Pass Rushing Productivity: 3rd & 4th Down

Khaled Elsayed tells you which defender has the most sacks on third and fourth down, and who is the most productive pass rusher.

| 4 years ago

Pass Rushing Productivity: 3rd & 4th Down

Never let it be said that if you give us a good topic to write about we won’t have at it.

This week we were told to inform the masses who was picking up the most pressure on third down. So that’s what I was tasked with. Find out the most productive pass rushers in those most crucial of situations.

I expanded the look a little, so I have included fourth-down attempts as well, and the results, as you can imagine, are pretty interesting.

The Sack Specialists

Where better to start than telling you which players have the most sacks. It’s often seen, outside of interceptions, as the most definitive play a defender can make, and happening on third or fourth down means you’re nearly guaranteed to have killed a drive.

So who leads the way in this regard? Step forward Von Miller who has 11 sacks on third or fourth down. That’s three more than Cameron Wake in second, and Bruce Irvin in third. Perhaps the most impressive name on the list however is that of J.J. Watt, considering he’s normally rushing from the interior of the line in these obvious passing situations. Kudos.

Here’s the Top 10.

1Von MillerDEN11
2Cameron WakeMIA8
3Bruce IrvinSEA7
4J.J. WattHST6
4Mario WilliamsBUF6
6Jason BabinJAX5
6Paul KrugerBLT5
6Aldon SmithSF5
6Julius PeppersCHI5


The Pressure Players

Still, if there’s one thing we’ll try and condition you to doing it’s to look beyond sacks. They account for only a small percentage of a player’s total snaps in the year, and so it’s worth looking at the total pressure he generates. Sure, it doesn’t guarantee a negative play but take a guy like Peyton Manning. We can all agree he’s pretty good right? Well, when you don’t get pressure on him he completes 71.7% of his passes and has a 29:6 touchdown to interception ratio. When you do get pressure he completes 52.4% of passes and has a 1:4 TD to INT ratio.

Pressure is hugely significant and it’s why Cameron Wake deserves credit for overtaking Miller with his 30 combined quarterback disruptions. Miller is still up in second, but the name in third will surprise a few: Derrick Morgan. He’s looked over the severe injury he suffered as a rookie and has really impressed.

Still, the Top 10 is almost as notable for who it doesn’t include as opposed to who it does. To some he is the leading defensive player of the year candidate, but Aldon Smith is all the way down in 18th spot behind guys like Greg Hardy, Juqua Parker and Paul Kruger, despite having more opportunities to rush the passer.

Here’s the Top 10.

1Cameron WakeMIA30
2Von MillerDEN28
3Derrick MorganTEN24
4Jason BabinJAX23
4Michael BennettTB23
6Bruce IrvinSEA21
6Chris LongSL21
6Charles JohnsonCAR21
9Brian RobisonMIN20
10J.J. WattHST19
10Paul KrugerBLT19
10Elvis DumervilDEN19
10John AbrahamATL19



But even just looking at pressure numbers won’t give you an idea of who the most productive guys are. No, you need to be able to work out how much pressure they got relative to how many times they rushed the passer. That’s where our Pass Rushing Productivity formula comes in handy.

With this little beauty of a formula I can categorically hand the victory to Cameron Wake in terms of who the most productive pass rusher in the league on third and fourth downs is after 14 weeks of NFL action. Kudos to Wake who edges out Miller, while Lamarr Woodley is up in third. You see what the Steelers are missing with his injuries keeping him off the field — Woodley has rushed the passer just 59 times on third down.

Here’s the Top 10.

RankNameTeamPass RushesToralPressurePRP
1Cameron WakeMIA1203020.42
2Von MillerDEN1202819.79
3Lamarr WoodleyPIT591419.49
4Jason BabinJAX962319.27
5Derrick MorganTEN992419.19
6Paul KrugerBLT881917.61
7Bruce IrvinSEA1082116.20
8Michael BennettTB1172315.38
9John AbrahamATL1001915.25
10Kamerion WimbleyTEN931815.05

Of course, numbers are never the be all and end all. But if you’re looking for a matter of fact way of assessing a guys’ impact on third and fourth down, then look no further.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • LightsOut85

    Can we get these in the signature-stats sections :D? It’d be awesome to throw it all in an excel document & compare 1st&2nd to 3rd&4th…all that jazz.

    • LightsOut85

      no answer :/

  • Christopher R Mattix

    I think we need to give Bruce Irvin some love here. He is in the top-7 of every list here, and is the ONLY Rookie on the list. Goodness. He’s not a “monster” yet, but this likely bodes very well for his future development. According to Pete Carroll he is doing better on 1rst and 2nd downs, spelling Chris Clemons occasionally, who’s spot he will eventually take over. Irvin is a little “fluky” though, runs hot and cold, mainly at home is hot and away is cold. But congradulations to Bruce! The best DE of the Rookies so far. Is he worthy of DRoY? I say 3rd after Wagner (obvious winner so far) and maybe L. David or GB’s CB Casey H.

  • stevedave

    I am surprised that Geno Atkins didn’t make any of the lists.

    • sean

      Hard to put a DT on this list with guys like Babin who don’t defend the run and play wide. That said, Geno is a beast.

  • LightsOut85

    I wonder if the efficiency numbers would change much if you included 1st & 2nd downs that were say… more than 10 yards (to go). Which could sometimes be viewed as “ears pinned back pass-rushing downs”, as 3rd or 4th down would be. No reading a play, just seeing who’s the best pass-rusher.

  • LightsOut85

    last thought, lol – Looking at this list & the collective PRP list, it really seems to be the year of the left-side rusher. I wonder how quickly teams will put more of a premium on a competent pass-protecting RT

  • broncoBLN

    sorry…but what does the stat say….the 49ers for example mostly rush 3 or 4 guys on 3rd/4th down….and u say its a. smiths fault that he don’t get the pressure like the always blitzing von miller….18th in the league on a 3 man rush is pretty good to me!

  • Ron Morisseau

    If Wake had some help on the other side his numbers would be even better