Pass Rushing: Bringing Numbers
A 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+|
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.
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.
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.
|3 or less||1542||62||72||267||20.5||4.0%|
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|
|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.
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