When looking at metrics for pass rushers or any position group, it’s easy to get hung up one number that we think is predictive. Maybe that stat is 40 time for WRs, pass rush rate for edge rushers, completion percentage for QBs, but it’s rarely every that simple. This piece provides a number of different metrics to help complement what you see on film and paint a more illuminating picture of these draft prospects. It may not yield a definitive answer on who is the best pass rusher between Kony Ealy, Dee Ford, Jeremiah Attaochu or Khalil Mack, but hopefully it can provoke some thought.
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 pass rushers. 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.
- Within the second group of pass rushers, we have a tighter clustering of pass rush rates than in the first, but achieved in very different manners.
- Kony Ealy’s PRR comes out to 10.02 when not taking into account PDs, which compares similarly to players like Clowney, Ford, and Lawrence. However, his ability to bat passes at the line drops his PRR+ down to 8.59, closer to some of the pass rushing leaders. In addition, Ealy achieved that efficiency over 361 total snaps which is far more than other players took by nearly 100 attempts.
- Unlike Ealy, Dee Ford didn’t rack up an inordinate amount of pressures over many snaps, but instead put up respectable totals in both the hurry and sack categories. However, he clearly did not disrupt the passing lanes often as his PRR+ hardly increased when taking into account passes defensed.
- While many players were often substituted frequently, Jeremiah Attaochu played nearly every pass snap in competitive games, racking up 343 attempts at rushing the passer. Despite playing more snaps than most of his fellow draft prospects, he maintained a consistent PRR of 9.53 higher than Clowney, Ealy and Ford.
- Khalil Mack is in many ways similar to Anthony Barr in their pass rushing profiles; both garnered solid sack totals, but didn’t achieve many hurries to supplement it. They each ended up with pass rush rates of around 12.5 which trails the other pass rushers by a good margin.
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.
- Out of these four pass rushers, Ealy was the only one who spent any significant time playing inside where he took nearly 30% of his total snaps. In doing so, he posted a 10.7 PRR which is just slightly less efficient than when he was rushing from his right defensive end spot. Solid efficiency in both spots shows that he has the ability to kick inside if needed. However, he is one of the only pass rushers to not take any snaps as a LDE.
- It’s unusual for a pass rusher to be better at pass rushing from the right defensive end spot than the left, but Attaochu manages that feat by a narrow margin. Splitting time evenly at both spots, his PRR on the right side was 8.68 compared to 9.37 on the left side.
- While Khalil Mack split his time relatively evenly amongst the left and right sides, he was significantly less effective when rushing against teams’ left tackle. When playing right defensive end he only managed to pressure the QB once every seventeen snaps – a much poorer showing than his time against right tackles.
What blocking help did they have to face?
- On the whole these players faced significantly less extra blocking than the first group and none even come close to Clowney’s 25% extra blocking rate.
- Kony Ealy leads the group having faced a chip or double team 14.5% of the time. However, unlike others the majority of his efforts came against double teams instead of chips by backs or TEs due to his time spent rushing from the interior of the line.
- Rarely doubled, only 2.7% of the time, Attaochu’s attacking style on outside pass rush moves rarely left him vulnerable to double teams. Out of every player in the first and second grounds, he faced extra blockers the least often.
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.
- Kony Ealy is an interesting case when we study his strength of schedule in relation to pressures. Most players had similar strength of schedules between their pressures and their total opponents faced, meaning that they often didn’t beat up on weaker opponents and flounder against tougher. However, Ealy’s PSOS score was nearly 7 points lower than his total SOS, likely meaning that he took advantage of weaker opponents rather than playing up to his SEC competition.
- Unlike Ealy, Dee Ford’s PSOS was extremely high, slightly edging out Clowney’s group leading 61.5 score. Ford garnered his pressures against some of the toughest offenses and did so at a relatively efficient rate.
- When I examined Kareem Martin and James Gayle’s strength of schedules, I noted that the ACC provided them with slightly below-average competition and it was not different for Attaochu. His PSOS comes out to 45.8, residing in the bottom two-thirds of the group.
- In group one, Demarcus Lawrence’s score proved his opponents to be relatively weak – something we’d expect with Khalil Mack as well. However, Mack surprised and managed to create pressures against some quality teams boosting his PSOS to near average for an ACC player.
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 second 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.