Many fans of the New York Jets are old enough to remember when interior lineman Leonard Williams was the centerpiece of the New York Jets defensive line. While Leonard Williams regularly graded out well as a pass rusher according to Pro Football Focus and on a number of advanced analytics due to his pressure rate, Williams was rarely able to turn those pressures into sacks. After years of this inability to sack the quarterback, the frustration of Jets fans grew, which led to him being mocked by Jets fans as having “invisible production.”
At the time (and still now), I see both sides of the argument. Pressures are good and consistent pressure can help win games. However, sacks... sacks are the plays that can turn an entire game. With that difference in importance in mind, the Jets have had a number of players who also excelled in getting pressures and quarterback hits, but few that regularly put the quarterback on the ground for a significant loss.
I’ve always found this a bit odd because those players often have this type of performance in multiple seasons. This implies that the statistics are not due to noise or random luck but due to actual performance, because if each pressure was equally likely to result in a sack, then eventually the sacks would come. To me, that has always suggested that not all pressures are created equal and should not be treated as such, which aligns with what I see when I watch college tape before the draft. For prospects, some guys jump off the screen and are in the backfield so fast that the QB barely has a chance to get the ball out. Those guys typically wind up with a lot of sacks. For others, they get near the QB, but it takes them a tick longer. Those guys typically do not wind up with a lot of sacks. While I’ve always had this theory that the quality of pressures matter, I’ve never been able to quantify it in any way.
This is where the internet shines. While I never quantified it, someone else has done something that achieves a similar result. And in this case, it’s someone who I think is quite qualified to judge the quality of a pressure, as the data comes directly from Brandon Thorn who works with OLMasterminds, a group that works with a number of NFL offensive lineman.
I created a metric called ‘Pressure quality ratio’ that reflects the rate of high-quality to low-quality pressures. It’s a good way to look at the most potent pass-rushers who may not have the volume of pressures as others.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) July 2, 2023
- If there was one stat to look at to best gauge Myles… pic.twitter.com/AIifcih3t9
At its core, Thorn’s analysis seems quite simple. He logged the number of pressures for linemen, then broke those pressures down into three quality tiers: Rare, High, and Low. The tiers are defined as follows within Thorn’s larger “True Pressure Rate” report:
Rare High Quality (RHQ) Pressure - A 1-on-1 QB hit or hurry over a very good (Ex: Andrew Thomas) or elite (Ex: Trent Williams) blocker due to the rusher’s skill, move(s) and/or athletic ability.
High Quality (HQ) Pressure – A 1-on-1 (or 1-on-2) QB hit or hurry against an above (or below) average blocker due to the rusher’s skill, move(s) and/or athletic ability.
Low Quality (LQ) or Unblocked Pressure – A pressure coming as a result of the QB running into the rusher’s direction due to scheme (bootleg, roll-out), pressure from another rusher or being unblocked due to scheme (stunt, twist) or a missed assignment.
RHQ pressures + HQ pressures / LQ pressures
Note: I did the math myself and I think there’s an additional weight given for the rare pressures that isn’t stated in the report, as my numbers consistently come out slightly lower than what he reports in the table.
Using this statistic, we can see the players who ‘make the most’ of their pressures so to speak. Additionally, as explained by Thorn in his tweet, “It’s a good way to look at the most potent pass-rushers who may not have the volume of pressures as others.” This is especially relevant when evaluating Jets’ players, given their heavy use of a defensive line rotation prevents their pass rushers from having a high volume of pass rushing opportunities compared to other players.
Fortunately for Jets fans, three of their defensive linemen score very favorably on this measure: Quinnen Williams (score of 1.6 which was the 5th highest score), Carl Lawson (score of 1.11 which was the 11th highest score) and John Franklin-Myers (score of .85 which was the 20th highest score).
While the Jets may have other holes on the roster, it does not seem that high-quality pass rushers are among them.