Breaking Out: 10 Pass Rushers to Watch

| March 17, 2011

Last year, we earned ourselves a pat on the back for our proclamations of big things to come from Cameron Wake. In all honesty, we were just relaying what the game tape and numbers told us.

So, after scoring a spectacular bull’s-eye with that, we thought we’d leave ourselves open to more self praising by using our Pass Rushing Productivity research to name ten guys who could be primed to break out next year.

Feeble pass rushers need not apply.
 
 
 
 
Marcus Benard, Cleveland Browns, Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP) Rating – 11.60
With the Browns moving to a 4-3, we can’t be sure how Benard will fit. All signs point to a situational pass rushing role for a guy likely deemed undersized for every-down work. That may be the case, or the Browns’ complete lack of defensive end depth may push a guy smaller than Dwight Freeney into a starting spot. Regardless, if you can get Benard rushing the passer you could be in luck. He turned his 235 pass rushes into 34 total pressures.
 
Antonio Garay, San Diego Chargers, PRP Rating – 9.30
More Jay Ratliff than Casey Hampton as a nose tackle, the only thing that held Antonio Garay back from creating more havoc was his playing time. You hope the Chargers learn their lesson when they bring in their nickel. That means less Luis Castillo (19 total pressures on 356 snaps) and less Jacques Cesaire (19 total pressures on 352 snaps), and more than 250 snaps rushing the passer for Antonio Garay. His haircuts? I’m undecided on. His pass rushing? Color me impressed.
 
Kroy Biermann, Atlanta Falcons, PRP Rating – 8.96
All the off season talk is that the Falcons need to upgrade their pass rush. It’s almost as if people believe they aren’t getting consistent pressure. They are. Biermann needs to work on converting his hurries and hits to sacks, but then you could have said the same thing about John Abraham in 2009 (and he responded with how many sacks last year?) 48 total pressures is nothing to sniff at.
 
Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers, PRP Rating – 8.87
Julius Peppers is gone and Charles Johnson could very well follow him. Fear not Panthers fan because you have another guy who could bring the heat from left end before bolting in free agency. At times, Hardy played up to his potential rather than let those character concerns that had him drop in the draft take over. Two sacks don’t tell the story of a man who got a QB disruption on 11.52% of all pass rushes.
 
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, PRP Rating – 6.08
He doesn’t have a cool name like Ndamukong Suh, he hasn’t posted double digit sacks, and no one has come up with a catchy chant for him, but McCoy won’t always be in the shadows of the monstrous Suh. Before injury ended his season, he was really starting to find his form. Four sacks may not seem like a lot, but it’s the 30 total pressures that should excite Bucs fans.
 
Jason Jones, Tennessee Titans, PRP Rating – 7.11
Would Jones really be breaking out? Since entering the league, he’s always got pressure. The problem is he’s never too far from another injury. He got on the field for more snaps this year and responded with 40 total quarterback pressures. There really aren’t many defensive tackles better at getting up field than Jones, and if he stays healthy, sacks will flow.
 
Manny Lawson, San Francisco 49ers, PRP Rating – 12.04
You almost feel like 49er fans have given up on Lawson. The coaches certainly seemed to last year as they let him rush the passer just 218 times. Ouch. You take out a guy who got a QB disruption on 15.6% of plays in sub package defenses? That’s not smart. Lawson is better than people will give him credit for, and it may just take a new environment to get the best out of him.
 
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals, PRP Rating – 8.45
Yours truly wrote a rather flattering piece about Mr Atkins, labeling him the Bengals Secret Superstar. So it stands to reason I’d peg him to breakout. In short, Atkins is great at getting up field and that makes him a prime candidate to get well acquainted with the league’s quarterbacks. Five sacks is a good return for any tackle, let alone one in limited snaps. What can he do as a sophomore?
 
Jermaine Cunningham, New England Patriots, PRP Rating – 8.09
A lot has been made about the Patriots need to generate more pressure. The one-sack season of Jermaine Cunningham wouldn’t debunk that, but he’s primed to step up. The former Gator got a quarterback pressure on 10.66% of all his pass rushes. Not bad for a rookie in a defense that seemed to alter its behavior on a game by game basis.
 
Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders, PRP Rating – 9.41
It would be wrong to call Houston consistent. It would be right to call him potentially unstoppable. There were some dud performances that highlighted his rookie status, but if you watch what he did to Jason Smith in Week 2 or Anthony Davis in Week 4, then you’ll get a glimpse of what he can be. Consistency will be the key.
 

  • maeby

    Add Lawrence Jackson to that list. He should be the third DE for the Lions next year, and get plenty of reps, even when Avril and KVB are healthy and playing.