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dw49

Pass Rush vs Coverage

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From PFF.....

 

 

Analytics have a way of upsetting your sensibilities and upending some preconceived notions. Growing up, we’ve been conditioned to believe that pass rush is critical. And for good reason—pressure reduces passer rating substantially (by about 30 points) and nearly halves a team’s yards per play average. And we can see from the broadcast angle when pressure affects a quarterback. Because passing is so important, good pass-rushers have been the highest-paid members of most NFL’s defenses.

However, we found that not only does pass coverage (as measured by PFF grades) explain team success better than pass-rushing, but predicts it better as well. This helps explain why the winningest team in the league (New England) has used its only two big-name defensive free-agent signings on cornerbacks over the past decade (Stephon Gilmore and Darrelle Revis), and why defensive end Trey Flowers is currently a Detroit Lion. One need only to go back to last year’s playoffs to see how the quick passing game of today’s NFL mitigates even the strongest pass rush, with the Patriots racking up 78 points en route to the Super Bowl despite facing the vaunted pass rushers on the Chargers and Chiefs.

The caveat to this finding? As a trait, coverage tends to be less stable year to year. The upshot? Invest a lot into coverage, so that some subset of five or six of these players give you an elite group.

If you’re going to invest in a pass rusher, prioritize his pressure rate, not his sack rate 

Sacks are important and worth about two points for a defense. They usually end drives and often force turnovers. They are the ultimate goal of all pass rushers and rightly the most valuable non-turnover play for a defender.

But if you want to know how good a pass rusher is, and how good he’ll likely be the following season, look at his pressure rate. We at PFF define a pressure as a sack, a hit or a hurry on a quarterback, with the best pass rushers able to generate a pressure on 15 to 20 percent of their pass-rush snaps. For a pass rusher with 500 pass rushes during a season, you’re talking about 75 or so plays, versus just 10 sacks.

Generally speaking, “finishing” pressure with a sack isn’t really a trait a pass rusher possesses per se. If you want to predict a player or team’s sack total one year, use his or its pressure rates from the previous season. A 20 percent decline in a player’s sack total from 10 to eight, for example, is mostly noise. But a 20 percent dip in a player’s pressure rate from 50 to 40 is less so. Process over results.

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27 minutes ago, dw49 said:

From PFF.....

 

 

Analytics have a way of upsetting your sensibilities and upending some preconceived notions. Growing up, we’ve been conditioned to believe that pass rush is critical. And for good reason—pressure reduces passer rating substantially (by about 30 points) and nearly halves a team’s yards per play average. And we can see from the broadcast angle when pressure affects a quarterback. Because passing is so important, good pass-rushers have been the highest-paid members of most NFL’s defenses.

However, we found that not only does pass coverage (as measured by PFF grades) explain team success better than pass-rushing, but predicts it better as well. This helps explain why the winningest team in the league (New England) has used its only two big-name defensive free-agent signings on cornerbacks over the past decade (Stephon Gilmore and Darrelle Revis), and why defensive end Trey Flowers is currently a Detroit Lion. One need only to go back to last year’s playoffs to see how the quick passing game of today’s NFL mitigates even the strongest pass rush, with the Patriots racking up 78 points en route to the Super Bowl despite facing the vaunted pass rushers on the Chargers and Chiefs.

The caveat to this finding? As a trait, coverage tends to be less stable year to year. The upshot? Invest a lot into coverage, so that some subset of five or six of these players give you an elite group.

If you’re going to invest in a pass rusher, prioritize his pressure rate, not his sack rate 

Sacks are important and worth about two points for a defense. They usually end drives and often force turnovers. They are the ultimate goal of all pass rushers and rightly the most valuable non-turnover play for a defender.

But if you want to know how good a pass rusher is, and how good he’ll likely be the following season, look at his pressure rate. We at PFF define a pressure as a sack, a hit or a hurry on a quarterback, with the best pass rushers able to generate a pressure on 15 to 20 percent of their pass-rush snaps. For a pass rusher with 500 pass rushes during a season, you’re talking about 75 or so plays, versus just 10 sacks.

Generally speaking, “finishing” pressure with a sack isn’t really a trait a pass rusher possesses per se. If you want to predict a player or team’s sack total one year, use his or its pressure rates from the previous season. A 20 percent decline in a player’s sack total from 10 to eight, for example, is mostly noise. But a 20 percent dip in a player’s pressure rate from 50 to 40 is less so. Process over results.

 

So true.

 

When you are talking elite QBs, you have to hold the fort in coverage for those first 3 seconds and let your pass rush get to the QB. OLs around the league are good enough to give time and the ones who hold the ball the most like Watson inflate pass rushing stats. 

 

Not every team has a Von Miller or Khalil Mack that can beat 1-on-1s fast enough and get to the QB in those first 2-3 seconds. It typically takes about 4 seconds without blitzing if the OL is a good one like the Saints, Patriots, Rams, Chiefs etc. Good QBs go through their reads fast and your coverage needs to make them hold for those critical initial seconds. 

 

Getting lots of bodies for the secondary from the draft to choose from to build a team helps with both special teams and nickel/dime coverages, plus keeps their contracts cheap and gives you enough alternatives to retain should some of them go elsewhere. In other words, quality depth is paramount, as much as possible on defense, and that is the approach Ballard has taken. That is why he didn't go amok like Green Bay did on the pass rush FA front, and invested  in the secondary.

