felt Newman was a liability at times, an easy target on third-down plays, particularly because QBs seemed to often avoid Leon Hall, who I actually feel is one of the more under-appreciated corners in the league (though Bengals fans generally tend to realize how strong/consistent of a player he is).

I do, however, think Newman has played very well early on this year, particularly the past couple weeks while Hall has been out. The Bengals usually leave their corners on a designated side of the field (as opposed to “shadowing” a corner on a specific receiver), so it’s not as if Newman was having to go against WR1’s every single play, but he certainly had more responsibility and attention in Hall’s absence, to which I thought he responded well. And yet, I still wouldn’t have classified my opinion of his play as “overly impressed.”

Maybe I should be. After looking at the stats, Reedy’s suggestion of how well Newman has played is right on. I can’t speak to the degree that others are under-appreciating him, but I do think it applied to my own views (at least somewhat), and Reedy generally seems to have a great handle on overall fan opinion (likely because he’s bombarded with it constantly on Twitter).

According to Pro Football Focus, Newman is +4.1 overall this season, including a +2.2 showing against the Patriots last Sunday. His “worst” performance thus far was a -0.8 day against the Browns. He’s played decent against the pass specifically, but has been strong against the run and drawn very few penalty flags. And most importantly, he’s been a healthy, constant presence on the field, playing 327 of a total 339 defensive snaps this year. At a very injury-riddled position—Brandon Ghee is glass, Pacman Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick are brittle, and the usually-healthy Leon Hall has been dealing with a hamstring problem—the mere fact that Newman has managed to stay on the field, let alone be productive, has been key. Last week, he was the leader of Hall-less pass defense that helped the entire defensive unit jump from 16th to 6th in Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency ratings (DVOA). And lest we forget his Johnny-on-the-spot fumble return for a TD to essentially win the game against the Packers.

This level of performance should also not come as a complete surprise; despite my being down on him at times last season, the stats tell a different story. Newman finished the 2012 season at +10 according to PFF, with his lone “in the red” game (a -1 performance or lower) coming Week 7 against the Steelers (-1.7). I don’t think my eyes were wildly off-base in telling me that he was getting picked on come third down, or that QBs were going after him rather than Hall, but the numbers clearly suggest he was better than I gave him credit for. And according to Reedy, I’m not alone in that thinking.

Moving forward—should Newman’s current level of play continue—I don’t intend to be part of that thinking at all.

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