Defensive Backs: Bringing Heat

| March 19, 2011

Not long after our Pass Rushing Productivity feature went out, I was doing my usual daily reading and saw ESPN’s always readable – though sometimes anti-Larry Fitzgerald (I kid) – Paul Kuharsky pose the question: “Who’s the best blitzing DB in the NFL?”

Yes! An article that practically writes itself. You see, here at Pro Football Focus, we chart every blitz by every defensive back on every passing play, so you don’t have to. It means we can present this information, for the purest of pure fans, in a simple feature.

Aren’t we great?
 
Whether you agree, disagree or you chose to ignore that last statement, here’s our deal with this look at blitzing defensive backs: they needed to have rushed the quarterback at least 30 times during the season. That buys them a ticket to this dance, and whether they get to cut some shapes with the prettiest gal is all down to what kind of pressure they were able to bring.

To be clear, as opposed to our Pass Rushing Productivity study, the QB disruptions discussed here are unweighted. Judging all forms equally – sacks, hits, and pressures are simply totaled.
 
Before we get to the table, here are 10 things we’ve learned from this exercise:
 
1.) Eric Berry can do it all – remember that performance in the playoffs where he was all over the field? Be sure to include this on his list: his turning 34.29% of his blitzes into some form of pressure led the league.
 
2.) O.J. Atogwe is going to be the deep safety complement to Laron Landry? Well, rather interestingly, Atogwe turned 25.81% of his blitzes into pressure while Landry was behind at 22.81%.
 
3.) If you’re a Cardinal fan, you’d like to see the guy who rushed the QB 95 times getting a higher percentage of pressure than the guy who rushed the QB just 34 times. Didn’t work out that way: Kerry Rhodes got pressure on 23.53% of his pass rushing chances to the 14.74% of Adrian Wilson.
 
4.) No other defensive back rushed the QB more than Charles Woodson (though it should be noted these stats do include his post season numbers.) With fewer attempts, Antrel Rolle and Roman Harper matched his total of 17 quarterback disruptions.
 
5.) The Raiders are much better off when sending Tyvon Branch (8th overall) than Michael Mitchell (49th out of these 49), but Michael Huff, who just missed the blitz-count cut-off to qualify here, outdid them both.
 
6.) The Jets are known for their blitzing backs, but only one of them finished in the top 15 (Drew Coleman at 12th.) Conversely, they had four defensive backs in the bottom 15.
 
7.) No sacks for Ronde Barber, but he still brings the heat when blitzing from the slot. He was 5th overall, generating pressure on 25.49% of his blitzes.
 
8.) Kyle Arrington rushed the QB 33 times … 26 of these came with him lined up as a defensive end.
 
9.) We’re big fans of Quintin Mikell in coverage and run support, but he’d do his profile some good by turning his blitzes into more pressure than the 9.43% he managed in his 53 opportunities.
 
10.) If one defensive back blitz stuck in the memory it was Troy Polamalu against the Ravens as he strip sacked Joe Flacco. Other than that, Polamalu put forth a modest effort, converting 21.21% of his blitzes into pressure – less than his Steelers teammate, William Gay (21.74%.)
 
 

Enjoy the numbers.
 
 

2010's Best Blitzing Defensive Backs

Rank
Player
Team
Blitzes
Total QB Disruptions
Pressure %
1Eric BerryKC351234.29%
2Yeremiah BellMIA411229.27%
3Nedu NdukweCIN381026.32%
4O.J. AtogweSL621625.81%
5Ronde BarberTB511325.49%
6D.J. MooreCHI481225.00%
7Michael GriffinTEN36925.00%
8Tyvon BranchOAK421023.81%
9Antoine WinfieldMIN38923.68%
10William MooreATL511223.53%
11Kerry RhodesARZ34823.53%
12Drew ColemanNYJ34823.53%
13LaRon LandryWAS571322.81%
14Bernard PollardHST36822.22%
15Antrel RolleNYG771722.08%
16William GayPIT461021.74%
17Darian StewartSL461021.74%
18Brian WilliamsATL701521.43%
19Troy PolamaluPIT33721.21%
20Brian DawkinsPHI481020.83%
21Roman HarperNO821720.73%
22Jordan BabineauxSEA511019.61%
23Sean JonesTB47919.15%
24Nick CollinsGB37718.92%
25Deon GrantNYG541018.52%
26Chris HopeTEN39717.95%
27Nate AllenPHI35617.14%
28Roy LewisSEA36616.67%
29Haruki NakamuraBLT50816.00%
30Charles WoodsonGB1081715.74%
31Adrian WilsonARZ951414.74%
32Alterraun VernerTEN30413.33%
33James IhedigboNYJ38513.16%
34Lawyer MilloySEA871112.64%
35Brodney PoolNYJ52611.54%
36Craig DahlSL62711.29%
37Eric SmithNYJ74810.81%
38William MiddletonJAX38410.53%
39Dawan LandryBLT68710.29%
40Joselio HansonPHI49510.20%
41Abram ElamCLV40410.00%
42Dwight LoweryNYJ30310.00%
43Quintin MikellPHI5359.43%
44Aaron RossNYG4349.30%
45Jim LeonhardNYJ5846.90%
46Jon McGrawKC3326.06%
47Kyle ArringtonNE3326.06%
48Carlos RogersWAS3925.13%
49Michael MitchellOAK3013.33%

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