PFF midseason superlatives
Ben Stockwell lists which players are on track to break some unique PFF era records this season.
PFF midseason superlatives
As we enter the final half of the 2015 season, it seems apt to take a look at the players who have set the league alight in their own way and are making tracks for a variety of records. As ever here at PFF, we’re not looking for the simple yardage totals—this isn’t a countdown to 5,000 passing yards or 1,500 rushing yards. No, we’re going to look a little deeper at some of the more eye-catching, advanced, or simply obscure statistical records (at least in the PFF era) that players are threatening in the 2015 season.
Most likely to take the long shot
Most deep passing yards: Blake Bortles (Jaguars), 835 yards
Single-season Record: Eli Manning (Giants), 1,419 yards (2011)
No quarterback has thrown for more yards on deep passes through the first nine weeks of the season (since 2007) than Blake Bortles. His mark of 835 yards tops the 780 that Drew Brees racked up by the same stage of the 2008 season, and puts the Jags’ signal caller on track to challenge Eli Manning’s mark of 1,419 deep passing yards, which he set in 2011 en route to his second Super Bowl victory. Unsurprisingly, Bortles’ favorite targets, Allen Robinson (381) and Allen Hurns (285), lie second and fifth, respectively, in receiving yardage on deep passes.
Least likely to wait around
Quickest time to throw: Tom Brady (Patriots), 2.10 seconds
Single-season record: Peyton Manning (Broncos), 2.22 seconds (2014)
No quarterback is getting the ball out to his receivers this season in a more timely fashion than Tom Brady. Since we started recording time to throw in 2011, the quickest average time to throw through the first nine weeks of the season was Andy Dalton (2.22 seconds) in 2014, and by the end of the same season, Manning had set the single season mark, also at 2.22 seconds. A year later, covering for a patchwork and ever-changing offensive line, Brady is averaging a time to throw of 2.10 seconds. 76 percent of his passes are being released in 2.5 second or less, with only two other quarterbacks (Dalton and Philip Rivers) above 70 percent.
Most likely to play it safe
Most throwaways: Philip Rivers (Chargers), 21
Single-season record: Russell Wilson (Seahawks), 39 (2014)
One quarterback record that changed hands in 2014 that you didn’t hear about is the most throwaway passes in a single season. Back in 2011, Philip Rivers had 21 throwaways through Week 9, and finished the season with 38 (more than two a game) to set a new PFF era record. Last season, Russell Wilson passed that mark by one, and Philip Rivers is setting out to get his record back in 2015. Rivers has matched his midseason record with 21 this season, and with a depleted offensive line and receiving corps, he may well have the opportunity to be the first quarterback to 40 throwaways in a season.
Most likely to slip through the cracks
Highest elusive rating: Dion Lewis (Patriots), 165.2
Single-season Record: LeGarrette Blount (Buccaneers), 106.9 (2010)
Unfortunately, this is one exceptional attempt at a record that we won’t get to see carried through to completion, after Dion Lewis suffered a torn ACL against Washington on Sunday. Chasing down the mark set by his teammate in 2010, when Blount was a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Lewis had already broken 43 tackles this season on a mere 85 touches, while gaining in excess of 3 yards per carry after contact as a runner. This is the second season in a row a running back had topped 100 for elusive rating at the midway point in the season; Jonathan Stewart sat at 137.4 at the same stage a year ago. Second place this season belongs to Carlos Hyde, way back at 78.7, so barring a miraculous second half of the season, Blount’s record appears safe for another year.
Most likely to drop the ball
Highest drop percentage: Mike Evans (Buccanneers) 23.8 percent
Single-season record: Braylon Edwards (Browns) 23.7 percent (2008)
After dropping only four passes last season, Mike Evans has taken to dropping passes in bunches this year, putting the ball on the ground multiple times in a game for the third time on Sunday. His five drop showing against the Giants may be an unrepeatable extreme, but it does put him in the unwanted territory of having comparable drop stats to Braylon Edwards’ 2008 season. Edwards, too, was prone to dropping passes in bunches that season, with multiple drops on four occasions, dropping three passes each in Weeks 1, 7, and 12, seven years ago. Evans will hope to re-discover his rookie catching form and avoid this ignominious feat.
