Unblocked Pressure: DefenseBen Stockwell | April 3, 2014ProFootballFocus.com Back at the start of November our very own Steve Palazzolo delved into our database to quantify the unblocked pressure NFL teams generated and surrendered. Now that the season is over it’s time to dig back in and bring you the numbers for the entire season and today we’ll look at things from the defense’s side.There are various ways and means for a defense to generate unblocked pressure. Some come from the defense’s own creation through the use of stunts that stress the ability of an offense to exchange pass rushers. Or they could test the ability of a quarterback and his blockers to spot and pick up a blitz by overloading one side of the formation. Others can simply be taking advantage of what the offense gives them, either through individual errors leaving pass rushers free or simply by the offensive design leaving a player unblocked.Cardinals Continue on TopWhen we took a look into these stats midseason, the Cardinals were the most proficient defense at generating unblocked pressures with 49 to their credit by the start of November. On the run through to the end of the season Arizona maintained and even extended their advantage, finishing with 82 total pressures, though their conversion percentage dropped away (61.2% to 52.4%). They doubled their sack total from six to 12 while only adding seven hits to the 24 they had midway through.Leading the way for the Cardinals were Karlos Dansby (4 Sk, 3 Ht, 6 Hu) and John Abraham (2 Sk, 2 Ht, 8 Hu) who each hit double figures on unblocked pressures and demonstrated Arizona’s ability to generate unblocked pressure across their defensive front. Of their 82 total pressures, the Cardinals had a 36:46 split between the left and right side of the opposing offense. They also led the league with 23 unblocked pressures through the A-gaps of opposing offenses, converting 16 of those into hits (11) or sacks (five).The biggest losers at the top of the table were the Chiefs whose second half swoon in the wins column was also borne out in their generation of unblocked pressure. Having generated 44 up to the start of November, Kansas City only collected a further 23 to the end of the season, adding only one sack and six hits to that total. By the end of the year their conversion percentage of 35.8% was among the lowest in the league.Capitalizing on the Chiefs’ second half demise were the Buccaneers and Eagles who jumped up to second and third, respectively, by the end of the season. The Bucs’ unblocked pass rush was powered by the terrific Lavonte David who led all individual defenders with 19 unblocked pressures (4 Sk, 5 Ht, 10 Hu) by season’s end.The Eagles, meanwhile, more than doubled their output by season’s end, principally working off the edge to disrupt opposing offenses unblocked. The Eagles notched 40 unblocked pressure either off the edge or through the C-gaps — more than any other defense in the league.Saints Make the Pressure PayThough their 46 unblocked pressures saw them finish in the middle of the pack (perhaps not what you’d expect from the “aggressive” Rob Ryan), the Saints remained the most efficient defense over the course of the season at converting their unblocked pressure into hits and sacks. 26 of their 46 unblocked pressures were converted into knockdowns with their 11 unblocked sacks seeing them tie for fifth in the league in that regard.Also among the Top 5 in conversion is one of the league’s least aggressive defenses in terms of generating unblocked pressure. The 49ers recorded a league-low 29 unblocked pressures, but converted more than 50% (3 Sk, 12 Ht) into knockdowns, one of only four defenses to do so.At the other end of the scale we find the likes of the aforementioned Chiefs, the Titans and the AFC Champion Denver Broncos. The Titans only notched one unblocked sack this season, converting only just more than a quarter of their total pressure into hits and sacks, maintaining their pedestrian pace from midseason.Double Digits Across the BoardThere were 18 players who notched double digit unblocked pressures last season and, from a positional perspective, a wide spread of where they came from. Lavonte David led the way as already mentioned with 19, coming from a position where you would expected unblocked opportunities and David certainly made the most of his 105 chances to rush the passer, collecting 19 of his 30 total pressures unblocked.Joining him atop the list of the most productive unblocked pass rushers are, as you would expect, other linebackers but also safeties, nickel corners and even edge defenders like Brian Robison and George Selvie who boasted much lower conversion percentages than the likes of David and Dansby. Of the 18 players to reach the double digit threshold, Philip Wheeler was the only defender not to convert a single pressure into a hit or a sack.Covering Gaps on the Back EndThe ultimate aim of any pressure is to sack the quarterback and while 18.1% of plays that featured unblocked pressure culminated in a sack (either for an unblocked defender or another player off of a block or cleaning up the play) that still leaves more than 80% of dropbacks where the defense needs to cover downfield or take care of a scrambling quarterback.Around the league as a whole, plays with unblocked pressure netted a 60.2 passer rating if a pass got away, but there was a wide variance from defense to defense with a familiar face atop the tree.The Seahawks were among the league leaders with 254 drop-backs where they pressured the opposing passer but only 17.3% of those dropbacks featured unblocked pressure. When they did get a free runner at the quarterback they took full advantage either by generating a sack (eight times) or by doing what they do and shutting down the pass when it got away.Of 34 pass attempts against (six throw aways), the Seahawks surrendered just 11 completions, hitting the quarterback as he threw four times and allowing only three conversions (one touchdown, two first downs). On top of that, the Seahawks picked off three passes (only the Cardinals and Buccaneers nabbed more) leading to a 14.6 passer rating and 1.8 yards per attempt allowed.On the bottom end were the feast-or-famine Oakland Raiders. The feast came by virtue of their 14 sacks which saw nearly a third of their 46 unblocked pressure dropbacks result in the quarterback going down to end the play. When the opposing quarterback got a pass away, however, the Raiders were less successful, surrendering 16 completions on 31 attempts (four throw aways) of which 12 were converted into either a touchdown (four) or a first down (eight).The Raiders surrendered a league-worst 120.4 passer rating and 8.6 yards per attempt when they generated unblocked pressure, joining Washington and Dallas as the only defenses to surrender 100+ passer ratings when they got free runs at the quarterback..https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/04/03/unblocked-pressure-defense/
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