Pass Rusher Profile: Jurrell Casey
The league-wide switch to the 3-4 defense has brought with it a shift in some of the league’s most destructive interior defenders being described as defensive ends rather than defensive tackles. Back in 2007 only 27 3-4 defensive ends played more than 300 snaps, this past season 43 3-4 DEs did so.
In spite of (and to some extent because of) the proliferation of the 3-4 defense, some quality players at the position get overlooked and perhaps none more so than Jurrell Casey.
A defensive tackle when he entered the league in 2011 Casey has in his four year career already played as a 1-tech, a 3-tech and a 3-4 defensive end but in spite of his proven quality and versatility still doesn’t seem to get the respect and kudos his performances deserve.
The reality of what Casey and many other interior defenders are as players is somewhat masked by the desire to pigeon hole players with the name of a position. Is Casey the 3-4 defensive end very different to Casey the defensive tackle from 2013?
In the reality that is his pre-snap alignment he probably isn’t massively different. 58% of Casey’s pass rushes last season came in sub-packages with five or more defensive backs on the field, with 34 of his 51 pressures coming on those 282 pass rushes. Consequently Casey spent more time rushing the passer from his familiar 3-tech alignment than any other and it was, unsurprisingly, his most productive alignment as well.
Much like with Calais Campbell, the designation of 3-4 defensive end skews our understanding of the role that many 3-4 defensive ends play in the modern NFL. With so many three-receiver sets, defenses are in their nickel and dime packages so often that many 3-4 defensive ends are spending as much time as a 3-tech defensive tackle as they are as a “true” 3-4 defensive end.
The versatility of Casey’s alignment between base and sub-packages sees him going up against both tackles and guards and he has proven to be adept at winning against either. An even split between the two position highlights why he has been such a success moving along the line of scrimmage so many times already in his short career.
Collecting 19 pressures against both tackles and guards it is perhaps his conversion rate against tackles that stands out more than any other statistic here. His eight hits against tackles helped him convert more than half of his 19 pressures into a knockdown on the quarterback, showing his ability to close from the edge of the line.
What may hold Casey back in a number of ways from getting the kudos he deserves is the overall success of the team he plays for. Not only does it hold him back in that the media doesn’t tend to focus on defensive players with only two wins, but the team’s success also hinders his ability to generate favorable pass rushing situations. This bears out in Casey’s pass rushing opportunities both by down (above) and by quarter (below).
Casey had fewer pass rushes on 3rd-and-extra-long than on 3rd-and-long or 3rd-and-intermediate and he only rushed the passer on 103 occasions in the fourth quarter. Casey’s production and performances across a variety of schemes are worthy of him gaining more recognition than he currently receives. However the NFL isn’t always a meritocracy and if Casey is to gain wider acclaim he either needs to raise his game another level or he needs the team around him to improve. If that should happen then you will start to see Casey gain the wider acclaim he deserves.
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