Pressure Points

There is more than one way to bother the quarterback. Introducing a new statistic that goes beyond sacks to get a true gauge on how effective pass rushers can be

By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·
Mario Williams
Mario Williams leads the NFL with 4.5 sacks and has also been disruptive when he doesn’t get to the QB. Bill Wippert/AP

Last week we debuted our new all-encompassing pass-rush formula to give an accurate assessment of how much an individual and a team affects the pass rusher.

Our goal: to give credit where credit is due, and to deflect attention away from players who don’t deserve it.

Did the quarterback trip on his center’s foot and a two-hand touch result in a sack? Sorry, that sack shouldn’t be measured the same as when a stud end bull-rushes an elite left tackle and takes the quarterback down in 2.25 seconds.

And what about that defender who beat his man and caused the quarterback to run right into the undeserving arms of his teammate? The player who caused the sack is getting part of the credit here, unlike on the official stat sheet.

The formula was devised by me and Andy Benoit. We study every sack and holding penalty then tally up the results. Here’s a primer:

Sacks

Because all sacks are not created equally, we have divided them into three categories: solo, assisted and easy.

Solo sack (1.25 points): For the player who beats a blocker and gets the sack on his own. These are the real sack masters; they should be rewarded for their standout individual effort.

Assisted sack (.75 points): Given to the player who officially receives a sack but had help from a teammate in taking the quarterback down.

Easy sack (.75 points): An official sack that falls into one of the following categories: coverage sack (quarterback held the ball longer than 3.3 seconds because the coverage was so good); unblocked, usually because of a schemed blitz; offensive miscue, such as the quarterback tripping after getting stepped on by an offensive lineman; or garbage-time sack, which we have defined as a sack when the offense is trailing by more than two scores with four minutes or less remaining in the game.

Sack assist (.5 points): As described above, this is when a player aids in the sacking of a quarterback. The official sacker will get an “assisted” or “easy” sack (.75 points), and the disrupter gets a “sack assist.”

Disruptions

These three categories—drawn holdshurries and hits—are not official statistics, but they’re extremely important. A team can have zero sacks, but if they accumulate hurries or hits, they’re making life extremely uncomfortable for a quarterback. The hurries and hits were shared with us by our friends at ProFootballFocus.com. Our hits and hurries include plays wiped out by penalty.

Drawn hold (.75 points): The player who draws a holding penalty on a pass play. Only tabulated if the penalty results in a “no play.” If there is holding on a sack and the sack counts, there is no drawn hold—although that player could get a sack assist.

Hurry (.5 points): When the actions of a defender causes the quarterback to alter his throw or footwork. This is what defenses call “moving a quarterback off his spot.”

Hit (.5 points): Recorded after or as the quarterback releases a pass and goes to the ground as a result of contact with a defender.

Once the film is graded, we come up with Pressure Points. We feel this is a much better way to evaluate what kind of quarterback pressure a player or team is generating. We will divide the performances by edge rushers (ends and outside linebackers), interior rushers (tackles and inside linebackers) and team totals. We’ll start with the edge rushers:

edge-rushers-week2revised

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edge-rushers-totalrevised

Top edge rusher of Week 2: Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills.

You’d figure with 4.5 sacks, Williams would have run away with this award. But not according to our scoring. His 6.6 pressure points were within distance of Jared Allen (5.8) and Robert Quinn (5.3), who only had one sack each. Three of Williams’ sacks were put in the “easy” category because they were coverage sacks due to the fact that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton held onto the ball for 5.7, 4.32, and 6.58 seconds.

Unsung edge rusher of Week 2: Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders

Watching the Raiders this season, it’s no surprise that general manager Reggie McKenzie said this week he’s been working on an extension for Houston for a while. The fourth-year end had just 10 career sacks through 2012 and only has one official tally in 2013, but he’s been so productive that he’s our second-ranked rusher regardless of position through two weeks. Houston has an amazing 16 hurries to go along with one hit and two sack assists, including one against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound versatile end jumped outside the tight end and manhandled overmatched running back Jordan Todman to force Chad Henne into the arms of defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi for a sack.

