Pass rushers are a group that can easily plague an evaluator with small sample sizes. Watching four games of film on a pass rusher could show a player who constantly harasses the QB or never even comes close to accruing a hurry. Examining how a player pressures the QB on a per snap basis can alleviate some of that sample size pressure, giving true insight into a player’s consistency in getting after the QB. For the first group (this grouping has nothing to do with talent or perceived ranking), I’ve chosen to examine Jadeveon Clowney, Kareem Martin, James Gayle, Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Barr.
Putting together pass rush efficiency required me to go through and chart every snap where the players rushed the QB. Some sack totals may not line up with what’s listed as I’ve added and subtracted sacks I felt were mistakenly attributed. As always, use this as a complement to examining film rather than in its stead.
How well did they rush the passer?
The chart below represents pass rush efficiency for each of the defensive tackles. The metric PRR, pass rush rate, measures how often the pass rusher affected the QB in the form of a pressure, sack, or knockdown. PRR+ includes pass deflections at the line of scrimmage. The number represents on a per snap basis, how often they get to the QB – i.e., if PRR is 10 it means they affect the QB once every 10 snaps. Thus a lower number is better.
- Right off the bat we can pick out that Clowney doesn’t have the most efficient pass rush rate, racking up a pressure on the quarterback once every 10.69 snaps. That’s not the end of the world for several reasons.
- Within this group, he clearly has the largest increase in PRR when it comes to adding in passes defensed. In addition, he managed to garner 20 hurries – more than both Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Barr.
- We know from his 2012 campaign that he was able to convert sacks, with a total of 13 that year. If he’s able to combine his propensity for pressures from 2013 and sacks from 2012- he’ll be a force.
- Kareem Martin has the lowest PRR of the group, and thus was the most efficient pass rusher among this set of players. He by far took the most snaps, rushing the passer 333 times during the year while putting together a nice combination of hurries and sacks. The higher amount of snaps came from his ability to slide inside and rush the passer from a multitude of positions.
- A bit of a darkhorse as a pass rusher this year, James Gayle came in slightly behind Kareem Martin for second most efficient of the group. While he didn’t display the same versatility as Martin, his pure pass rush skills can’t be denied
- Anthony Barr and Demarcus Lawrence are interesting cases with regards to their distribution of pressures and sacks. Both had lower hurry numbers similar to their total number of sacks. I didn’t keep a strict tally of unblocked/ blocked pressures, but there’s some indication this ratio could allude to a higher number of pressures gained undeservingly.
Where did they rush the passer from?
It’s easy to watch a pass rusher and imagine they could pressure the passer from different spots on the field, but that’s not always the case. The following chart breaks down the position that they rushed from and how effective they were at doing so using the PRR stat.
- Clowney clearly took the majority of his snaps from the right end position, facing the opposing team’s left tackle approximately 85% of the time. In doing so he pressured the passer once every 12.24 snaps. However, on the 10% of snaps he took on the left side he was three times more efficient, hurrying the QB once every 4 snaps. There are a number of theories, weaker competition at right tackle, dominant side, better matchups – regardless he did extremely well at LDE.
- The only player in this group to take a significant number of snaps inside (30%), Kareem Martin was extremely efficient in his efforts between the tackles. His inside rush garnered a PRR of 7.62 which was nearly identical to his 7.5 PRR on the left side. The versatility he displayed cannot be overstated.
- Among the players who took snaps at multiple spots, Demarcus Lawrence was the most consistent. Nearly splitting his time evenly between the left and right sides, his PRR was just slightly better playing on the right side.
- Unlike Clowney who thrived on the left side in limited time, Barr did not fare so well against team’s right tackles with a 30 PRR or one hurry on 30 snaps.
What blocking help did they have to face?
- Clowney defenders will be the first to say that teams threw extra double teams his way when asked about his decrease in production. In this case, the numbers bear that out. He was double teamed on 8.9% of his pass rush attempts, but was chipped by a RB or TE on a whopping 16.7% of his plays. In total, he faced extra offensive blocking on 25% of plays – more than double some others in this group.
- Collectively Martin and Gayle faced the least amount of extra blockers, only seeing blocking help on approximately 12% of plays. However, Kareem Martin did face a higher proportion of double teams relative to how often he was chipped than other players. That could be a function of his time spent rushing from the inside.
- Lawrence and Barr split the difference between Martin and Clowney, ending up rushing against an extra blocker 17% of the time.
How good were their opponents?
Here I’ve put together a metric I call Pressure Strength of Schedule (PSOS) that measures the quality of the teams each player accrued their pressures against. It’s a mix of sacks allowed by opposing offensive lines and Sagarin rankings in an effort to measure team quality. It’s not perfect, but I’ve been happy with the results when used in the past. The score ranges from 0-100 with 100 being the hardest possible schedule. Thus, a higher number means pressures were gained against tougher competition.
- As was true with the previous chart measuring chipped and double teams, Clowney had the toughest road to garnering pressures. His SEC opponents gave him a strength of schedule that no one in this group even came close to.
- Kareem Martin and James Gayle’s road through the ACC was certainly not a cakewalk, but didn’t provide the same challenge as the SEC did for Clowney. Ranging between 42 and 44 on the PSOS score, their scores are slightly below average compared to results from current and previous years.
- The PAC-12 put up a tougher slate of opponents for Anthony Barr than the ACC did for others, but still fell short of the SEC by nearly 14 points on the PSOS scale. Although it was still substantially higher than Demarcus Lawrence’s schedule difficulty during his time in the MWC.
How did they rush the passer?
The following chart breaks down the final pass rush move on every snap that a player made when attempting to pressure the QB. By the final move, I mean – if a player starts outside and then quickly routes back inside – the final move will be ‘Inside’. I won’t comment on it, but it can give you a feel for rush diversity and play style for each edge rusher.
That’s the extent of this breakdown on the first group of pass rushers. You can direct any comments or questions to me on Twitter @NU_Gap, where I’ll also be updating on future articles including the second group of pass rushers.