Three Years of Pass Rushing Productivity: Edge Rushers

| 5 years ago

Three Years of Pass Rushing Productivity: Edge Rushers

It’s creeping up on us, but not quickly enough to satisfy us at Pro Football Focus. So to take our minds off how long until the new football season finally arrives we’re going to spend a couple of weeks looking back at some of our historical statistics. To be more precise, that means laying out three years worth of Signature Stats data, and we’re going to start by sifting out the most productive pass rushers.

For those not familiar with our Pass Rushing Productivity stat it’s pretty simple. It’s not just about sacks, and it’s not just about total pressure numbers. No, it adds a degree of context by looking at just how much a player rushes the passer while valuing hits and hurries at 75% of sacks. While we recommend our grading for the best look (our grades add a further degree of context by taking into account how a player picks up pressure), for those just interested in raw numbers, it doesn’t get much better than this.  

With that explanation out of the way let’s get to looking at the most productive edge rushers. That’s defenders who play as 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends along with 4-3 outside linebackers like Kamerion Wimbley who (as he did when with the Raiders) spend a large portion of their play at end in their team’s nickel packages. So let’s get to breaking down the 55 men who have rushed the passer at least 750 times in the regular season since 2009.


The Iron Men

Before looking at the most productive, let’s take a glance towards those players with the kinds of motor that means they can keep going on every play. It won’t come as a surprise to many that Jared Allen has rushed the passer more than any other defender over the last three years. Indeed, Allen has over 158 more attempts to get at the quarterback than the man in second place, Julius Peppers.

It’s also not a surprise to see big names like Terrell Suggs and DeMarcus Ware in the Top 5, but go a little further down and a less-expected name shows up: Andre Carter is ninth among edge rushers. Considering he lost his starting spot in Washington in 2010 and missed part of 2011 with a quad injury, it’s all the more remarkable. Elsewhere, Jason Pierre-Paul creeps into the Top 50 (47th), making him the only defensive end from the 2010 draft class to have played enough snaps to qualify for the study. It’s hard to see the Giants using him less, so expect him to be a feature in the Top 10 next year (and many years following, presuming he’s healthy).


RankNameCurrent TeamPass Rush Snaps
1Jared AllenMIN1638
2Julius PeppersCHI1480
3Will SmithNO1467
4Terrell SuggsBLT1452
5DeMarcus WareDAL1437
6Chris LongSL1429
7Tamba HaliKC1387
8Trent ColePHI1329
9Andre CarterFA1310
10Ray EdwardsATL1293



Total Pressure

Things get a little more interesting when you look at the total combined number of sacks, hits, and hurries. You would expect Jared Allen to lead the way given he’s rushed the passer significantly more than any other edge rusher. But you’d be wrong as the sack specialist lands down in fourth with 195 combined sacks, hits and hurries. Instead it is DeMarcus Ware narrowly leading the way from Tamba Hali with Trent Cole in third spot. With Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at 6th and 10th respectively, the Colts are the only team with two players in the top 10.


RankNameCurrent TeamTotal Pressure
1DeMarcus WareDAL227
2Tamba HaliKC216
3Trent ColePHI206
4Jared AllenMIN195
4Chris LongSL195
6Dwight FreeneyIND189
7Julius PeppersCHI180
8Cameron WakeMIA178
9Clay MatthewsGB172
10Robert MathisIND170



The Most Productive

Once again, total pressure numbers don’t tell the whole story. While Ware has more pressure than any other player since 2009, he doesn’t lead the way in terms of our Pass Rushing Productivity rating. That honor belongs to Cameron Wake, with the PRP stat showing exactly why the Dolphins were right to hand the former CFL star big money. Wake had a sizeable lead from Ware in second, who was marginally better than former first round pick Jason Babin. The Eagle is joined in the top 10 by teammate Trent Cole, with the duo one of two sets of edge rushers from the same team to make the top 10 (the other being the Steelers combo of Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison).


RankNameTeamPass Rush SnapsTotal PressurePRP
1 Cameron WakeMIA106217813.32
2 DeMarcus WareDAL143722712.65
3 Jason BabinPHI93214512.61
4 Tamba HaliKC138721612.35
5 Lamarr WoodleyPIT96714812.31
6 James HarrisonPIT99215312.3
7 Trent ColePHI132920612.28
8 John AbrahamATL109416612.04
9 Dwight FreeneyIND127318911.74
10 Charles JohnsonCAR108215311.21
11 Clay MatthewsGB122117211.14
12 Chris ClemonsSEA107014710.93
13 Chris LongSL142919510.69
14 Robert MathisIND127917010.56
15 Brian OrakpoWAS111114410.37
16 Mario WilliamsBUF108913810.1
17 Ray EdwardsATL129316510
18 Kamerion WimbleyTEN10821339.75
19 Jared AllenMIN16381959.68
20 Julius PeppersCHI14801809.63


At the other end of the spectrum, some players haven’t been quite so impressive. While one of the best defenders when it comes to setting the edge, there’s an argument that Jarret Johnson wasn’t always put in the best position to succeed by the Ravens as he scored the lowest mark of any edge rusher. Chargers fans shouldn’t expect him to add a great deal to their pass rush, and it won’t surprise if he rarely sees the field on third down. Others to fare badly include the Bengals duo of Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson, with the latter being one of the more frustrating players in the league given how good he can look on plays, and how invisible he often is.


RankNameTeamPass Rush SnapsTotal PressurePRP
1 Jarret JohnsonSD900575.06
2 Robert GeathersCIN1147755.1
3 Tyler BraytonIND925635.3
4 Michael D. JohnsonCIN1045745.6
5 Dave BallTEN796575.72
6 Joey PorterFA832605.86
7 Calvin PaceNYJ976736.05
8 Robert AyersDEN861716.33
9 Chris KelsayBUF1103906.44
10 William HayesSL882786.89


Ultimately, numbers can’t tell you everything. They don’t tell you who was blocking a player, or even if that player was being blocked. They don’t tell you how quickly pressure came or if a quarterback put his head down and ran into a sack. However, they do give you an indication of those players who are consistently making life harder for quarterbacks. By looking at Pass Rushing Productivity over three years you don’t just get those one-year flash-in-the-pan types never to be heard of again once teams start scheming for them.


Stay tuned as tomorrow we turn our attention to the big guys inside: defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends.



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  • uppercut

    This may be too involved a question (for an article comment),but: Re. the last statement that says the PRP doesn’t say everything, implying your grades take those things into account, have there been players who are consistently under or over “evaluated” by PRP? That is, they’re ranked higher in PRP than rush-grade b/c they had favorable pressure-getting scenarios, or the opposite where they faced “tough” scenarios & rank lower in PRP but those circumstances are reflected in their grade. Just an example from 2011 (reg season, 25+% snaps), Jason Pierre-Paul ranks 12th in rush-grade but only 31st in PRP for 4-3 DE, and I can’t imagine his batted passes account for all of that.