Pressure Points

September 19, 2013 by Greg A. Bedard
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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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.

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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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