Pass Rushing: Bringing Numbers

| April 14, 2014

passrush-numbersA week ago I looked at Team Blitzing, how often they blitzed and how successful they were when doing so. Some wanted information broken down by how many players engaged in the pass rush, which I felt deserved its own article.

On a typical pass play there are four players rushing the passer which happens 63% of pass plays. As you increase the number of pass rushers, the goal is to increase the likelihood of the quarterback getting sacked, or at least force the quarterback to either make a bad throw or throw the ball away. However, an increase in the number of players rushing the passer results, naturally, in a decrease of the number of players in coverage. If the quarterback does get a throw off, then, theoretically, he has a higher chance of success due to the fewer men in coverage.

Below is a table of how often each team brought a certain amount of rushers, sorted by how often they brought five:

Team 3 or less 4 5 6 7+
ARZ 4.5% 46.2% 31.8% 15.5% 2.0%
OAK 10.2% 46.1% 30.7% 10.5% 2.5%
GB 8.4% 55.1% 30.4% 5.1% 0.9%
HST 4.7% 48.7% 29.7% 13.4% 3.5%
MIA 5.7% 58.9% 28.4% 4.9% 2.0%
BUF 7.8% 59.7% 26.3% 5.2% 1.0%
WAS 6.7% 61.4% 26.1% 3.5% 2.3%
ATL 6.6% 59.7% 26.0% 6.3% 1.4%
CLV 7.5% 57.5% 25.9% 7.9% 1.2%
SD 11.0% 60.3% 25.3% 2.9% 0.6%
PHI 14.1% 53.4% 25.0% 6.1% 1.4%
IND 6.3% 61.1% 24.4% 7.5% 0.7%
TEN 6.9% 58.5% 24.0% 9.4% 1.2%
PIT 13.1% 57.7% 23.9% 4.3% 1.0%
NYG 4.2% 64.3% 22.8% 8.3% 0.3%
BLT 7.0% 63.4% 21.7% 7.2% 0.8%
CAR 2.8% 71.0% 21.4% 4.0% 0.7%
NE 9.1% 64.9% 19.8% 5.5% 0.7%
DEN 8.9% 65.8% 19.8% 5.1% 0.5%
NYJ 9.6% 62.5% 19.7% 5.9% 2.3%
SL 4.9% 66.2% 19.2% 8.9% 0.8%
CIN 3.0% 71.9% 18.8% 4.9% 1.3%
CHI 1.1% 68.5% 18.3% 11.3% 0.7%
KC 12.5% 64.3% 17.8% 4.9% 0.4%
SEA 8.8% 69.8% 17.6% 3.4% 0.3%
NO 10.7% 61.5% 17.4% 7.1% 3.3%
SF 12.3% 69.1% 16.1% 1.5% 0.9%
TB 7.2% 65.5% 14.0% 12.5% 0.8%
MIN 2.7% 74.9% 13.6% 7.6% 1.3%
JAX 7.7% 75.5% 13.4% 3.3% 0.2%
DAL 4.9% 74.4% 12.9% 7.4% 0.4%
DET 0.3% 81.0% 12.8% 4.9% 1.0%

To generalize, the teams near the top of the list are typically 3-4 teams and/or teams that had trouble getting a pass rush off the edge. The teams near the bottom of the list are typically 4-3 teams and/or teams that do a great job getting pressure with their main four so they don’t feel they need a fifth as often.

It’s good to know not just how often teams bring a certain number of rushers but also how successful they are. Below is how successful each team was at bringing four pass rushers.

Team Drop-backs Sacks Hits Hurries PRP Sack%
BUF 377 30 34 80 30.6 8.0%
SF 509 33 37 121 29.8 6.5%
SL 393 31 37 76 29.5 7.9%
CAR 481 33 44 100 29.3 6.9%
SEA 507 22 47 121 29.2 4.3%
HST 261 14 24 58 28.9 5.4%
KC 462 29 22 116 28.7 6.3%
DET 508 24 39 123 28.6 4.7%
NO 392 27 31 80 28.1 6.9%
MIA 381 23 29 81 27.7 6.0%
DEN 519 26 33 119 27.0 5.0%
TEN 354 19 21 80 26.8 5.4%
BLT 389 27 30 69 26.0 6.9%
CIN 500 21 39 104 25.7 4.2%
ARZ 321 17 25 62 25.6 5.3%
TB 398 19 27 81 25.1 4.8%
MIN 533 25 30 112 24.7 4.7%
IND 423 20 30 82 24.6 4.7%
CLV 385 28 24 64 24.4 7.3%
NYJ 403 30 24 67 24.4 7.4%
WAS 349 17 22 68 24.2 4.9%
NE 484 27 32 84 23.6 5.6%
GB 354 17 14 74 23.4 4.8%
PHI 413 20 24 78 23.4 4.8%
SD 422 21 28 75 23.3 5.0%
JAX 461 19 38 78 23.0 4.1%
OAK 281 9 25 49 23.0 3.2%
PIT 360 18 30 56 22.9 5.0%
DAL 503 24 28 93 22.8 4.8%
NYG 425 14 33 72 21.8 3.3%
CHI 381 14 18 68 20.6 3.7%
ATL 344 15 12 59 19.8 4.4%

This is very similar to the table from last week for how successful each team was when not blitzing because these are similar subsets of data. We again see teams with elite pass rushers near the top which is led by Buffalo. Possibly most interesting is the bottom of the list which includes a few teams that were once known for having great pass rushes who last year struggled to get much pressure.

