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The fallacy of the NFL sack leaders

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#1 Ramius


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Posted 29 July 2013 - 06:30 PM

I did a similar study/post years ago on this same topic, but it was lost in the great board crash of '08. What prompted me to do it again was the ridiculous arguments that Mario Williams has a "sub-par" season or that somehow 10.5 sacks is an insignificant amount. My post will address 1 main theme: that the NFL sack leaders, even with gaudy numbers, all pile up huge sack numbers in a couple of games (usually against inferior teams) that inflate their overall numbers. The fallacy is that there are these great DEs that record sacks in almost every game and don't "pad" their stats.

This held true back in '08 when people were trashing Schobel for his double-digit sack seasons, and seems to hold true again in 2012.

Here are all the players with 12 or more sacks.
JJ Watt - His 20.5 sack season was freakish. He did pile up 8.5 sacks in 3 games, recorded 1 sack in 11/16 games.
Aldon Smith. 19.5 sacks. 5.5 of them came in a single game against a horrific chicago OL. He recorded sacks in 10/16 games.
Von Miller: 18.5 sacks, 10 of them came in 4 games, but he amazingly did manage to record a sack in 12/16 games.
Cameron Wake: 15 sacks, 7.5 of which came in 2 games. He recorded a sack in 9/16 games.
Clay Matthews: 13 sacks, 6 of which came in 2 games. Recorded a sack in 8/12 games.
Geno Atkins: 12.5 sacks, 6 in 3 games. Recorded 1 sack in 9/16 games.
Charles Johnson: 12.5 sacks. ultmate hit or miss. 1 game with 3.5 sacks, 4 games with 2 sacks. Sacks in only 6/16 games.
Jared Allen: 12 sacks. 6 sacks in 3 games. 9/16 games with a sack.

So the data seems to bear out that the top players pile up large sack numbers in relatively few games. And unless one of your players puts up a freakish season for the ages (like Miller or Watt last season), the top sacks guys still go plenty of games without recording a sack.

#2 Dorkington


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Posted 29 July 2013 - 06:58 PM

Mario Williams had sacks in 7 out of 16 games. Compared to the guys above, I'd say he was lacking. Everyone else was more consistent, other than Charles Johnson. I'm pretty sure Mario makes the most as well. So I think there's reason to think that he disappointed compared to expectations.


Now, just because he was lacking compared to the above, or maybe even my own expectations... he's still our best DE, and he's still a good player.

Edited by Dorkington, 29 July 2013 - 06:59 PM.

#3 hondo in seattle

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 07:20 PM

So the sack leaders put up a lot of sacks in just a couple games while other defenders don't pile up sacks in any game? Hmmm. Which is better? I still prefer the sack leaders.

You might also notice some other things:

1. Sack leaders often lead in QB pressures as well.

2. Sack leaders often get a lot of offensive attention, including double teams. Coaches do read stat sheets.

I'm sure you could devise a more comprehensive statistic to measure the effectiveness of DEs but sack totals are simple and a fair indicator.

#4 texasabres



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Posted 29 July 2013 - 07:32 PM

I'd like to see how the other players on the "sack leaders'" teams fared on the leaders' off days. It might be the case that some teams game plan around the sack leader. That should show in the numbers of other players on their teams. If a player is double or consistently chipped, then you should see better numbers in their off games by other players. Just a hunch. That would likely demonstrate their overall worth to the team.

#5 San Jose Bills Fan

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 09:59 PM

Thanks for doing the research, Ramius. Interesting stuff as it confirms what I've often thought about sack meisters.

It would be interesting to chart pressures too. Also the great pass rushers always seem to be a factor, even when they're doing nothing more than drawing double teams.

Mario Williams had sacks in 7 out of 16 games. Compared to the guys above, I'd say he was lacking.

FWIW, Mario had 7 sacks in the last 9 games and had sacks in 5 of those 9 games. All of these games came after his wrist surgery.

Interestingly he had zero sacks in the last 3 games.