Total Pressures: Nobody Can Get to the QB

As part of our continued efforts to provide Packers fans with advanced stats to better understand football, let’s take a look at where Green Bay’s defense ranks on Total Pressures at the halfway mark of the season.

While it's wonderful to get sacks, it's even better to make a quarterback's life miserable all the time. So why settle for stats that only give a partial look at how often a team is getting to the quarterback? Total Pressures measures hurries, knockdowns, and sacks for a better look at how impactful a particular player can be.

Here’s the formula:

Total Pressures = Sacks + Hits + Hurries

Each week, I have reviewed the film and track sacks, hits and hurries for all Packers defensive players. While sacks and quarterback hits are pretty straightforward, hurries are a little more nebulous.

It depends on a lot on the eye of the beholder what qualifies as a hurry, but we’ve defined it as a player forcing the quarterback to throw before he appears ready. This could be a ball thrown out out of bounds, to the feet of a receiver, or even a completion under duress. We gave an example of a hurry earlier this season in our intro to Total Pressures.

Total Pressures leaders as of Week 9

Here’s who’s leading the way for the Packers through the first half of the season:

1. Clay Matthews: 14.5 Total Pressures

Note: Matthews is the only player on the Packers who can consistently get to the quarterback. He’s recorded at least one pressure in every game so far and has the second highest single game total.

2. Nick Perry: 12 Total Pressures

Note: Perry started strong, but dipped for four games after breaking his hand in Week 2. He’s now recorded a pressure in three of the last four games.

3. Mike Daniels: 9.5 Total Pressures

Note: Daniels tallied 5.5 pressures in Week 1, then has been pretty quiet since then. A hamstring injury appears to have sapped some of his pass rush ability.

4. Kyler Fackrell: 6 Total Pressures

Note: Fackrell is proof that all pressures are not created equal. Though he’s fourth on the team with six total pressures, he has yet to record a sack and most of his pressures are just hurries.

T5. Josh Jones and Blake Martinez: 5 Total Pressures

Note: Neither of these players are primarily responsible for rushing the passer, but when they’re asked to do so, each has been effective.

What we’ve learned

We can take a few things away from this data, first and foremost that Clay Matthews still needs help as a pass rusher.

Matthews is the only Packers player who has recorded a pressure in each game so far this year. Nick Perry and Mike Daniels have been hampered by injuries, so they get something of a pass, but beyond that the Packers have little to show from their pass rush.

Kyler Facrkell’s pressures have been largely inconsequential, and free agent signings Ahmad Brooks and Chris Odom have been virtual non-factors. Upgrading the pass rush has to be a priority this offseason.

Second, it’s important to note that some of the most important factors related to a team’s pass rush are not accounted for in this data. Kenny Clark has grown into something resembling a very youthful monster in the interior of the Packers’ defense, yet he rarely shows up in our pressure stats even though he consistently moves the pocket. There have only been a few times when he’s made enough of an impact on his own to earn a “pressure” in our stats, but very regularly another player’s sack, hit, or hurry is the result of Clark making a push up the middle.

Similarly, in our accounting here, there’s no good way to indicate which pressures appear to be the result of solid coverage. It doesn’t happen often (as I’m sure most readers will realize), but it does happen, and it’s important to know that it’s there.

Finally, this data shows exactly how much a player like Julius Peppers would mean to this year’s version of the Packers. Sure, he took plays off and was at times a liability against the run, but he’s been getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis in in Carolina, and nobody on the Packers can even approach the kind of success he’s had. Even if we only counted his sacks into the total pressures equation, he’d still rank in the top five on the Packers this year. The Packers need someone to step up, if only to replace what they’ve already lost.