The other day Pro Football Focus wrote an article detailing how the impact of pressure goes beyond sacks (highly recommend you read the entire article). Now obviously this lesson should be important to everyone, but it holds a special place for the Redskins that must navigate through a division with three other established quarterbacks to defend and a top rookie prospect to protect.
Perhaps the most telling stat from the article was the vast difference in numbers between quarterbacks under pressure and those with time. According to PFF, if you look at all the snaps of the top 35 quarterbacks from last year there is a pretty vast gap between the two numbers:
Situation Att. Comp. Comp % Yards Y/A TD INT TD:INT Without Pressure 11152 7324 65.70% 86440 7.75 541 273 1.98 With Pressure 3895 1791 46.00% 23306 5.98 133 147 0.90
That is a major difference and doesn’t take into account sacks, or even penalties which typically occur at a higher rate when there is a pressure. It is basically saying that without pressure the average quarterback would look like a top 5 quarterback. On the flip side, under pressure that same quarterback under pressure turns into a practice squad caliber QB. And considering that the league is becoming more and more of a passing league the importance to win the pass protection battle is only growing.
The reliance on sacks alone has led to some misunderstood perceptions about some key Redskins players, most notably those on the defensive side of the ball. Here are a couple of the Redskins that have been misrepresented the worst, showing how the sack stat without context can both over and underrate a player.
Brian Orakpo- Even Skins fans will point to Orakpo’s sack number down the past two years (8.5 and 9), from his 11 sacks as a rookie. Now if you look just at sacks of course Orakpo’s numbers aren’t as impressive, but that is just one part of the equation. Orakpo’s hits/pressures have risen quite a bit over the last two years. Also Orakpo has been asked to rush the passer fewer times and almost exclusively rushed against the left side of an of the line. That means Orakpo is rushing fewer snaps and against better competition, yet still maintained some of the best pass rush numbers in the league.
Adam Carriker- Now many Redskins fans want to point to Carriker’s 5.5 sacks as proof that he was/is an effective pass rusher. This is despite the fact that in his first three years, Carriker had just 3.5 total sacks. On top of that Carriker’s hits/pressure numbers remained very low, giving little indication that the Redskins should expect and count on Carriker as a guy to get after the quarterback. Now obviously that doesn’t take anything away from Carrikers numbers, this past year, but it does show that he still had serious holes in his game, and could have to deal with a regression.
What will be most defining for the Redskins this season is how their offensive line protects their rookie signal caller, and that will be the focal point during the year. And it won’t be an easy task as running quarterbacks can actually cause spikes in the sack rate (especially rookie ones). One key thing the Redskins need to focus on next season is cutting down on the time in the pocket for Robert Griffin, (which coincidentally cuts down the time per snap the Redskins need to maintain their block.
I realize there may still be skeptics, and people who think just looking at sack data (aka the boxscore) is just fine. But hopefully the majority of fans will see the battle to protect the quarterback in a different light now. Now people can watch the games and see whether or not the pressure is getting to the quarterback, even if the actual defenders aren’t.