Last week, I introduced the quarterback efficiency rating, a metric that factored in several efficiency statistics to measure how well a quarterback played. This week, I am introducing a new way to evaluate a pass rusher.
For years now, sacks have been viewed as the be-all-end-all when it comes to how good a pass rusher is – but the stat doesn’t tell the full story. While the sack is the optimal result, any time a pass rusher can apply pressure on a quarterback, they are doing their job.
Because of this, we are introducing two new stats: the pressure score and points per pass rush. With help from statistics provided by Pro Football Focus, we are able to determine the total hurries, hits and sacks made by a player as well as the amount of pass rush snaps he played.
Both stats are easy to understand, pressure score is the sum of every hurry (worth one point), hit (two points) and sack (three points) a player registers while the points per pass rush is the pressure score divided by the amount of pass rush snaps the rusher played. Think of it like total rushing yards and yards per carry, one stats a cumulative, while the other measures efficiency.
Based on these metrics, here are the top 20 performers from last year:
1. Khalil Mack (Oakland Raiders)
Pressure Score: 129 (1st)
Points Per Pass Rush: .259 (5th)
It’s no surprise to see the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on this list. Mack applied 96 total pressures last year and was especially destructive from the left side where he lined up for nearly two-thirds of his pass rush snaps.
2. Von Miller (Denver Broncos)
Pressure Score: 117 (4th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .270 (T-2nd)
Mack and Miller are the only two pass rushers to rank in the top five in both categories. Miller rushed the passer on 65 less snaps than Mack, but he still had three more sacks, helping his points per pass rush grade.
3. Cameron Wake (Miami Dolphins)
Pressure Score: 102 (11th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .273 (1st)
Even at age 34, Wake continues to produce at a high level. He only rushed the quarterback 373 times, which ranks 69th overall. If he had as many pass rush attempts as Khalil Mack, he would have a pressure score of 136, which would easily be the best in football.
4. Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles)
Pressure Score: 112 (6th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .246 (6th)
Graham is continuously one of the most underrated edge rushers in football and a player that was in mind when these metrics were created. He doesn’t get a ton of sacks – his career-high is 6.5 in a season – but he generates a ton of pressure. He was credited with 60 hurries and 17 hits last season.
5. Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)
Pressure Score: 120 (3rd)
Points Per Pass Rush: .239 (11th)
Despite playing in the interior, Donald can still disrupt pass plays and get to the quarterback. He the quarterback 22 times last year, four more than any other player.
6. Cliff Avril (Seattle Seahawks)
Pressure Score: 111 (7th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .240 (10th)
Avril was efficient across the board, totaling high numbers in all three departments. Only Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Brandon Graham and Avril finished in the top 10 in both categories.
7. Joey Bosa (Los Angeles Chargers)
Pressure Score: 92 (T-17th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .270 (T-2nd)
If it wasn’t for the fact that Bosa missed a chunk of games to start the year, he would probably have a much higher pressure score. Because he missed four games, he was only able to rush the quarterback 341 times, easily the lowest amount of attempts for any player with a pressure score above 80.
8. Ryan Kerrigan (Washington Redskins)
Pressure Score: 105 (9th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .235 (13th)
Kerrigan has a high sack total, but just as impressive is his 51 hurries, the ninth-best mark in football.
9. Geno Atkins (Cincinnati Bengals)
Pressure Score: 110 (8th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .222 (16th)
Aaron Donald isn’t the only interior defender who can rush the quarterback. Atkins had more sacks and hurries than Donald last season.
10. Derrick Morgan (Tennessee Titans)
Pressure Score: 100 (T-12th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .225 (15th)
Like Graham, Morgan is another player who has been underrated in his career since he doesn’t rack up a high sack total. His 444 pass rush attempts ranks just 36th among all players.
11. Trent Murphy (Washington Redskins)
Pressure Score: 90 (20th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .243 (7th)
Murphy has done an admirable job filling Brian Orakpo’s shoes and makes Washington the first team on this list to have two pass rushers named.
13. Olivier Vernon (New York Giants)
Pressure Score: 121 (2nd)
Points Per Pass Rush: .198 (29th)
Vernon is the only defender ranked who pass rushed the quarterback more than 600 times, which is part of the reason why his points per pass rush is low. His 61 hurries is second to Khalil Mack for the most in football.
14. Lorenzo Alexander (Buffalo Bills)
Pressure Score: 88 (24th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .242 (8th)
The winner of the Tommy Maddox Award, Alexander put up an All-Pro season due much in part to his high sack total. He was only credited with 23 pressures, but he only rushed the passer on 363 plays.
15. Whitney Mercilus (Houston Texans)
Pressure Score: 94 (16th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .216 (18th)
While J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney get all the attention, Mercilus is every bit as a force in the pass rush, even without a high sack total.
16. Robert Ayers (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Pressure Score: 85 (26th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .241 (9th)
Only Joey Bosa had less pass rush snaps than Ayers’ 352 and still made the top 20. Only Aaron Donald was credited with more hits.
17. Cameron Jordan (New Orleans Saints)
Pressure Score: 113 (5th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .193 (31st)
Like Olivier Vernon, Jordan ranks a bit lower than his actual value because of the massive amount of his pass rush attempts impacted his points per pass rush.
18. Danielle Hunter (Minnesota Vikings)
Pressure Score: 89 (22nd)
Points Per Pass Rush: .230 (14th)
Hunter had a breakout season due much in part to his ability to disrupt plays on a regular basis, which played a key role in him accumulating 12.5 sacks.
19. Melvin Ingram (Los Angeles Chargers)
Pressure Score: 96 (15th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .210 (22nd)
I was very high on Ingram coming out of college and now it seems that he has finally reached his potential. Him and Bosa form a fearsome pass rush duo for the Chargers.
20. Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati Bengals)
Pressure Score: 103 (10th)
Points Per Pass Rush: .202 (28th)
Between Dunlap and Atkins, it’s hard to double-team anyone in Cincinnati. Dunlap was credited with 17 hits, the third most in football.