Houston1

Houston2

Houston3

And here’s a look at the interior rushers:

interior-week2-revised

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interior-totalrevised

Top interior rusher of Week 2: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

After finishing tied for 31st among interior rushers with 1.5 pressure points in Week 1, the king came back to reclaim his throne with two solo sacks, a sack assist, three hurries and two hits against the Tennessee Titans, mostly against 10th overall pick Chance Warmack.

Unsung interior rusher of Week 2: Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins

Starks finished 10th in the opening week with 2.9 points but jumped to fifth with a third-place showing with a half sack and six hurries. Of course, everybody is feeding off the Indianapolis Colts’ line so we’ll see if Starks can keep it up. The Atlanta Falcons are up next, and they’ve had protection issues of their own.

And finally, here’s a look at how all 32 teams stack up:

team-week2-revised

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team-totalrevised

20 comments
BMall
BMall

One issue I see is that you grade on a quarterback keeping the ball for an extended amount of time (coverage sack) but you don't mention anything about a quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly.  For instance, it is almost impossible to get pressure on the QB when the ball is out in under 2 seconds. I don't have access to all the game tape and team stats you do but I would think that if you look at the sack/pressure/hold statistics between 3 step drops and 7 step drops, your numbers are going to show some interesting trends.

willf123
willf123

I like the idea but 1.25 for a solo does not make sense. An adjustment of 1 for a solo and .5 or less or something similar for an assist. For example, a coverage sack with 2 principals could be something like .5 for the primary, .25 for the assist, .25. for the coverage. Check out nflfootballpicker.blogspot.com for updated picks

LorenBrown
LorenBrown

The team stats don't add up.  For instance, Detroit: Willie Young has 6 HURRIES and Suh has 13, but as a team they only have 18? I noticed several other discrepencies for Detroit also.

GregABedard
GregABedard

Double and triple teams are part of Sack Assist. But not all of those are created equal. Has to be a case where the OL is doubling on purpose, not just the flow of the play.

For example, Vince Wilfork received at least Sack Assist from a double team vs. Jets.

Will consider the batted pass thing.

Thanks for the input.

Keats1821
Keats1821

I agree that the formula seems flawed, but it looks like a good start. I won't be putting too much stock into it if I see it from here on out because it isn't as in-depth as it should be. Double/triple teams should absolutely be taken into consideration. Tipped passes, however, should not. Tips generally happen at the line of scrimmage, in containment or when the player is adequately blocked from rushing. They do not often correlate with a pressure inducing rush. As such, it is a defensive statistic but not a pass rush/pressure statistic as they are introducing here.

BigT_33
BigT_33

I like this idea, but I agree with other posts that a bit more should be added. Double/triple teams should be considered (especially if 3 guys on one person results in a sack from the other side), also why not add tipped passes at the LOS? How many QBs get rattled because of batted balls? <<<Yes, I'm a JJ Watt fan, but there are plenty others that also get their hands up and cause disruptions. 

HankJacobs
HankJacobs

From the diagram, if the Nose Guard can get home on a stunt like that, the QB needs to get rid of the ball

John83
John83

Those of you that don't like to digging into stats can skip this post. 

Some observations and questions. First I would say this certainly seems to be a better that simply looking at sacks. The fan side of me says "This is stupid, my Chiefs are better than that". The engineering side of me realizes that facing the Jaguars should help any team. By the same token teams facing Denver in the first two weeks are going to look worse because of Ryan Clady's blocking and Peyton's quick release.

What really interests me is how this will stand up over time and what you really expect out of these stats. There a few things that lead me to suspect that you have sacrificed some accuracy for simplicity and fan understanding. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm not a hardcore stats geek I'm more of a Sales Engineering type so I can appreciate the value of good enough and a health debate that generates a lot of comments.