Most likely to keep his QB upright
Highest pass-blocking efficiency (OT): Andrew Whitworth (Bengals), 98.9
Single-season record: Andrew Whitworth (Bengals), 98.7 (2014)
The nature of the Bengals’ passing game may afford Whitworth some relief in terms of release time and dropback depths, but it’s hard to overlook the lack of production Whitworth surrenders to opposing pass rushers—and far from deteriorating with age, he’s getting better. After eight games, Whitworth has allowed only four pressures and kept a clean sheet in pass protection five times, including the last three games straight. Chasing down his single-season record from a year ago, when he only allowed nine pressures in the regular season, you wouldn’t argue against him reaching it.
Most likely to close the lanes
Highest run-stop percentage (ID): Calais Campbell (Cardinals), 17.6 percent
Single-season record: J.J. Watt (Texans), 16.0 percent (2012)
Any time you’re on track to beat a record set by J.J. Watt, you’ve had a pretty terrific first half of the season—that’s the situation for Calais Campbell. While the Cardinals’ defensive lineman hasn’t been at his best as a pass rusher, in run defense he has recorded the second most stops by an interior defender (24) in spite of tying for 33rd in run defense snaps. In the entire 2014 season, only 13 interior defenders topped the 24 stops that Campbell has racked up through the first half of the 2015 season.
Most likely to bring the heat
Highest pass-rushing productivity (3-4 OLBs): Pernell McPhee (Bears), 17.1
Single season-record: Aldon Smith (49ers), 16.1 (2011)
It’s not often that free agent signings deliver in full on their investment, but Pernell McPhee has put himself in a position to be an exception to that rule with his great start for the Chicago Bears. Only Tamba Hali (17.3, 2010) and Justin Houston (17.2, 2014) have had better pass-rushing productivity scores at the halfway point of a season. On 205 pass rushes, McPhee has racked up 45 pressures, tied with Von Miller for the most pressures, and also the most hits by a stand-up pass rusher to this point in the year. Aldon Smith’s PRP mark of 16.1 in 2011 (58 pressures on 290 rushes) is the end-of-season target for McPhee to set a new record.
Most likely to miss a tackle
Most missed tackles (linebackers): Kwon Alexander (Buccaneers), 17
Single-season record: Anthony Barr (Vikings)/Curtis Lofton (Saints)/DeMeco Ryans (Texans), 22 (2014/2007)
Rookie difficulties are to be expected when thrust into a starting role in your first season, but Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick is moving headlong towards an unwanted record, which is shared by one of the 2014 rookie class (Anthony Barr) at present. With half of the season to go, Alexander lies only five missed tackles behind the PFF era record of 22 for a linebacker—Ryan Clark (S) holds the record for all positions at 24, set last season. Alexander has missed multiple tackles in all but one game this season, and at his current pace, may break this single season record by Thanksgiving.
Most likely to break up the party
Most pass defenses (cornerbacks): Marcus Peters (Chiefs), 12
Single-season record: Darrelle Revis (Jets), 20 (2009)
It may only be a single statistical measure, but any time you are chasing a record set by Darrelle Revis during his incredible 2009 season, you’re doing something right—and as a rookie, no less. Only Antwon Blake of the Steelers and D.J. Hayden of the Raiders have been targeted more than the Chiefs’ first-round pick, who is doing his best to stand his ground in man coverage by breaking up passes. Peters leads the league with 12 pass defenses at the halfway stage of the season, sits second behind Blake in yards allowed at 577, and is tied with the Saints’ Delvin Breaux for the most touchdowns allowed, at seven. One thing’s for sure: there’s rarely a dull play when a quarterback is looking to target Marcus Peters.
Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.