In comparison, below is a table for how successful each team was when they brought five or more pass rushers.

Team Drop-backs Sacks Hits Hurries PRP Sack%
SEA 155 19 20 43 42.7 12.3%
CAR 177 27 20 43 41.9 15.3%
SF 137 16 18 35 40.7 11.7%
DEN 200 16 21 63 39.5 8.0%
TB 166 16 26 40 39.5 9.6%
WAS 181 18 23 48 39.4 9.9%
DET 117 9 20 29 39.1 7.7%
MIA 229 18 37 57 38.6 7.9%
KC 166 15 16 49 38.4 9.0%
BUF 205 24 18 54 38.0 11.7%
ARZ 343 29 55 77 37.3 8.5%
NE 194 21 22 45 36.7 10.8%
CIN 174 21 21 35 36.2 12.1%
NO 177 22 12 43 35.7 12.4%
MIN 160 12 29 31 35.6 7.5%
TEN 209 15 20 59 35.5 7.2%
BLT 182 12 26 44 35.4 6.6%
OAK 266 26 33 58 35.4 9.8%
IND 226 20 27 53 35.4 8.8%
HST 250 16 43 53 35.2 6.4%
DAL 140 10 15 37 35.0 7.1%
JAX 103 11 12 20 34.0 10.7%
SL 172 21 20 28 33.1 12.2%
CHI 169 14 16 38 32.2 8.3%
PIT 182 15 14 44 32.1 8.2%
NYG 208 14 26 44 32.0 6.7%
NYJ 180 8 21 45 31.9 4.4%
PHI 251 14 30 58 31.9 5.6%
GB 234 25 15 50 31.5 10.7%
ATL 194 17 16 42 31.2 8.8%
SD 201 14 19 44 30.5 7.0%
CLV 234 11 19 48 26.2 4.7%

In general, we see teams at the top of the previous table near the top of this table — good pass rushing teams will still be good with more pass rushers. One big exception is the Rams who own a significant drop from one leaderboard to the other. Each of their linebackers had a negative pass rush grade in 2013 while all of their defensive backs had a combined 10 pressures.

On the flip side is Washington who was much higher up the leaderboard with five or more pass rushers. This was in large part due to players like Perry Riley and Josh Wilson who were near the top of the leaderboards in terms of pressure at their respective positions.

Next is an entire league overview of how successful teams are dependent on the number of rushers.

Rushers Dropbacks Sacks Hits Hurries PRP Sack%
3 or less 1542 62 72 267 20.5 4.0%
4 13273 713 931 2650 25.6 5.4%
5 4540 407 483 1054 34.4 9.0%
6 1396 126 203 323 37.3 9.0%
7+ 246 13 44 80 43.1 5.3%

As you would expect, the more pass rushers there are, the higher the Pass Rushing Productivity of the team. By far the biggest jump is between four and five rushers where there is an increase of 8.8 in PRP, and sack percentage increases by 4.6%. There really isn’t much difference between bringing five or six rushers.

You’ll notice that the sack percentage decreases once you reach seven or more rushers. One reason this is likely true is just a sample size issue as there are seven or more rushers less than once per game. The other reason is often if there are seven or more rushers, it is often a goal line situation where there are a lot of blockers to handle the rushers. This is often a quicker pass giving the defense less time to get to the quarterback.

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, the more players that are rushing the passer, the fewer players remain to cover the receivers. Below is a table of how successful quarterbacks are when they get a pass off dependent on the number of rushers.

Rushers Att Comp Yards TD INT NFL Passer Rating
3 or less 1404 863 9106 73 47 83.7
4 11972 7560 91110 467 338 87.7
5 4008 2326 30255 141 101 83.1
6 1240 676 9019 108 26 98.1
7 or more 231 128 1528 46 10 97.4

It is interesting to note that a QB’s passer rating is lower at five rushers than four. This is because a quarterback is more likely to be sacked and pressured with five rushers. They are also less likely to be successful at throwing the ball so it might be worth it for teams to rush with five rushers more often. The more a team rushes five pass rushers, the more offenses will be used to this and adjust, so there should only be a small increase in how often teams rush five pass rushers to maximize their success.

We see big increases to how successful quarterbacks are when there are six or seven pass rushers. Part of this is again due to this frequently being in goal line situations. With seven or more rushers we see a low yards per attempt but a very high touchdown rate which follows along with goal line passes. While in general teams can bring five pass rushers more, they might now want to bring six or more pass rushers more frequently.

 

Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke

  • guesttabular

    The 5th guy Seattle sent was Bobby Wagner. He only was sent 11% of the time. Imagine him in an attacking 3-4 like in Pitt, Arizona, or Houston when they send their ilbs 30% of the time. He had 6 sacks on limited snaps rushing. I know QUinn would rather drop 7 and trust his nickel front 4 but man does it make it that much more effective when bobby is shooting an A or B gap.

  • WordsOfWisdom82

    The Dolphins need a new defensive coordinator. They have top notch pass rushing talent and should be near the top in most rushing statistics. Their interior pass rushers are top 5-10 in the NFL. Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan, and Vernon are top notch pass rushing talent at DE. Their LBs suck, but their top 6 guys on the D-line are as good as they come. It’s ridiculous that teams without even one good pass rusher are putting up comparable stats. The Dolphins should be playing a 3-4.

    • jordd

      and who plays NT in a 3-4?

    • jordd

      it’s pretty clear now Miami is built to play a 4-3 now