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Passer rating explains why the Packers believe in Chandon Sullivan

Only one player in the entire NFL allowed a lower passer rating than Sullivan did in 2019.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In 2019, the Packers got very good production out of their slot corners. Veteran Tramon Williams had a strong year at age 36, playing all 16 games and providing an excellent interior complement to boundary corners Kevin King and Jaire Alexander. But as the Packers look ahead to the 2020 season, Williams remains a free agent. The reason for the team not re-signing him likely has more to do with a young, ascending player than Williams’ own age.

Chandon Sullivan has drawn praise from his head coach and general manager this offseason, and with good reason. A waiver claim last May after the Philadelphia Eagles cut him loose, Sullivan stuck with the Packers after training camp and ended up playing all 16 games as well, splitting time between safety and slot corner. Sullivan finished the season with 350 defensive snaps, just over one-third of the team’s total, while pitching in another 198 special teams snaps.

But what stands out about Sullivan’s 2019 campaign are his stats in coverage. All told, Sullivan led the team in essentially every rate stat. He allowed just 11 completions on 31 pass targets, according to Pro Football Reference, with a 35.5% completion rate ranking as the best on the team by far among players with five or more targets. Next-closest was Jaire Alexander at 53.6%. And in those 31 targets, Sullivan allowed 120 total yards for a total yards per target average of 3.9; only Raven Greene (2.7 Y/T on 7 targets) had a lower average, and his numbers came in just two games and while playing linebacker.

Finally, Sullivan by far outpaced the rest of the team with a 34.3 passer rating against, thanks to allowing zero touchdowns and recording one interception, which came in week five against the Dallas Cowboys in his first game with significant playing time. The next-closes passer rating allowed was linebacker Preston Smith’s 56.2, accumulated over 16 targets, while the next-best in the secondary was rookie safety Darnell Savage’s 71.1.

Sullivan’s 2019 season wasn’t just great by Packers standards, either — it was exceptional for any player league-wide. Only one player, Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas, recorded a better passer rating against with a 24.2 mark. Teams are loath to throw at the three-time All-Pro, and with good reason, as he saw just 25 targets all year, but putting Sullivan in the same breath as Thomas is remarkable, even if the two are by no means comparable.

Also, as an added bonus, Sullivan was credited with just one missed tackle, compared to Thomas’ eight. His 3.2% missed tackle rate was the lowest among the top ten players in passer rating allowed.

On a play-to-play basis, Sullivan looked good and was consistently in position and locking up his man. His overall coverage numbers suggest that the Packers found a diamond in the rough last May and that he will be a valued member of the secondary for the foreseeable future.