Pass Rusher Profile: Michael Bennett
Here at PFF we always strive to add greater detail to how player performance is judged and in our Pass Rusher Profile series we are going to dig into our database to build a more detailed picture of some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
How do they win? On what down do they do their best work? Do they take full advantage of deeper drops by opposing quarterbacks? Which edge defenders are more productive with their hand down? All this detail and more is waiting to be dug into and we’ll be taking you on a tour of the best pass rushers in the league over the coming fortnight.
The Seahawks double-dipped on edge defenders in free agency ahead of the 2013 season bringing in Michael Bennett from the Buccaneers and Cliff Avril from the Lions. Bennett’s standing heading into free agency was the topic of much debate due to some erratic performances in his final year in Tampa Bay. The concerns over Bennett’s consistency helped the Seahawks’ get a bargain, adding one of the league’s best defensive linemen at a below market price. The Seahawks’ deployment of Bennett along their defensive line has yielded greater consistency in terms of performance. Rather than leaving Bennett to struggle on the edge against top quality tackles, the Seahawks have drawn him further inside and allowed him to make the most of his ability in closer confines.
The Seahawks get a lot from shifting Bennett inside in their sub-package with his production even going up when he is aligned over a tackle compared to outside of him. Even sliding all the way inside to a 3-tech alignment on occasion Bennett is still extremely productive. In fact, for an edge defender Bennett was more productive than the league average at every alignment that he took at least 50 snaps except the “standard” edge alignment just outside the offensive tackle.
Balanced Pass Rusher
Unsurprisingly for a player of Bennett’s physicality and ability he is not a one-trick pony in terms of how he beats opposing blockers, he isn’t simply beating defenders outside with speed or inside strength, he blends those moves together to present a formidable foe for opposing offensive linemen. Bennett brings an excellent balance with nearly as many pressures recorded inside opposing blockers (25) as outside (30), along with being one of only 20 edge rushers to record at least 10 pressures by bullrush.
Bennett’s conversion rate on his inside wins is impressive, turning more than a third of his pressures into hits or sacks, but his conversion on wins to the outside of opposing blockers highlights a facet of his play that held him back in the eyes of many observers this season.
Recording only six sacks will certainly keep you from receiving wide spread plaudits and it is in converting only a little more than a quarter of his pressures into hits or sacks that his low sack total is born out. The league average for edge defenders this season was close to 40% and Bennett’s mark put him alongside the likes of Robert Geathers, Chris Clemons and Aaron Lynch, a group of players who could rack up their share of pressure, but struggled to consistently close and finish when they turned the corner on opposing blockers.
What ultimately marks out Bennett’s play, however, regardless of how his sack total may diminish in his performance in the eyes of some, is his relentless consistency. We have seen it above by alignment but his work throughout a game reflects that as well. Not a player to go quietly through the opening stages of a contest and come alive late when pass rushing situations become more favorable if your team has the lead, Bennett recorded a Pass Rushing Productivity score above 10 in all four quarters this season.
The only quarter that Bennett didn’t record at least 20 pressures as a total through the season was the third where his snap count was by far the lowest over the course of the season. Bennett was one of only nine edge defenders to record a Pass Rushing Productivity score above 10 in all four quarters this season, a mark of his consistency and the rare nature of that consistency. It is often easy to get carried away with what a player can do, but Bennett is the living proof of why we should more often focus on what a player does consistently. When that is rushing the passer as well as Bennett does, it’s a truly special and rare thing.
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