A Statistical Breakdown of the Top Pass Rushers (Pt. 1, Sacks)

Posted on February 27, 2013


Pass rushers are one of the most coveted positions, and thus one of the most scrutinized. We hear about this guy’s stiff hips or that guy’s long arms, I’m not going to talk about that. However, because pass rushers are so important, I’m going to break them into two parts. The first part (this one) is a study on their sacks, just their sacks. Every sack analyzed and broken down into its component parts to see how and why it came about. The next part will break down a sample of their game play and will take into account pressures, holding, QB hits, etc. For now we stick with the sacks to analyze their pass rushing prowess.

The goal for this was to analyze each and every sack. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get game tape on sacks against some of the smaller schools (Murray State). I did get a sufficient sample on most players and I’m happy with the data I got. I’m looking at a large prospect group, so I won’t comment on every player but only the most interesting parts. (Sorry for the small-ish charts, I have too many players and the site isn’t cooperating)

How Quickly Did They Get to the QB?

I decided to measure  the amount of time it took each player to get to the quarterback. With data on ten prospects, I have a good feeling for what these numbers represent.

Generally, times greater than 5 seconds are coverage sacks. Times between 3.5 and 5 seconds are the majority of sacks and what you would call “average sacks”. Sacks faster than 3.5 seconds are speed sacks which result from a good jump off the line or just great burst.


  • Mingo, of course, had one of the fastest times in getting to the QB. You could have predicted it by looking at his athleticism on tape or at the combine, but it shows up on his sacks. Even though his number of sacks was limited, none of them were coverage sacks and he got to the QB in 3.63 seconds on average.
  • For the size of Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, they got the QB quickly. Both came in at 3.91 seconds and 45% of their sacks would be considered speed sacks. That’s extremely close to Dion Jordan who is considered far more of a “speed” guy than the others.
  • Damontre Moore’s number is disappointing. On average it took him 4.51 seconds to get to the QB and 44.4% of his sacks were from coverage. For a pass-rushing specialist, he wasn’t near the numbers of any other prospects.
  • Don’t read too much into Ansah’s numbers. He had a small sample size and I was even hesitant about putting his numbers up because I think they’re a tad misleading. He did, on average take a long time to get to the QB, you can judge whether you think that’s his rawness or a concern.
  • Okafor’s time is great at 3.56. That time is faster than Mingo who came in roughly 20 lbs lighter than him at the Combine and is largely considered the “speed” specialist. None of Okafor’s 11 sacks were from coverage. This isn’t a fluke of small sample size, Okafor simply got to the QB quickly.

How Did They Get There?

This is a breakdown of what moves they used to get to the QB. I simplified it down to three categories instead of having a million different moves and counters.


  • Damontre Moore had a wide variety of ways to get to the QB, the majority of his sacks came off going to the inside, but he also used bull and outside rushes to the tune of 22% and 44% respectively. Whether this variety was a detriment to his speed as noted above or he used these moves because he didn’t have a quick outside rush, the rush flexibility is interesting.
  • Both Jordan and Werner were strictly outside rush guys. Neither rusher tallied a sack from an initial inside move.
  • Tank Carradine went outside a majority of the time, but showed a range of versatility going with the inside rush 27% of the time.
  • If you watched Ziggy Ansah, you’re pretty well versed in his utilization of the bull rush to attempt to get to the QB. He doesn’t disappoint here, 50% of his sacks (2) came from the bull  rush
  • Okafor was extremely versatile, garnering 11 sacks on an excellent mixture of strength and speed. 36% of his sacks came off bull rushes which shows excellent power. When combined with his speed of getting to the QB, Okafor was often able to overpower his opponent.

How Did Their Opponents Contribute?

I created a really quick and dirty strength of schedule for the pass rushers. Part sacks allowed by each team’s offensive line and part Sagarin ratings, it’s not perfect but it should give you a relative feeling for the quality of teams/ offensive lines each pass rusher got their sacks against. Thus, the higher number means tougher opponents.


  • Again, don’t pay much mind to Ansah’s numbers, they’re from an extremely small sample size. Use them as a guideline but not gospel.
  • Aside from Ansah, Moore tallied his sacks against the toughest teams. With sacks against Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State – Moore beat a difficult assortment of O-lines for his sacks.
  • Mingo, with a similar SEC schedule as Moore, got his sacks against a difficult schedule. Is this the reason for his lack of production, is it an excuse, or does it have absolutely nothing to do with it? I’m leaning towards little to do with his lack of production, but the fact that he was able to produce good speed rushes against that schedule is impressive.
  • Both Carradine and Werner’s strength of sacks were in the bottom three in this group. Sacks against lowly Maryland and Wake Forest really dragged down their numbers. By this metric, Werner’s best sacks were against Miami then Florida (UF didn’t get a lot of love due to the 39 sacks they surrendered).
  • Outside of Ansah’s fluky SOS, Okafor tallied his sacks against the strongest opponents on average. Many of the QBs he sacked were not sacked particularly often, making his sacks more “difficult”.

How Did Their Team Contribute?

I’m not going to comment on this, just explain and post. These are the average amount of rushers and blitzers their teams sent against opposing offensive lines. The idea being, the higher the total rushers and blitzers, the more each rusher was helped by their teammates.


Sacks By Down



Remember this is part 1 of 2, the second part will be focusing on giving a broader perspective of these pass rushers. That means analyzing their overall effectiveness by snap of rushing the QB, looking at pressures, among other factors. Sacks are certainly not the most important thing when it comes to QBs, but that’s where this analysis is starting.

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Posted in: Defensive Ends