Getting back to my engineering side... 

1. Why are the values all some multiple of .25? Why not have some be .6 and 1.3? How did you decided that a Solo sack 2-1/2 times as valuable as a drawn hold? When I see that all the numbers for different stats are that uniform it starts to look like someone said "that looks about right".

2. Any good statistical model includes some back testing against against a lot of old data. I assume someone at SI did some of that. How did that look?

3. Any good research stand up to peer review. Some computer security conferences have hacker events where they challenge hackers to come in and try to break into their systems. It tends to expose more flaws and make us all safer. Why not provide access to a lot of that data from past season and let the hard core stat geeks give some feedback?

4. Why is all of this data posted as a pictures? You have data tables all over this site that anyone can copy and paste into a spreadsheet. Are you worried that this data won't stand up to scrutiny? One of my favorite activities is putting on my rose colored glasses and looking at a bunch of stats and figuring out why they show my Chiefs are still going to emerge triumphant. Is the data for the rushers outside of the top 10 available somewhere else?

In conclusion the engineering side of me want's to know how this compares to the data on a site like Football Outsiders. 

The fan side of says this is cool. When can I see the impact of my Chiefs' mugging of the Eagles offense tonight. Is it going to be Thursday every week or can I see how Justin Houston is looking tomorrow morning?


A final  unrelated public service announcement. The last major hacking conference ended on August first so a lot of security flaws were exposed then. That means a lot of software was patched in August. If you aren't sure if you're software's up to date it's past time to take a look at it. For the occasional geeks that includes some of the more obscure software like WinSCP and Putty that might not have an option for auto update.


 


EasyGoer
EasyGoer

Every time I click on the Jim Trotter story about Tyrann Mathieu, I end up here. Fix this $#%& thing!

picklejuice
picklejuice

I think you should add in points for batting down/tipping a pass. And also give points for tackling a running back for a loss which is just as detrimental as tackling the QB for a loss.

thygeson
thygeson

I think double and triple teams should somehow be figured into a player's pass rushing effectiveness.  If a player is good enough to be double or triple teamed for a whole game that should count for something because it allows other players to make plays maybe even counting as an some sort of assist if it frees up someone to make a play in the backfield.  Additionally if a player beats a double team for a sack or hurry it should count for more than beating a single blocker.  Maybe call them "hard sacks" to balance out the "easy sacks."   I like this idea of trying something new statistically it is interesting. 

Mike_V_Ryan
Mike_V_Ryan

Can someone explain how a player can have half a solo sack (like Mario Williams is listed as having in week 2)? It seems like that should fall under the assisted sack category. 

I generally like this idea of scoring pass rushers as they have above, but pass deflections is a big omission in the disruptions category. Otherwise, it's a pretty interesting concept.

CharlesTerrito
CharlesTerrito

Just leave it the way it's always been! Pretty soon you'll be grading hair length and how it's parted or not parted? ! So dumb, leave it be.

Doc__Love
Doc__Love

Great stat. All that's left is showing which teams allow the most pressure points each week/total.


enderzgame
enderzgame

The logical thing would be to test this against prior seasons to see if past greats performed well according to the formula. You also may be double counting when you score entire teams. For a given sack, the team should not get more than 1.25 points even if multiple players had an "assist".

Mike26
Mike26

So tipping a pass at the line of scrimmage has no effect on a QB?

Mike_V_Ryan
Mike_V_Ryan

Also, I have a hard time reconciling hurries and hits being equal to sack assists (both worth .5 points). A sack assist is tangible - there are actual yards lost, while hurries and hits provide less tangible benefits for a defense.

mburke42
mburke42

@CharlesTerrito why dont we go back to the way it was waaay before, with no sacks! just tackles! And hey just leave Batting average alone! What is this OBP and OPS!? Who needs those?!

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