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Comparing 3-4 Defenses: Jets, Steelers, Packers, Chargers (Part 1)


During the course of the Mets recent 9 of 10 game losing streak, I found myself wandering a way from games and onto the internet.  A lot of times I found myself here reading about everyone's draft day speculations.  Should we draft OLB or DLine to get pressure on the QB?  DE or DT?  Though I've argued in other posts that O Line and WR may be more of a priority this year, I do agree that we could use help rushing the QB.  While we did have the 3rd ranked defense last year, it seemed at times not to dominate.  But why not? 

Armed with a yellow legal pad and the internet, I decided to do a little research comparing some top ranked 3-4 defenses from last season.  I focused on the Jets, the Steelers, the Packers and the Chargers.

 

More after the jump.

TOTAL DEFENSE

The Jets were the 3rd ranked defense last year in total yards. They ranked 3rd against the rush and 6th against the pass. They were 6th best in points allowed.

The Steelers were the 2nd ranked defense last year in total yards.  They ranked 1st against the rush and 12th against the pass.  They were 1st best in points allowed.

The Packers were the 5th ranked defense last year in total yards. They ranked 18th against the rush and 5th against the pass. They were 2nd best in points allowed.

The Chargers were the 1st ranked defense last year in total yards. They ranked 4th against the rush and 1st against the pass. They were 10th best in points allowed.

Obviously, its important to be able to stop the rush.  The Jets did a good job of that last year (until sometime around the Steelers playoff game).  However, the Packers won the Superbowl with the 18th ranked rush defense.  It doesn't hurt that the Packers were also 2nd ranked overall in offensive points, but I digress.  The Chargers were the number one ranked defense in yards, but as the 10th best in points allowed, they did not even make the playoffs.

Stopping the rush is an important part of controlling the game, but ultimately the most important aspect of defense last year was keeping your opponents out of the endzone.  The Jets are good at stopping the rush, but they need to improve in points allowed or start putting up more points on offense.

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SACKS

Obviously sacking the opposing QB is a big part of being a great defense.  Perhaps the greatest defense of all time as guided by none other than Rex's dad Buddy, the 1985 Chicago Bears racked up an amazing 64 QB sacks that season.  They went on to win the Superbowl.  However, the year before when they set the record for sacks by a team at an astounding 74 sacks, they were knocked from the playoffs by Joe Montana and the 49ers in an ugly 23-0 defeat.  Pass rush was not enough to save them then.

I say the 85 Bears were "perhaps" the greatest defense of all time, because statistaclly the 2000 Ravens were the best defense of all time in points allowed.  Incidently, Rex Ryan was the defensive line coach.  While the 2000 Ravens only managed to get 35 QB sacks, they allowed the fewest points all time at 168 for the season or 10.5 points per game.  The  85 Bears allowed 198 points or 12.4 per game.  Both top ranked defenses won the Superbowl, one with tons of QB sacks and the other without.  Both also led their respective years in lowest points allowed.

Anywho, on to the comparison:

The Jets sacked opposing QBs 40 times.

The Steelers sacked opposing QBs 48 times.

The Packers sacked opposing QBs 47 times.

The Chargers sacked opposing QBs 47 times.

While the Jets were 7-8 sacks short of the other teams listed, and 24 short of the 85 Bears, they still managed to get better pressure than the 2000 Ravens.  Not too shabby.

Out of curiosity raised by the debate over whether we need a lineman or a linebacker to get pressure, I did a little break down on where each of the 4 teams got their pressure from.  This is a little unscientific as I only did the breakdown by position listed and not by analyzing game tape to see how each player lined up, but you have to bear with me as I am just a guy on the internet and not a football statistician.

JETS D-LINE: 8.5 sacks
JETS LBs: 20.5 sacks
JETS DBs: 11 sacks

STEELERS D-LINE: 10.5 sacks
STEELERS LBs: 30.5 sacks
STEELERS DBs: 7 sacks

PACKERS D-LINE: 20 sacks
PACKERS LBs: 23 sacks
PACKERS DBs: 4 Sacks

CHARGERS D-LINE: 16.5 sacks
CHARGERS LBs: 28.5 sacks
CHARGERS DBs: 2 sacks

So you can see above where the argument about improving pressure from the front seven comes from.  The Jets only had 29 sacks from the front seven, compared to 41 sacks by the Steelers, 43 by the Packers and 45 by the Chargers.`  We did lead in sacks by DBs but even that was not enough to close the gap.  And in those important moments when we went heavy coverage and didn't blitz, you could see and feel the lack of pressure that the Jets generated up front.

An interesting thing that jumps out here though is that the other three teams generated pressure in somewhat different ways.  The Steelers for example got similiar line pressure as the Jets and they were second highest in sacks by DBs behind the Jets, but they had the most sacks by LBs thanks to OLBs Harrison (10.5 sacks) and Woodley (10 sacks) and ILB Farrior (6 sacks).  The Packers, even with 13.5 sacks from Matthews, have similiar total LBs sacks to the Jets. But they get much more pressure from their D-Line with Jenkins (7 sacks) and Raji (6 sacks).  Compare that to 4.5 sacks from Ellis, 2 sacks from Pouha and 0 from Devito.  Finally, the Chargers get good pressure from the D-Line and from the LBs but they only have one double-digit sack(er?) in LB Phillips (11).  The Chargers got 13.5 sacks from a variety of front seven players coming off the bench.  In contrast, we had 5 sacks from Jason Taylor and 1 apiece from Pryce and Dixon.

The Packers D-Line and the Jets LBs seem to be the exceptions here.  The Packers have guys making plays on the D-Line while the other three do not seem to generate much pressure from the line.  Even though the Chargers have the second most sacks from the line in this group, its from a rotation.  Their NT Garay led the line with 5.5 sacks.  But what each of the other teams has that the Jets lack is a double-digit sack(er?) at OLB.  The Steelers even have 2.  From this small sampling, I'd have to say that I agree we need a double-digit sack(er?) at OLB. Unfortunately, they don't grow on trees.

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Tommorow or later in the week, I'll put up some more from this comparison.

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