Our special formula, prized just slightly less highly than KFC’s secret recipe, gives the truest sense of how productive each pass rusher is on a per-play basis.
While most of the football world reports dutifully on sack counts, we tell you who’s getting all of the pressure, and on what percentage of pass-rush snaps.
Pass-Rushing Productivity. We have missed you. There are more than a few surprises here, not the least of which is the overall leader, a guy that doesn’t exactly conjure images of Bruce Smith or Lawrence Taylor.
For those unfamiliar with the formula, here it is. First, we total something called “QB Disruption Points,” which values sacks over hits and pressures: QB Disruption Points = Sacks + Hits (0.75) + Pressures (0.75)
We arrived at that balance after a general audit of our grades and tracking over the past three seasons, and found that hits and pressures represent about 75 percent of the value of sacks.
Then, to arrive at a score that measures productivity per rush, it’s simple: Pass-Rushing Productivity = QB Disruptions Points / Number of Pass Rushes x 100.
So, the final number represents the percentage of damage each rusher inflicts on his forays toward the backfield.
But enough of the waffle. You want some numbers, right? Well let’s get straight into it. Here’s our overall top 10.
(Note: only players who rushed passer 100 or more times qualified)
The Overall Top 10
|LB||San Francisco 49ers||Manny Lawson||111||16.7|
|LB||Kansas City Chiefs||Tamba Hali||306||15.8|
|LB||San Francisco 49ers||Travis LaBoy||120||15|
|LB||Green Bay Packers||Clay Matthews||242||14.5|
|DE||Atlanta Falcons||John Abraham||218||14.3|
|DE||Seattle Seahawks||Chris Clemons||297||14.1|
|DE||Minnesota Vikings||Ray Edwards||277||13.9|
|LB||Cleveland Browns||Marcus Benard||129||13.8|
|LB||Pittsburgh Steelers||LaMarr Woodley||236||13.6|
|DE||St Louis Rams||Chris Long||333||13.3|
I know what you’re thinking. Manny Lawson? Manny Lawson! Yes, Manny Lawson.
It’s important to note that Lawson has only rushed the passer 111 times, and so this could possibly drop as the season goes on. He had a decent year in 2009, but only scored at 8.79 percent.
Indeed, it’s far less surprising to look one spot below and see that Tamba Hali is a clear point ahead of all players who have rushed the passer more than 200 times. So as a full-time pass-rusher, it’s safe to say that Hali (even with that less-than-stellar game against the Broncos) is in a league of his own.
What may be as interesting is that John Abraham (the man who gave Joe Thomas the worst day of his pro career) is the most productive defensive end, narrowly beating Chris ‘The Bad Tackle Abuser” Clemons and Ray “Will Somebody Pay Me” Edwards. Abraham featured highly on our 2008 and 2009 rankings and though he isn’t as consistent as he was, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
One of the most interesting names in the top ten for defensive ends is rookie Brandon Graham. We’ve given his Eagles teammate Trent Cole an awful lot of (deserved) praise in declaring him our top candidate for defensive player of the year these past three weeks and it’s no surprise he’s in the top five for productive pass-rushers. But Graham (who admittedly struggles in run defense) hasn’t been too far off the pace and is just two spots below, while Juqua Parker is 14th of all defensive ends. Want to know why I feel confident endorsing the Eagles as a Super Bowl favorite? The defensive ends have a big part to play in it.
Top 10 Linebackers
|San Francisco 49ers||Manny Lawson||111||16.7|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Tamba Hali||306||15.8|
|San Francisco 49ers||Travis LaBoy||120||15|
|Green Bay Packers||Clay Matthews||242||14.5|
|Cleveland Browns||Marcus Benard||129||13.8|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||LaMarr Woodley||236||13.6|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||James Harrison||224||13.2|
|Cleveland Browns||Chris Gocong||102||12|
|Miami Dolphins||Cameron Wake||265||12|
|San Francisco 49ers||Parys Haralson||174||11.8|
And what of those linebackers? We’ve already mentioned Lawson, but how about the fact that the 49ers have three players in the top 10 most productive pass-rushers at this spot? Granted it has been done on a lower level of snaps, but it paints a good (and realistic) picture of how they’ve been able to get pressure. Now if only their offense could match that kind of end result.
Elsewhere, part of why the Cleveland Browns are a team nobody wants to face is the pressure they get with their linebackers moving all over the place. Situational linebacker Marcus Benard and two-downer Chris Gocong are in the top ten but with full-timers Matt Roth (13th) and Scott Fujita (15th) also in the top 15, you have a unit that is making life extremely difficult for teams.
