WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins’ defense was stellar at rushing the passer in 2017, even if the numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet.
Sure, the team tallied 42 sacks on defense, led by outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (13), who will be heading to Orlando for the third Pro Bowl of his career.
But that’s only half the story. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Redskins created havoc in the pocket more consistently than any team:
So what, you might ask. The Redskins still won less than half of their games and played for nothing down the stretch of the season. But for the glass-half-empty crowd, consider this: it could have been much worse.
According to Pro Football Focus, in 2016, the average NFL quarterback’s passer rating fell from 99.3 to just 64.6. In other words, applying pressure causes the average passer who usually performs like Matthew Stafford to suddenly play like T.J. Yates.
[Editor’s Note: In fairness, Yates had a 65.8 passer rating in 2017.]
Sacks are the sexy stats, and they get players notoriety, awards, endorsements and fat contracts. But they shouldn’t be the only measure. Kerrigan collected at least half a sack in 10 games this season, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t impactful in the others.
By consistently dialing pressure, he and the Redskins changed the way opposing offenses game planned and caused countless throws to be aborted, misfired and occasionally intercepted.
According to PFF, the rate of interceptions nearly doubles under pressure, as quarterbacks throw interceptions from 1.8 percent of clean pockets. That increases to 3.1 percent when a quarterback is under duress.
If Kerrigan was king, the Redskins’ prince of pressure was Preston Smith, who matched his rookie total with eight sacks in 2017. Junior Galette also tallied three sacks in a reserve role. That’s what outside linebackers are designed to do in this offense–rush the passer and collect sacks.
But the Redskins also got tremendous production out of the defensive line. In addition to consistently dialing up the pressure, as noted above, there were also encouraging sack totals from the unit. Here are the totals:
- Anthony Lanier: 5 sacks
- Matthew Ioannidis: 4.5 sacks
- Terrell McClain: 2 sacks
- Jonathan Allen: 1 sack
- Ziggy Hood: 0.5 sacks
The Redskins have lots of questions to answer this offseason, but rushing the passer is one area where they can proceed with confidence going into 2018.