This season at The MMQB, we wanted to look at measuring the pass rush differently. And NFL coach will tell you sacks, no matter whether they’re used defensively or against an offense, are an extremely poor measure of pass rush. For individuals, a player can often get sacks because of great coverage in the secondary, or because another player forced the quarterback to the sacker. And, really, the name of the game is affecting the quarterback: making him uncomfortable by forcing him to throw either from off his spot, or before he’s ready to pass. So we decided, with the help of our friends at ProFootballFocus.com, to compile an all-encompassing pressure statistic that evaluated the different sacks, awarded sack assists, and gave credit for drawn holds, hurries and hits. So Pressure Points was born, and to truly measure the effectiveness of individual and team pass rushers, we divided them by snaps.
Now that season has finished, we’re ready to crown the champions.
The MMQB Edge Rusher of 2013
Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
This was a little bit of an upset because, for much of the season, Quinn trailed Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil despite ultimately outsacking him 19 to 9.5. The reason? Dumervil accumulated a ton of pressures and rushed the passer 183 fewer times than Quinn. But Quinn finished with a flourish, while the Ravens’ pass rush fell off in the final three games against the excellent offensive lines of the Lions, Patriots and Bengals.
Quinn may have lost the sack race to Robert Mathis of the Colts (19.5), but there’s little question Quinn was the more productive pass rusher overall. Quinn drew one more hold, had 14 more hurries and nine more QB hits.
“What can you say about Rob?” coach Jeff Fisher said after Quinn was carried off the field by his teammates after he set the franchise record of 18 sacks against Tampa Bay. “Very impressive when you take into consideration the history of the organization—and the defensive linemen, the pass rushers, and the Fearsome Foursome, all of that stuff. For him to set the single-season franchise sack record was pretty impressive.”
The MMQB Unsung Edge Rusher of 2013
Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore Ravens
You’ll have to go a ways down the list of sack leaders, all the way past teammate Terrell Suggs (10 sacks), to find Dumervil’s name tied for 25th with 9.5. And he’s only 12th if you just look at total Pressure Points.
But because Dumervil was in his first season at outside linebacker for Baltimore, after spending most of his career at end with the Broncos, and had to drop into pass coverage at times, he rushed the passer on a part-time basis with 183 fewer snaps than Quinn. But no one besides Quinn did more with his snaps than Dumervil with 67 total disruptions. Not bad for a guy who was a late throw-in after his renegotiated contract with the Broncos was faxed late, causing him to become a free agent.
“Definitely the addition of a guy like Dumervil who has replaced the edge rushers that they’ve had there, whether it be [Paul] Kruger or Jarret Johnson from years past, he’s certainly given them another good player to play opposite of Suggs,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “[Courtney] Upshaw and [Pernell] McPhee have done a good job for them in there too. But I’d say that adding Dumervil to that group that they had, that’s been a big addition for them.”
The MMQB Interior Rusher of 2013
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
This has been in the bag for nearly the entire season, although Buccaneers’ tackle Gerald McCoy made a valiant late-season run and might have caught Watt if Tampa’s since-fired staff put him in a better position earlier in the season.
What can you say about Watt? Despite being on a team that lost its last 14 games, he never stopped being dominant. No player, regardless of position, hit the quarterback more (37), and only Greg Hardy of Carolina caused more sacks for other teammates (5.5 sack assists). He won’t get the award because of the team that he played on, but Watt was the best defensive player in the NFL again this season.
“J.J.’s probably the top defensive lineman in the league, I think everybody can see that from the way he plays,” Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said last month. “I don’t know about all the numbers. He’s really hit the quarterback a lot of times. Hasn’t had as many sacks, but he’s got a lot of hits on the quarterback. He’s still getting a lot of tackles for loss. He knocked down a ball again last game. He’s consistently a great player every game.”
The MMQB Unsung Interior Rusher of 2013
Malik Jackson, Denver Broncos
When Jackson first surfaced in our rankings in Week 4, when he was the unsung rusher, I had no idea who he was or what he had done. And, honestly, I figured he would quickly fade from the rankings as the games and snaps accumulated. But there he stayed for the entire season, finishing tied for third with Bills tackle Kyle Williams despite posting just six total sacks. But with 45 additional pressures in 385 snaps as a situational pass rushing, Jackson was consistently productive. In every game, he showed up in the Broncos’ pass rush, and expect that to continue in the postseason.
“He is a good, young player, and he’s developing and getting better each week,” coach John Fox said.
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