Yesterday was all about awards at Pro Football Focus but today–for this piece anyway–we’re stepping away from that and instead we’re looking at one of the new statistics we’ve just added to our premium section.
Yes, after months of perfecting them, we’ve gone and brought out Signature Stats for all defensive positions. So it’s only fair we celebrate that by picking one at random and exploring it (maybe even forcing a few of you to take the bait and sign up for full membership). In some respects, we’re evil like that.
So let’s give you a glimpse at what is on offer by using some of our completely unique data to tell you which defensive tackles have shown themselves to be the league’s best pass rushers. This data involves sifting through each and every play, finding out who is on the field, and who is rushing the passer. Yes, as strange as it may be, some defensive tackles will find themselves covering a zone… those crazy defensive coordinators.
For the purpose of this study, we’re counting 3-4 nosetackles and 4-3 defensive tackles in the same class. An imperfect science, but we’ll leave it to you to weight that.
The Situational Star
So which defensive tackle ends up as the most productive pass rusher? Well it’s a tiny bit out there, especially since he plays in a hybrid defense and sees most of his snaps in a situational role, but the 2011 DT PRP Champion is a guy a lot of people probably haven’t heard of: Pernell McPhee. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie picked up six sacks, six hits and 20 hurries on just 278 pass rushing attempts as he put everyone on notice as to what he is capable of. Given how the Ravens have started to use more 3-4 looks in recent weeks, I’m left wondering if perhaps McPhee may never make this list again; 3-4 defensive ends, you have been warned.
A Nose for the QB
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been completely impressed with Antonio Garay this year, though some of that is down to how great he was in 2010. He raised the bar and had trouble maintaining such a high level of play. That said he still got to the quarterback an awful lot, and finished second after picking up three sacks, six hits and 19 hurries on just 245 pass rushing attempts. He may not have been quite as explosive or caused quite the disruption we expected in the run game, but a fine effort nonetheless.
The True No. 1?
I’ve mentioned it on twitter, but I just can’t praise the guy enough; what a year from Geno Atkins. It’s not the biggest surprise in the world that Atkins, who yours truly tabbed a Secret Superstar after last year (Editors note: less of the smugness, you also said Chilo Rachal would dominate), has had such a fine year. Why? Well in more of a situational role he actually finished at the top last year, so while people were raving about an impressive year from Ndamukong Suh, we were amazed at just how consistent Atkins was when it came to getting pressure. Now his numbers aren’t as strong as the two guys mentioned above, but here’s the thing, he’s rushed the passer an awful lot more than both, so the fact he’s been able to do that and make plays in the run game goes a long way to explaining why Atkins is our top-ranked defensive tackle on the year.
We’ve already mentioned McPhee but he wasn’t the only rookie to feature in the top third of NFL defensive tackles who rushed the passer at least 140 times. Nope you’ve got Marcell Dareus of the Bills up in seventh overall and Karl Klug in 20th spot. Dareus was a bit boom or bust which is encouraging for Bills fans; imagine how good he can be when he plays to a more consistent level and when he has Kyle Williams alongside him? As for Klug he’s part of a draft class that could serve the Titans well for years to come at the DT spot.
Here’s the list of our top 10 pass rushing defensive tackles:
Pass Rush Snaps
Pass Rushing Productivity
As Newton said, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. So in the same vein (or have I just made a very tenuous link) for players to be better than average, there’s a host of guys who are below it. But rather than give everything away we’re going to leave you in suspense as to who those guys are.
Plus it’s almost a little unfair to criticize guys like Kelly Gregg when that isn’t his primary role. As with all signature stats and analysis in general is requires the user to use the data intelligently. Numbers are great for a variety of reasons but they’re also prone to be taken out of context. So don’t just see the numbers, but make an effort to understand why they are the way they are as nothing in the NFL world is gospel, just another layer of context in the grand scheme of things.
If you’re interested in finding out more about a defensive tackle’s Pass Rushing Productivity, hit us up on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled or @PFF and we’ll be more than happy to help… or explain things in as much detail as 140 characters will allow.