Unblocked Pressure: 2014's Top Teams
Last season one of our deep digs into our database unearthed the teams who were the most and least productive at generating unblocked pressure and a year on it’s time for us to dig you those numbers out for the 2014 regular season. For some teams it will be a matter of the more things change the more they stay the same, while for others it will be a matter of new faces, new schemes and a change in productivity. So without further ado let’s dig in to the numbers and see who generated the most free pressure this season.
Cardinals Remain on their Lofty Perch
In 2013, under Todd Bowles’ guidance, the Arizona Cardinals’ defense headed our list of the most productive defenses by unblocked pressure and they’ve now done it for the second year in a row, but by an even wider margin this year. While their volume increased, the efficiency of their unblocked pressure decreased, converting less than 10% of their unblocked pressure into sacks (14.6% a year ago) and less than 50% into hits or sacks having topped that mark and been second in the league a year ago. The Cardinals will go for three in a row this season, but with Bowles now in New York we can expect to see the Jets rising from their 10th-place rank to challenge for that top spot next year.
Lions and Ravens Rise up the Rankings
This year’s big gainers were the Lions and Ravens who tied for 26th a year ago with only 38 unblocked pressures but this season racked up 65 and 61, respectively, to finish inside the Top 5. The Ravens had two players inside the Top 20 with C.J. Mosley and Pernell McPhee racking up 24 combined, more than half of the team’s unblocked production a year ago from just two players. The Lions featured more of a group effort with two surprising names leading their unblocked production, Ndamukong Suh and Ezekiel Ansah, the team’s top two pass rushers, having nine unblocked pressures apiece.
New Scheme Leaves the Bucs in Free Fall
On the other end of the scale we have the Buccaneers who a year ago came in second behind the Cardinals with 73 unblocked pressures but a year later, with a new defensive scheme installed by Lovie Smith, their unblocked productivity was more than cut in half and the Bucs finished dead last with only 35 unblocked pressures all season long. They were joined by five other teams who fell from 2013’s Top 10 to 2014’s Bottom 10. Only three teams (Arizona, Houston and Philadelphia) finished inside the Top 10 for unblocked production in both 2013 and 2014.
Baltimore Makes the Most of its Gains
It would be one thing for the Ravens to see their unblocked production increase over last season, but they then took advantage of their volume by converting more than 60% of it into hits and sacks. Last season the Saints led the league with a knockdown percentage of 56.5% on unblocked pressure and most of the top defenses in this category had a smaller volume of unblocked pressure, so for the Ravens to lead the way in this regard with such a high number of unblocked pressures to their name is extremely impressive. The Ravens, in fact, registered more combined unblocked hits and sacks (37) then the last place Buccaneers recorded total unblocked pressures, a mark of the Buccaneers’ decline in pressure this season.
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