Welcome to the Pro Football Focus Page of Fame for 3-4 defensive ends, where only the best one-off performances during our time grading (2007 – Present) are mentioned.
If this is your first visit to a “PFF PoF” then the rules are pretty simple. Each game is it’s own island, and only the highest grades make it onto the list.
Anything over a +7.4 grade for this position will get the recognition it deserves!
1. J.J. Watt, 2013, WK12 – JAX @ HST: +12.1
Pass Rush: +4.9, Run Defense: +7.0, Penalties: +0.2
Watt gets better and better, destroying the Jaguars offensive line despite the Texans ultimately losing. He turned 64 snaps into a sack and six painful quarterback hits while adding a frankly ridiculous eight defensive stops against the run.
2. J.J. Watt, 2013, WK10 – HST @ ARZ: +11.3
Pass Rush: +6.1, Run Defense: +5.0, Penalties: +0.2
Watt took his game to another level with a relentless display against the Cardinals. He ended the day with a sack, two hits and three hurries along with three defensive stops in the run game, yet those numbers don’t do justice to just how disruptive he was.
3. J.J. Watt, 2013, WK11 – OAK @ HST: +10.5
Pass Rush: +4.8, Run Defense: +5.0, Penalties: +0.2
Another week, another monster day for the once in a generation star that is J.J. Watt. He ended up with two sacks, two hits and three hurries along with four more defensive stops in an all action effort. The Raiders right side of their line didn’t know what to do.
4. Darnell Dockett, 2012 – WK1, SEA @ ARZ: +9.8
Pass Rush: +5.5, Run Defense: +4.5, Penalties: +0.3
Take one rookie offensive linemen who spent his college years on the defensive side of the ball. Throw in one crafty veteran who isn’t prepared to let an opportunity go to waste. Throw in a smattering of opening-day excitement and you’ve got Darnell Dockett destroying J.R. Sweezy. Dockett finished with 10 quarterback disruptions and six stops in the run game. Big day.
5. Darnell Dockett, 2007 – WK9, ARZ @ TB: +9.7
Pass Rush: +3.0, Run Defense: +6.4, Penalties: +0.3
Dockett does know how to turn it on, doesn’t he? He was all over the field against the Bucs, picking up two sacks, a hit, three hurries and four defensive stops in the run game. This was not a fun game for Jeremy Trueblood or Davin Joseph.
6. J.J. Watt, 2012 – WK1, MIA @ HST: +9.5
Pass Rush: +7.3, Run Defense: +2.0, Penalties: +0.2
The incredible 2012 of J.J. Watt started with a bang as he ran rampant over a Dolphins’ offensive line that didn’t know how to stop him. By the end of the day he’d batted three passes, added four quarterback disruptions, and caused backfield havoc. If you didn’t know about him before the season, you knew 60 minutes into it.
7. J.J. Watt, 2013 – WK7, HST @ KC: +9.2
Pass Rush: +4.5, Run Defense: +4.5, Penalties: +0.2
It may have been in a losing effort but Watt was wonderful again in picking up a sack, two hits, two more hurries and a batted pass rushing the passer. Yet as is often the case it was his ability to make big plays in the run game that earned him another big grade.
=8. J.J. Watt, 2012 – WK17, HST @ IND: +8.9
Pass Rush: +3.7, Run Defense: +5.0, Penalties: +0.2
Watt does enjoy playing against the Colts. It didn’t matter if he lined-up inside or outside the tackle, or if a guard, center of tackle picked him up. He just abused them. With four more defensive stops in the run game and five more QB disruptions he went into the postseason with plenty of momentum.
=8. J.J. Watt, 2012 – WK12, HST @ DET: +8.9
Pass Rush: +6.6, Run Defense: +3.0, Penalties: -0.7
Everyone may have ended up talking about the kick to the family jewels of Matt Schaub, but we at PFF were focusing more on some fantastic defensive line play. Watt ended with three sacks, a hit and five hurries as the Lions’ offensive interior crumbled.
10. J.J. Watt, 2012 – WK2, HST @ JAX: +8.7
Pass Rush: +5.5, Run Defense: +4.0, Penalties: -0.8
The scariest thing about this performance is that Watt did it all on just 42 snaps as the Texans’ dominance kept their defense off the field. He still found time to get a defensive run stop on 36.4 of the run snaps he faced, while picking up a pressure on the QB on 22.7% of plays. Dominant.
11. J.J. Watt, 2013 – WK4, SEA @ HST: +8.6
Pass Rush: +4.9, Run Defense: +4.5, Penalties: -0.8
The fantastic start to 2013 from Watt continued as he went to work on J.R. Sweezy. He ended the day with a sack, two hits and six hurries along with three more defensive stops in the run game. A brutally relentless display from a brutally relentless player.
12. Darnell Dockett, 2013 – WK3, ARZ @ NO: +8.5
Pass Rush: +5.8, Run Defense: +2.0, Penalties: +0.2
There’s something about a rookie starting his first game that just brings out the best in Dockett. He saw Tim Lelito lined up from him and didn’t waste any time going to work on him. Three sacks, a hit and four hurries highlighted his dominance as a pass rusher, while he added some good work in the run game to round things off.
13. Justin Smith, 2011 – WK6, SF @ DET: +8.3
Pass Rush: +3.0, Run Defense: +5.0, Penalties: +0.3
Season 2011 was, from a defensive point of view, the year of Justin Smith. And of that tremendous year one performance stood out more than any other — his dismantling of Detroit. Sure, the game will be remembered for that handshake, but it should be remembered for Smith deciding that the Lions weren’t going to run anywhere near his direction. Throw in nine quarterback disruptions and how can you not be impressed?
=14. Jarvis Green, 2008 – WK17, NE @ BUF: +7.8
Pass Rush: +3.6, Run Defense: +3.5, Penalties: +0.2
In his prime there were few defensive linemen like the Patriots’ Green. Excellent in run defense and destructive rushing the passer, Green would finish with seven quarterback disruptions and a further five defensive stops to close the 2008 regular season out.
=14. Darnell Dockett, 2008 – SB, ARZ vs PIT: +7.8
Pass Rush: +5.1, Run Defense: +3.5, Penalties: -0.8
Just how badly did Dockett want a Super Bowl ring? He brought his A-game right to the Steelers as he picked up three quarterback sacks and a couple of pressures. What’s more, he backed it up with some solid work in the run game that warranted more than it got.
=14. Justin Smith, 2009 – WK17, SF @ SL: +7.8
Pass Rush: +4.6, Run Defense: +3.0, Penalties: +0.2
Any game you walk away from with four sacks of the quarterback you know you’ve done well. Still, Smith wasn’t just about that one number as he added a further three defensive stops in the run game.
17. J.J. Watt, 2012 – WK15, IND @ HST: +7.7
Pass Rush: +4.0, Run Defense: +4.5, Penalties: -0.8
Watt was all over the field in the run game in this one. The former first-round pick achieved a defensive stop in the run game on 31.6% of run defense snaps, and still found time to make life hard for Andrew Luck.
18. Justin Smith, 2011 – CC, NYG @ SF: +7.6
Pass Rush: +5.8, Run Defense: +1.5, Penalties: +0.3
The game where it looked like Smith had something against both David Diehl and Eli Manning. He turned his 62 pass rushes into a brilliant one-sack, three-hit and eight-hurry day that very nearly propelled the 49ers to the Super Bowl. His team may have lost, but nobody could doubt Smith’s performance in that game.
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