Top 10 Interior Defensive Linemen
|New England Patriots||Mike Wright||183||11.5|
|Cleveland Browns||Shaun Rogers||164||10.1|
|Seattle Seahawks||Brandon Mebane||140||8.75|
|New York Jets||Shaun Ellis||250||8.5|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Wallace Gilberry||212||8.14|
|Washington Redskins||Albert Haynesworth||114||8.11|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Geno Atkins||167||7.93|
|San Francisco 49ers||Justin Smith||304||7.81|
|Green Bay Packers||Cullen Jenkins||234||7.8|
|Oakland Raiders||Richard Seymour||248||7.76|
And it’s another somewhat surprising name at the top of our interior (combined defensive tackles and 3-4 ends) defensive lineman rankings. The Patriots’ Mike Wright has a substantial lead, and while his run defense isn’t always up to scratch, getting that kind of production from a role player is why the Patriots are such a good franchise year in and year out.
Interesting that we get to see the sub-package tackles come in and kick some backside after losing their starting roles this year. Not many people are talking about Shaun Rogers, but the guy is about as tough to block as a man of his size can be, and it’s no surprise to see him ranked second. If there’s a guy who may be tougher to block, it’s Albert Haynesworth. He’s in a spot now where he can’t justify the amount he’s getting paid with how much action he sees, but when he’s on the field he does everything in his power to do so. Given the talent there, it wouldn’t surprise to see him rise as the year progresses and the Redskins realize they need to get him on the field more.
Bottom 10 Defensive Ends
|Carolina Panthers||Tyler Brayton||183||2.05|
|St Louis Rams||George Selvie||136||3.13|
|New York Giants||Jason Pierre-Paul||136||3.31|
|Indianapolis Colts||Keyunta Dawson||199||4.15|
|Tennessee Titans||William Hayes||170||4.41|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Kyle Moore||149||4.53|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Michael D. Johnson||184||4.62|
|Seattle Seahawks||Kentwan Balmer||129||4.65|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Antwan Odom||109||4.82|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Robert Geathers||274||5.29|
In some respects isn’t not a surprise to see Tyler Brayton here. He moves inside on third-down situations and has played hurt. But he should be doing better than that, and when you compare the productivity of Brayton to Charles Johnson (15th-ranked defensive end) you get an immediate impression of where the Panthers need to improve. It doesn’t help that the guy who was meant to replace Julius Peppers (who is 23rd — a reasonable tradeoff given his production in the running game) is struggling. Everette Brown has the 14th-lowest score.
Most notable is the presence of three Bengals players in the bottom 10. Ouch. That’s why you’re 2-7 — because your defenders can’t get any pressure. It was always risky relying on Antwan Odom coming back from injury, but the warning signs have been there for a while when you look at Robert Geathers.
Bottom 10 Linebackers
|Arizona Cardinals||Clark Haggans||189||3.84|
|Green Bay Packers||Frank Zombo||147||3.91|
|Washington Redskins||Andre Carter||296||4.05|
|New York Jets||Jason Taylor||219||4.22|
|Baltimore Ravens||Jarret Johnson||218||4.59|
|New York Jets||Calvin Pace||139||4.68|
|New York Jets||David Harris||109||5.05|
|Buffalo Bills||Chris Kelsay||214||5.37|
|Green Bay Packers||Brad Jones||116||5.82|
|Washington Redskins||Lorenzo Alexander||167||6.14|
It doesn’t exactly make great reading for Packers fans, does it? You get an idea of just how reliant they are on Clay Matthews when you see that Brad Jones and Frank Zombo are among the worst in the league when it comes to getting to the quarterback. Still, it’s prettier than looking at the Redskins. Andre Carter went from one of the most productive guys to one of the least while Lorenzo Alexander may do a lot of things, but rushing the passer isn’t one of them. You do really question that transition to a 3-4 more and more.
The Pass Rushing Productivity rating doesn’t tell us who the best pass-rushers are. We’ve got a grading system for that. But it does offer an insight into why guys with big sack counts might not necessarily be having the season some would lead you to believe. Take Ndamukong Suh, for example. Elite talent and big playmaker. But on a per-play basis he is only the 20th-most productive interior defensive linemen at generating pressure, worse than fellow rookie Geno Atkins and comprehensively beaten by Gerard Warren (13th) and Antonio Garay (16th).
We’ll leave you to ponder that. If you’re interested in finding out more about specific players or teams or have a media request for more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do.