Second-year cornerback Cre’von LeBlanc emerged as a rare bright spot among the Chicago Bears corners in 2016. And that’s something, considering that he didn’t even start the season in camp with the Bears.
Instead, LeBlanc was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots – where he made an impressive one-handed interception during the preseason … but didn’t make it out of camp with the team. Indeed, LeBlanc was let go in the final round of cuts, then eventually claimed off waivers by the Bears. He made the most of his time as a rookie in Chicago, playing in 13 games (nine starts), and coming up with two of the team’s 11 interceptions (His pick-six of Matthew Stafford in Week 14 might have been the best highlight produced by Vic Fangio’s secondary.)
But if that doesn’t impress you, this graphic from Pro Football Focus should:
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 29, 2017
LeBlanc limited opposing quarterbacks to an 82.7 rating when targeted, with only Jalen Ramsey (76.6) of the Jacksonville Jaguars yielding a lower passer rating as a rookie. In fact, that number ranked him 32nd among 119 qualifying cornerbacks.
According to Pro Football Focus’ advanced statistics, LeBlanc might have been most productive playing in the slot. He finished first among the 52 qualifying slot corners in coverage snaps per target, second in coverage snaps per reception allowed, and eighth in yards allowed per coverage snaps. He even surprised offenses by playing 15 pass rush snaps, coming up with seven quarterback pressures in the process. Overall, LeBlanc earned a 73.4 rating in his rookie season from PFF – making him the site’s 52nd cornerback (among 111 qualifiers) and the best on the Bears in 2016.
For what it’s worth, LeBlanc’s rating was even higher than Stephon Gilmore’s 73.2 rating in a season before he cashed in with a major free agent contract.
The secondary was an area targeted early, often, and with millions of dollars by GM Ryan Pace this offseason. But even with safety Quintin Demps and cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper grabbing the headlines (and a significant chunk of cash), LeBlanc could make an argument for being the Bears’ best cornerback after his rookie season. And if all goes well, he could even make a case for being a building block for a secondary in need of playmakers going forward.