In Terms Of Pressuring The QB, It Seems Freeney And Mathis Are REALLY Good

Nov 20, 2005; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney (93) during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter. Colts beat the Bengals 45-37. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons- US PRESSWIRE

Hey look! It's time for more dorky, stats analysis! The kind of stuff that Bill Polian would call us all "geeks" for paying attention to.

Personally, I'm not much of a stats guy, but I do enjoy seeing alternative systems used to track performance on the field. Far too much emphasis is put on things like 'QB wins,' or 'yards-per-carry,' and things like that. Mind you, that doesn't mean those sorts of stats are meaningless. With the NFL becoming more of a QB-driven league, the unfortunate side effect is 'QB wins' actually matter now.

Sorry, but they do.

However, just because they matter doesn't mean they are THE defining stat for that position, just as total sacks are not THE defining stat for a pass rusher. Pressuring the QB is often just as effective as sacking him. Sometimes, it's even better (see Dwight Freeney pressuring Tom Brady into the now-famous Marlin Jackson INT at the end of the 2007 AFCCG for an example).

Sites like Pro Football Focus help us dig deeper into who is and isn't producing, and in this piece I'd like to focus on their recent article on Three Years Of Pass Rushing Productivity: Edge Rushers for the simple reason that the article makes it seem as if Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are AWESOME!

Because, as you know, I'm all about objective statistics, and junk.

When evaluating edge rushers, be they 7 and 9 technique defensive ends (not 3 technique!!!!!!!!) or outside linebackers, PFF takes into consideration the total combined number of sacks, hits, and hurries. For the past three years, the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware is the most dominant here, earning 227 pressures.

However, listed in the top ten are both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. In fact...

With Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at 6th and 10th respectively, the Colts are the only team with two players in the top 10.

In PFF's Most Productive category, the site uses their Pass Rushing Productivity Rating, matching totals pressures against the total snaps where the players ranked were rushing the opposing team's QB. With that, Freeney lands at No. 9 on the list while Mathis is No. 14. Both are ahead of players the likes of Mario Williams and Jared Allen, but behind John Abraham and Cameron Wake. Amazingly, Wake (who is a fine rusher) is No. 1.

Out of 1273 pas rushing snaps, Freeney earned 189 pressures. Out of 1279 snaps, Mathis earned 170.

Again, it's some tasty food for thought as we gear up for training camp next month. It will be interesting to see if Mathis and Freeney become even more productive as they transition from DE or OLB.

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