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Why the Packers will get the better end of the Adrian Amos-Ha Ha Clinton-Dix swap

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Many think the world of Ha Ha. They think wrong.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I’d like to put this one to bed. Yes, the 2019 season will be the ultimate arbiter of who got the better player between Adrian Amos and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but the Green Bay Packers already got the better end of the deal.

It’s understandable that someone might think the opposite because there are a lot of organizations and metrics that will mislead you about Ha Ha. His surface-level counting stats are good if you don’t dig further, and certain film graders love the guy, but don’t be deceived. I keep hearing and reading statements like this out of the Chicago media:

“By any reasonable analysis, Clinton-Dix has been the far superior safety over his five years in the league than Amos has shown in his four seasons. Both players are 26 years old – Clinton Dix is four months older than Amos – and yet Amos will earn an average of $9 million/year over the next four years in Green Bay, while Clinton-Dix is signed for just $3 — $500,000 guaranteed — this season.” — Hub Arkush

This is simply not true, and I thought it would be useful to delve into how folks like Hub here, who is generally pretty smart about football, are getting this wrong.

1. Ha Ha has performed “well” against the Bears.

As those who have watched him for years know, Clinton-Dix mostly intercepts arm punts, and as we also know, Bear quarterbacks excel at arm-punting. Ha Ha has 14 career interceptions, and three have come against Chicago:

They have not exactly been examples of excellent coverage, but if you’re on the other side of them, they seem as devastating as anything. Clinton-Dix also has three playoff picks, two against Seattle in the game we don’t speak of where Russell Wilson was air-mailing everything, and one against Arizona in the “Jeff Janis Game.” Basically, Ha Ha has had a bunch of picks against the Bears and on national TV. That will cement him as elite in the minds of many.

2. Clinton-Dix has better counting stats.

It is true that Amos does not approach Clinton Dix in sheer number of tackles, interceptions, or even passes defended, but we should be skeptical about scouting players based on any stats, and especially based on these. Fundamentally, the reason Clinton-Dix has so many tackles is that the defense in front of him has been awful, meaning more plays make their way into the deep secondary. More opportunities for tackles means more tackles, even if that tackle is lightly touching a receiver who has fallen over, or limply chasing a player out of bounds. Amos has played for average-to-great defenses, and as a result the tackle is often made in front of him. However, when the play does reach the secondary Amos is a far better tackler than Ha Ha.

The Bears also run their offense at a slower pace than Green Bay and have for years. This discrepancy is entirely based on more plays against Green Bay’s defense, and Green Bay’s defense not getting itself off the field.

3. Clinton-Dix ranked highly in PFF Grading

Pro Football Focus loved Clinton-Dix, which allows casual observers to cite to it. At one point in 2019 he was their third-highest graded safety. Anyone who has watched Clinton-Dix play over the last three years knows that his PFF grades are frankly absurd, and that this is an area where some local expertise really pays off as no nationally focused organization will do a decent job at this. PFF didn’t.

Even though he didn’t deserve to be rated so highly, the fact that he was gives pundits a quick and dirty citation for how he wasn’t the problem with the Packer defense.

It’s also worth mentioning that Amos still graded higher in 2018 according to PFF, posting a composite 82.9 score against 79.3 for Clinton-Dix, and as the season went on they seemed to wise up a bit.

So, is there anything that tells us with any certainty that Amos is the better player?

The Market

When Clinton-Dix was traded to Washington last season, the Washington media made this same mistake.

Clinton-Dix stepped into the starting role for a time, but Washington lost QB Alex Smith in week 10, and the defense wasn’t stout enough to hold things together. Most tellingly, Ha Ha lost time as the season progressed, and at season’s end Washington just let him walk. In free agency, Ha Ha didn’t get paid, because for most teams, the word is out. The most telling thing about Ha Ha is he’s on his third team, and that team does not pay him very well.

Amos, on the other hand, was handsomely rewarded, and it’s pretty clear the league as a whole views him as more valuable. Money talks.

Amos is the far superior athlete.

Athletic talent isn’t everything, but it goes a long way at the safety spot. In term of combine testing, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix simply isn’t a very good athlete, as his poor RAS makes clear. Clinton-Dix is taller than Amos, but that is literally the only area of testing where Clinton Dix is superior. Amos, despite being the heavier player, is faster, stronger, and more agile. All of this shows up on tape as well, with Amos as a fast-closing sure tackler in run support, and a gamer defender against tight ends. Clinton-Dix often lacks the speed to catch up.

The Tape

If you actually watch the two players, there’s no comparison. Adrian Amos isn’t perfect, and he can occasionally takes an incorrect first step which costs him deep. He occasionally misses a tackle in space.

But good lord, Ha Ha’s tape is littered with embarrassing moments. He actively avoids contact, he has no make-up speed (unlike Amos), and almost all of his interceptions are the result of terrible overthrows to empty space, which Ha Ha was fearlessly guarding.

Clinton-Dix should have, at the very least, prevented big plays from getting behind him, but he left so much space in front of him as a complete non-threat that opposing receivers were happy to catch the ball in front of him and jet away.

Amos had the benefit of playing with outstanding teammates, and moving to a less-than-elite unit certainly poses challenges, but we’ve seen Clinton-Dix on good and bad defenses, and he’s always a weak link. There is a chance that his interception total goes up given that he is adept at hauling in bad throws created by the pass rush. The Bears do in fact create plenty of those throws, and in some ways playing for them will be like playing for Alabama again. Amos, on the other hand, generally makes his own plays. He is decidedly not passive, and he is always around the ball. That, more than anything, makes Amos the superior player.