Lito vs Lurie and what is YPA?

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In his annual state of the team address at Lehigh, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie was asked about the contract situations of some of his unhappy players. He addressed both Brian Westbrook and Lito Sheppard. In his discussion of Lito's situation he talked about some of the things we'd all expect, like Lito needing to stay healthy... but he mentioned a stat that I have to admit I've never heard of.

When asked about Sheppard, however, Lurie said: ''I'm very hopeful that Lito will have a terrific season, show us and the league that he's back to old Lito, feels healthy, he's got great playmaking ability, and certainly a lower YPA and just really performs the way that we know Lito can.''

Several reporters approached Lito for his response, Les Bowen described the scene

Sheppard wasn't pleased. Like most reporters, he was not familiar with the stat, and he said he had no idea how he ranked. Attempts to track down the number Lurie alluded to hadn't succeeded when this was posted. ESPN stats maven K.C. Joyner, one of the stat's chief proponents, ranked the Eagles' duo of Sheppard and Sheldon Brown 17th in YPA last season, at 7.8 yards per attempt.

    "I guess he's got to find something bad against me, huh?" Sheppard said after returning to training camp workouts Wednesday from a groin injury. "I'm not hiding. I know what I can do; everybody knows what I can do. If you've got to dig that deep to bring up something to say I can't do good? Hey, that shows how good a player I am. I tip my hat to him for expressing that."

KC Joyner just so happens to be the guy who invented the "YPA" or "yards per attempt" stat to measure cornerback consistency.

K.C. Joyner has never claimed that his yards per attempt cornerback stats measure a corner’s aptitude. They are derived from pure empirical study; Joyner looks at tape of each NFL corner each year and measures the number of throws aimed his way, the results of each throw and the number of yards gained against each player. The results would seem transparent.

It is somewhat interesting that Jeff Lurie would use the YPA stat as a reason not to pay Lito Sheppard more money, considering he paid a fortune to Asante Samuel who is known for a rather high YPA... This is from a chat KC Joyner did.

Rick-Lowell, MA: I've always said Asante Samuel was a good corner who had a couple "better than good" years. How were his metrics? Is he truly an elite corner or did Philly overpay? How were Fernando Bryant's numbers in comparison? Certainly he's not as much of a ballhawk, but I imagine he'll play better in the Pats system than previous systems. Do you agree?

SportsNation KC Joyner: Samuel is a ballhawk so his YPA totals tend to be higher than a coverage CB like Bryant. That was the case last year, as Bryant had a 6.5 YPA versus Samuel's 7.2. He'll be more than an ample replacement for Samuel on the coverage standpoint.

So Samuel is a ballhawk who makes plays, which means occasionally he'll give up yardage... Remind you of anyone? That's basically Lito's game. Roto world explains why that's a problem.

Asked his thoughts on Lito Sheppard's situation Monday, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said he's hoping for "certainly a lower YPA" from the cornerback.
The Birds lived with Lito's consistently low YPA (yards per pass allowed) because he used to make plays, but he only had two picks and five breakups in 2007. Lurie seems in no rush to get Sheppard the raise he wants

Last year Asante actually ranked  38 overall in the YPA stat, Sheldon Brown ranked 47, and Lito was #64(I think these stats are true, correct me if I'm wrong!). Now, the general consensus I seem to get from stat geeks is that YPA is not a great measure when applied to one year. It seems that the stat is really telling when you apply it over a few years, which compensates for a guy having one good year or one down year. When you look at a CB's yards per attempt over a several year period, you really start to see who the most consistent guys are.

For instance, Antonio Cromartie who led the NFL in INTs last year... not among the top 10 in YPA.

Lurie's mention of YPA in regards to Lito and the fact he signed Asante Samuel does illustrate one thing about the Eagles philosophy. Either don't get beat and always limit the opposition to a minimal or no gain, or go ahead and gamble as long as you take the ball away. Lito did neither in 07. So while Jeff spoke in some rather ambigous statistical terms, what reall was saying to Lito was...

Put up, or shut up.

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