The Elite Will Rise

By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·

Pressure Points

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.”

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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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13 comments
MattCummings
MattCummings

For the pass protection statistics, wouldn't it make much more sense to have easy sacks be weighted more heavily, rather than less? I would presume those are a stronger indication of a breakdown in protection.

JayAverill
JayAverill

The worst MMQB article I've ever read. 

jj55
jj55

Brilliant analysis! Three of the four "purple chip superior" teams lost this weekend. Take a hike, Greg.

modsuperstar
modsuperstar

So Crabtree and Davis don't fall under this purple chip criteria? Crabtree, last year, 3 TDs, 285 yards, 14.3 ypc, 13 first downs. Davis the last 2 years, 5 games, 5 TDs, 546 yards, 25.2 ypc, 17 first downs. I can understand how they barely made a blip on your radar Greg.

Skinner
Skinner

This is possibly the most ridiculous analysis I've seen so far...You clearly have never been a part of a team, as you have no understanding of the chemistry that is involved in winning big games...

Joe10
Joe10

At least the title was correct. The Elite did rise on Saturday.

cheo255
cheo255

There's no way Zach Strief is a purple chip. He's pretty bad. If you want to make the argument his linemate Jahri Evans is a purple chip, that's more palatable. But the Saints' tackles are pretty bad. Brees' sack total would be much higher if his pocket presence and ability to move in the pocket weren't so good.

downsouth
downsouth

I have developed a theory over the past 10 years.  Many of the dominating regular season teams developed ultra-precise passing attacks that rely on timing.  A defense basically cannot prevent Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Payton Manning or Tom Brady from completing a back shoulder pass on an interrupted timing pattern.  My theory is that during the playoffs the referees allow the defense more latitude in contact with the receivers downfield because they do not want to mar the game with a lot of penalties (don't let the refs ruin the game.)  The result is the high-octane offenses (often indoor or warm-weathered teams) are knocked off their timing due to the contact.



mike202
mike202

I think the reason that the #1 Seed doesn't play in the SB as often as you would think is that rarely is the best team in the Conference the #1 Seed.  


I think this year Seattle is the best team because of the Division it plays in, 3 teams with 10 wins and still 13-3. I think Denver is also with two playoff teams in the Division.  

lancelee2
lancelee2

I'm sorry, but this is not much of an article. There is a pretty strong claim that he can predict winners, then he goes on to say it is a mixture of how many great players and how they play, which is just the most obvious thing ever.

In truth, this is a perfect way to retroactively explain why a team won. Team 1: 6 great players, 2 played great. Team 2: 5 great players, 4 played great. Team 2 wins! What a shock.


This article should have been titled: After each game, I can tell you why each team won.

Hador
Hador

@lancelee2 

Agreed. That is exactly what I got from the article.

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