As we found out yesterday, the Dolphins officially re-signed safety Yeremiah Bell to a 1 year deal worth $1.3 million. And like many others, I hope the two sides can reach a long-term deal. Bell might not be the fastest or the strongest safety out there, but he is simply just a playmaker who I'd be more than happy going to war with week in and week out.
So just how much of an impact did he have last year? It could just be coincidence or a combination of a lot of factors, but the Dolphins were 5-6 when Bell started. When Bell didn't start the first 5 weeks, the team was 1-4. Also, when Bell started, the Dolphins average points against dropped by one point and they forced about half of a turnover more per game. Of course, none of that can really directly be tied to Bell. So what I wanted to do was break out the Impact Plays Index (IPI) that I explain in this post from December to compare Bell to some of the top safeties around the league. For your information, the following statistics come from NFL.com, except for tackles for loss and blocked kicks, which come from ESPN.com. Also, when looking at the statistical breakdown, keep in mind that, though Bell played in 16 games, he only started 11 of them.
So what does thos show us? First of all, it shows how John Lynch should not have been a pro-bowler, but that's not the point. The point is that Yeremiah Bell is right up there with the top playmakers at safety. Now, his IPI figure is relatively low compared to the truely elite safeties. However, you need to take into consideration the # of games started as well as the fact that tackles are not a good indicator of playmaking ability. Why? There are too many varialbes involved. For instance, when you play on a team with Zach Thomas, Channing Crowder, and Jason Taylor, you are simply not going to have as many opportunities to make tackles because the guys in front of you are so good. Adrian Wilson, on the other hand, is by far the best defensive player on that team and is asked to do a lot more.
Therefore, he is another way of looking at playmaking ability; by looking at the number of impact plays per game. This is done by using the same stats as above minus tackles and then dividing that number by games played, not games started. So again, Bell loses out a little because there were 5 games he did not start in. However, this is still a good way to see how much of an impact a player has on his team. Here's how that turned out:
Now he starts to look more impressive, numbers-wise. He's right up there with the nest safeties in the league in terms of creating impact plays. And that number would probably be a little higher if Nick Saban started him right out of camp, like many Dolphin fans thought he should.
It's interesting that he's right above Troy Polamalu in IP/g and just under Troy in IPI. I say that because some Dolphin fans were comparing Bell to Polamalu last season. The comparison is intriguing. Both are similar players in the way they each play their position and are in similar defensive schemes. Both are very good blitzers out of the secondary. There are two main differences, though. First of all, Bell doesn't have the same kind of speed that Polamalu has. Their acceleration seems close, as seen by watching either of the 2 blitz. But Bell lacks that next gear that Polamalu has when trying to make up ground. Also, Polamalu has a knack for picking off passes, and we are yet to see that from Bell. Hopefully, though, as he matures as a player, we'll see him pick off a few more passes.
Regardless of who he compares to, I am very excited to see what Bell can do this season as a full-time starter. He'll have more experience when the season rolls around and should be a lot more comfortable with Dom Capers and his schemes. Call me crazy, but I got a feeling Yeremiah is going to really break out this year!