In our continuing look at what makes a strong pass protection unit, we’ve got an article intended to be short, sweet, and focused solely on which teams are the best at keeping pressure from turning into sacks.
If you’ve seen our pass rushing productivity pieces in recent years, you may remember that we value a hit or a hurry at three quarters the worth of a sack. This number is one that falls in line with the average grades given players when registering hits or hurries, as opposed to sacks.
So, while we’ll always tell you hits and hurries are nearly as important as sack, we’ll follow with the fact that sacks are simply more important as they guarantee a negative play for the offense. Which makes today’s question all the more pertinent.
A simple enough formula gives us our most objective results. You take the numbers of sacks a team surrenders (half sacks are counted as full sacks given that either man could have made the sack), and divide it by the combined number of hits, hurries, and sacks to arrive at a number representing sacks as a percentage of total pressure.
On to the findings.
It’s a case of brotherly love at the top, only now it’s the often over-shadowed sibling who leads the way. He may be a bit erratic at times, but Eli Manning is one of the very best in the league at avoiding sacks (though the outcome is sometimes worse). He’s helped by an offensive line that was only let down by David Diehl in the pass protection stakes, and some of the best blitz pick up in the game from Ahmad Bradshaw, but the younger Manning deserves acknowledgement for his aversion to the turf.
The same can be said of his older brother, who deserves perhaps even more credit on an individual basis because the talent he’s working with (on a pass blocking level) is so much less. While, by way of comparison, 17.78% of David Diehl’s pressures turned into sacks of Eli, just 10.35% of Charlie Johnson’s resulted in Peyton being taken down for negative yardage. Indeed, in a stats conscious sport, it’s safe to say Peyton Manning helps get those eye-catching numbers (such as sacks allowed) looking a lot better than they have any right to.
I’ll skip past the team in third place because I’d be repeating myself an awful lot if I discussed Drew Brees, given he did for Jermon Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb what Peyton Manning did for his tackles in 2010 – kept the glare off of their inadequacies. Instead, I’ll turn to the team in fourth, the St. Louis Rams. A surprising name at the top, but not when you consider the way Sam Bradford so efficiently ran that offense. It didn’t hurt to have an outstanding safety net like Danny Amendola’s short routes to dump the ball to when he felt pressure coming.
The manner in which St Louis earned their relatively low percentage of sacks, was in great contrast to how Tampa Bay achieved an almost identical mark. The Bucs’ success here owed mostly to their quarterback’s physicality when it came to shaking off would-be sackers, but also because he has the mobility in (and out) of the pocket to elude them.
Percentage of Pressure Turned Into Sacks, 2010
Sack % of Pressure
As in all of these lists, for all the good, there is bad to balance it. Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of Jimmy Clausen was how cautious he could be, as if too concerned with throwing an interception. Now that’s not to say he should be reckless with the ball, far from it, but at times you have to make difficult throws. In too many of these spots, Clausen would seem to throw the ball away or hold on to it too long, waiting for an easier option to show. Far too often it led to sacks, with Clausen himself taking direct responsibility for three of them. While the Mannings, Brees, and Freeman made their lines look better, the Panther QB did the exact opposite.
A surprising team also at the bottom are the Baltimore Ravens. It’s not really clear what happened between the end of the 2009 season, and beginning of 2010, but Joe Flacco handled pressure very differently in the two yeas. Whether it was a lack of awareness, or an overconfidence in his ability to get past it, he took more sacks than he needed to. Michael Oher taking over the LT role from Jared Gaither shortened the time Flacco had to think and certainly contributed.
It’s not a definitive stat, and there are varying reasons why some teams faired well and others poorly in preventing pressures from turning into sacks, but it is a part of the formula that will help us showcase our 2010 Pass Protection Rankings, so it’s worth looking at. Next year, we’re going to up the ante by breaking down how long quarterbacks spend in the pocket, but for now, just know that Archie taught his boys well about not letting those brutish defenders bring them down.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled