Welcome to the Pro Football Focus Page of Fame for rush linebackers, 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 at or over a +8.0 grade for this position will get the recognition it deserves!
(Note: Because the role of players like Von Miller and Kamerion Wimbley most closely resembles that of a 3-4 outside linebacker they have been put into this category so as not to distort grades elsewhere while having their grades renormalized in the process. Their grades will not be identical to what is on the site as a result.)
1. Von Miller, 2013 – WK12, DEN @ NE: +11.7
Pass Rush: +7.3, Coverage: -0.2, Run Defense: +4.4, Penalties: +0.2
Miller does enjoy playing against the Patriots doesn’t he? It wasn’t necessarily the quantity of pressure he got (two sacks, two hits and two hurries) as opposed to the speed of it as he put Nate Solder to the sword with some vicious speed of the edge. Throw in a fumble he caused and another he returned for a touchdown and Miller was on fire on Sunday Night Football.
2. Von Miller, 2012 – WK5, DEN @ NE: +11.4
Pass Rush: +5.1, Coverage: -0.9, Run Defense: +7.1, Penalties: +0.1
Miller only featured on 65 of the 97 Broncos defensive snaps. It seemed like a lot more because of his all action display. His two sacks and three hurries weren’t season bests, but his work in the run game was. He finished with five defensive stops and three of those were tackles for a loss. A monumental effort.
3. DeMarcus Ware, 2010 – WK2, CHI @ DAL: +11.1
Pass Rush: +9.5, Coverage: +1.1, Run Defense: +0.3, Penalties: +0.2
There are days where Ware is simply unstoppable. The Bears found that out the hard way and the Cowboys capitalized by leaving him on the field for all but two of their defensive snaps. He had a lot of joy against anyone the Bears tried to block him with ending the day with two hits and five hurries as well as a sack and another hurry nullified by penalty. Good enough for the highest grade of any of his peers in 2010.
4. Aldon Smith, 2012 – WK11, CHI @ SF: +10.0
Pass Rush: +10.0, Coverage: 0.0, Run Defense: -0.2, Penalties: +0.2
If you’re going to have a big day why not do it with the eyes of the nation on you? Smith was already having a nice season and then let rip against an overmatched set of Bears tackles. As they hung their heads, he held his high with six sacks and two hits in a superb return.
5. Clay Matthews, 2010 – WK1, GB @ PHI: +9.7
Pass Rush: +6.1, Coverage: +1.6, Run Defense: +1.8, Penalties: +0.2
After a fine rookie year Matthews was intent on showing that was just the tip of the iceberg. And so he did in Week 1 of the 2010 season, destroying the Eagles with his relentless motor. It was a display that few edge rushers are capable of, showing his versatility with fine work against the run and in coverage. Of course it was his pass rushing, picking up 10 quarterback disruptions and three sacks, that stole the show.
=6. Justin Houston, 2013 – WK11, KC @ DEN: +9.4
Pass Rush: +2.3, Coverage: +0.2, Run Defense: +6.6, Penalties: +0.3
It’s rare that an edge rusher has quite the impact that Houston has in the run game. But some impact he had as he finished the game with a remarkable eight defensive stops, while also adding three hurries and two batted passes. His best performance to date.
=6. Tamba Hali, 2009 – WK13, DEN @ KC: +9.4
Pass Rush: +7.5, Coverage: +0.6, Run Defense: +1.0, Penalties: +0.3
Before his 2010 breakout year came some breakout performances in 2009. None more so than his exhibition of excellence against the Broncos. The fearsome Hali was all about the pass rush here and delivered with seven quarterback disruptions on just 23 pass rushes. Yikes.
8. Kamerion Wimbley, 2010 – WK10, SD @ OAK: +9.2
Pass Rush: +10.9, Coverage: -1.2, Run Defense: -0.7, Penalties: +0.1
It was Thursday Night Football and the Raiders’ Wimbley brought his A-game. Brandyn Dombrowski did not. In one of those beat downs that live long in the memory, Wimbley destroyed the Charger tackle showing no mercy. By the end of the game he’d picked up four sacks, three hits and seven hurries on just 35 pass rushes. Incredible.
9. Von Miller, 2012 – WK11, SD @ DEN: +9.1
Pass Rush: +7.7, Coverage: 0.0, Run Defense: +1.2, Penalties: +0.1
This was Miller at his pass-rushing best. He converted 37 pass-rushing snaps into three sacks and seven hurries in a dominant display. The rest of his game was good enough, but this was all about his ability to make life uncomfortable for the quarterback.
10. Lamarr Woodley, 2009 – WK16, BLT @ PIT: +9.0
Pass Rush: +5.4, Coverage: +0.7, Run Defense: +3.6, Penalties: -0.7
In 2009, Woodley was at the top of his game and he turned that into the highest grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker. His finest moment came against the Ravens in Week 16 where he entered do-it-all mode. Two sacks, two hits, and two hurries with another four defensive stops to his name left the Ravens reeling.
11. Tamba Hali, 2010 – WK3, SF @ KC: +8.8
Pass Rush: +8.7, Coverage: +0.1, Run Defense: -0.2, Penalties: +0.2
Hali would lead all outside linebackers with his 2010 grade for the season, his effort against the 49ers being as good as it got. Anthony Davis was three games into his NFL career at this stage and Hali made him pay for that inexperience. 37 pass rushes were turned into three sacks, a hit, and 10 hurries. Who needs to make tackles when you can do that?
12. Von Miller, 2012 – WK10, DEN @ CAR: +8.7
Pass Rush: +5.2, Coverage: -0.9, Run Defense: +4.8, Penalties: -0.4
A big day for the Bronco, defeating whatever the Panthers tried to do. When they ran the ball he held his edge, standing up blockers and picking up three defensive stops. And on the 38 occasions they dropped back to pass when he was on the field he notched a sack, a hit, and five hurries. Nice.
13. DeMarcus Ware, 2009 – WK5, DAL @ KC: +8.3
Pass Rush: +5.7, Coverage: +0.1, Run Defense: +3.2, Penalties: -0.7
Even though he got flagged for a penalty, there wasn’t much not to like about this performance. Ware would turn his pass-rushing opportunities into two sacks, two hits, and five hurries as Branden Albert in particular struggled with him. Throw in three defensive stops in the run game and you have a good day all around.
14. Justin Houston, 2013 – WK3, KC @ PHI: +8.2
Pass Rush: +7.2, Coverage: 0.0, Run Defense: +0.7, Penalties: +0.3
Lane Johnson hardly knew what hit him. Houston decided that Thursday Night Football was the place for him to show himself as one of the top edge rushers in the league and he responded with three sacks, a hit and three hurries (along with two batted passes). A dominant defensive display.
15. Brian Orakpo, 2011 – WK4, WAS @ SL: +8.1
Pass Rush: +8.3, Coverage: -1.3, Run Defense: +1.3, Penalties: +0.3
Orakpo would be even higher up if the Redskins hadn’t been silly enough to ask him to drop into coverage. As it is, his pass rushing earned him this spot with the three sacks and six hurries he notched. Of course a couple more defensive stops didn’t hurt in what was, to that point, the best performance in his career.
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