 

You need players of all kinds on your 53 because a team like NE, after seeing the Chargers play nickel and dime coverage vs Lamar Jackson for speed, just went for brute size to quell that storm of speed down. Size over speed if speed is the main strength, speed over size if size is the main strength. That is what good NFL teams do, and we need a versatile roster able to adapt for all styles of O and D, and that is what I feel Ballard is building.

 

There was an article, of course, gushing about Belichick on PatsPulpit, which had some valid points:

 

https://www.patspulpit.com/2019/6/14/18678536/slot-cornerback-contracts-proving-bill-belichick-new-england-patriots-genius-coleman-moore

 

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On 6/17/2019 at 8:10 AM, dw49 said:

Generally speaking, “finishing” pressure with a sack isn’t really a trait a pass rusher possesses per se.

 

Good post.

 

I disagree with this part above. Closing speed is a trait, and players with better closing ability turn more pressures into sacks. It's the difference between Jabaal Sheard (good 40, bad jumps) and Chandler Jones (bad 40, good jumps), for instance. Or Frank Clark (14 sacks, 67 pressures) and Trey Flowers (7.5 sacks, 98 pressures). Length is a factor as well, for obvious reasons.

 

More to the point of the analysis, pass rush and coverage always have been and always will be symbiotic. Tight initial coverage gives the pass rush time to affect the QB, and if the pass rush is affecting the QB quickly, it reduces the QB's effectiveness, especially on intermediate and deep attempts. Take either away, and the other is impacted negatively.

 

A good offensive approach can more easily gameplan its way around a good pass rush than it can good initial coverage. If you can get receivers open quickly, you can get rid of the ball before the pass rush becomes a significant factor; even better if your receivers are good after the catch and after contact. But having a good pass rush allows your secondary to play more aggressively early in the down, both in alignment and technique. 

 

And the big thing that I think this analysis underestimates is the impact of zone coverage, especially zone matching. A defense can take average cover guys and employ them in a way that minimizes a quick passing attack and protects the back end at the same time. Still, if the pass rush can't get home, eventually that coverage will break down and a receiver will be open. And a defense can do this without undermining the pass rush.

 

To the contrary, if you don't have pass rushers who can beat blockers, you can't scheme additional pressure without undermining the coverage.

 

My point is that while pass rush and coverage go hand in hand, it's a different analysis to determine which individual players are more important to a defense. That individual analysis is the primary reason why pass rushers get paid more than even the best cover men; not to mention the fact that there are more above average coverage players than above average pass rushers.

 

I also think the value of pressures relative to sacks is overstated. Sacks end plays, create a yardage disparity, and even force turnovers. Every sack is a negative play for the offense, bottom line. A pressure has an indeterminable value, because a QB can be pressured and still create a positive play for the offense, maybe even a score. This is why even PFF weights sacks in their pass rush productivity stat. I'm all about pressures, but sacks are more valuable.

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19 hours ago, Superman said:

 

Good post.

 

I disagree with this part above. Closing speed is a trait, and players with better closing ability turn more pressures into sacks. It's the difference between Jabaal Sheard (good 40, bad jumps) and Chandler Jones (bad 40, good jumps), for instance. Or Frank Clark (14 sacks, 67 pressures) and Trey Flowers (7.5 sacks, 98 pressures). Length is a factor as well, for obvious reasons.

 

More to the point of the analysis, pass rush and coverage always have been and always will be symbiotic. Tight initial coverage gives the pass rush time to affect the QB, and if the pass rush is affecting the QB quickly, it reduces the QB's effectiveness, especially on intermediate and deep attempts. Take either away, and the other is impacted negatively.

 

A good offensive approach can more easily gameplan its way around a good pass rush than it can good initial coverage. If you can get receivers open quickly, you can get rid of the ball before the pass rush becomes a significant factor; even better if your receivers are good after the catch and after contact. But having a good pass rush allows your secondary to play more aggressively early in the down, both in alignment and technique. 

 

And the big thing that I think this analysis underestimates is the impact of zone coverage, especially zone matching. A defense can take average cover guys and employ them in a way that minimizes a quick passing attack and protects the back end at the same time. Still, if the pass rush can't get home, eventually that coverage will break down and a receiver will be open. And a defense can do this without undermining the pass rush.

 

To the contrary, if you don't have pass rushers who can beat blockers, you can't scheme additional pressure without undermining the coverage.

 

My point is that while pass rush and coverage go hand in hand, it's a different analysis to determine which individual players are more important to a defense. That individual analysis is the primary reason why pass rushers get paid more than even the best cover men; not to mention the fact that there are more above average coverage players than above average pass rushers.

 

I also think the value of pressures relative to sacks is overstated. Sacks end plays, create a yardage disparity, and even force turnovers. Every sack is a negative play for the offense, bottom line. A pressure has an indeterminable value, because a QB can be pressured and still create a positive play for the offense, maybe even a score. This is why even PFF weights sacks in their pass rush productivity stat. I'm all about pressures, but sacks are more valuable.

 

Yeah . I agree . It's kind of a "chicken or the egg."

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