J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

The last few years, we've written a lot about a stat called Defeats that we use to count big plays made by defensive players. Defeats add up the following types of plays:

a) All tackles for a loss, including sacks;
b) Any tackle or pass defensed to prevent a conversion on third or fourth down;
c) Any turnover or a batted pass that leads to an interception.

These totals are not final quite yet, with some stat changes to come from the NFL, but once again this year, J.J. Watt and Lavonte David made more big plays than anyone else in the game.

Watt obliterated the record for Defeats (which we have counted back to 1996) with 56 in 2012. David then set a new record for linebackers, the second-highest total ever, with 50 in 2013. This year, Watt led the league with 43 and David was second with 42. Those numbers don't quite match what the players did in 2012 and 2013, but they are still two of only six seasons since 1996 with over 40 Defeats. The other two were both in 1999, Ray Lewis with 45 and Derrick Brooks with 42.

Watt had 17 tackles for a loss on runs, 20 sacks (or half-sacks), four batted passes on third down, and an interception, which was conveniently also on third down.

David had 14 tackles for a loss on runs, 8 tackles to prevent conversion on third-down runs, 6 tackles for a loss on receptions, 10 tackles to prevent conversion on third-down receptions, two batted passes on third down, a sack (also on third down), and two forced fumbles (one on a TFL).

Here's a look at all the players with at least 25 Defeats based on our current version of 2014 play-by-play.

Most Defeats, 2014
Player Team Pos Passes Runs Total
J.J. Watt HOU DE 26 17 43
Lavonte David TB OLB 19 23 42
DeAndre Levy DET OLB 22 14 36
Justin Houston KC OLB 25 8 33
C.J. Mosley BAL ILB 18 12 30
Connor Barwin PHI OLB 20 8 28
Luke Kuechly CAR ILB 16 12 28
Jason Pierre-Paul NYG DE 19 8 27
Lawrence Timmons PIT ILB 12 15 27
Carlos Dunlap CIN DE 15 11 26
Ndamukong Suh DET DT 13 13 26
Khalil Mack OAK OLB 8 17 25
Mario Williams BUF DE 18 7 25
Ezekiel Ansah DET DE 12 12 24
Thomas Davis CAR OLB 16 8 24
Aaron Donald STL DT 12 12 24


32 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2015, 4:10am

1 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

Lavonte David; still no Pro Bowls. Thanks, voting process!

Lavonte reminds me of Derrick Brooks in the sense that if he was an obnoxious loudmouth who played in a big market, everybody would know his name. Brooks got his recognition because he was on a rising team that made a name for itself; hopefully that happens for David soon.

Whenever anybody asks me why I manage to remain any hope as a Bucs fan, my three answers are (1) Gerald McCoy, (2) Lavonte David, and (3) eventual lack of Josh McCown. I guess throw a little Mike Evans in there as well.

2 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

Well, Brooks also played for one of the best defenses of all time and won a Superbowl. Nobody knows who David is mainly because the Bucs have been one of the worst teams in the league for a couple years now. But yeah, he put up DPOY numbers and no one said his name all year long while I still have to hear about J.J. Watt on seemingly a daily basis. Also, I feel like David is somewhat anonymous on the field he's not flashy or a sack machine, he's got that Luke Keuchly semi-anonymous quality where he's simply always in the right place at the right time, beats his man and makes the play. Maybe the Bucs should throw him some goal-line TD's next year. (Although, having him receive appropriate praise isn't in the Bucs organizational interest - if he ever hits free agency, he's going to be the steal of a lifetime.)

(Also, you should add a #4 to your list: the Bucs have the #1 overall pick in a draft with two franchise-level QB's available. Don't take that for granted: by comparison, it would have been much less valuable if they had the #1 overall pick last year. And Mike Evans is a stud! He's probably the second best WR in that stacked draft class...)

20 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

He's really a victim of the scarcity of defensive metrics. Are tackles for loss an official NFL stat? I hear it referenced frequently in college but hardly ever in the NFL. The only stats I ever see quoted for defenders are sacks, interceptions, and passes defensed, which leaves a lot of snaps unaccounted for. His contributions end up getting baked in with the defense's overall performance, which obviously is bad.

Same thing in the NBA where only blocks and steals are officially tracked. If you're not among the league leaders in either stat, you're unlikely to receive much public recognition, even if everyone in the league knows you're a tenacious one-on-one defender.

25 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

J.J. Watt is very much an obnoxious loudmouth - I mean, his crap with that Titans rookie about "selfies"? He runs along the sidelines barking all game and has his "signature" sack celebration and dances around a lot? Compare him to not just to Lavonte David, but other guys on this Justin Houston or Connor Barwin and he's definitely goes a level beyond normal in terms of calling out opponents after wins and generally making his presence known. He's maybe not on the level of Richard Sherman or something, but he's up there. He's also got the Warren Sapp limelight-loving goofball thing going on with his commercials and interviews. Don't get me wrong, he's probably the best defensive player in the NFL, so it's not empty bragging or something and you want to shut him up, then stop him which very few people do (Jordan Matthews, of all people, relentlessly making fun of him during the Eagles loss is probably my only positive memory from the Eagles' year.)

26 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

Yeah, Watt's obsessed with his status and how he's perceived. He's openly said he wants to be regarded as the greatest, or words to that effect. That certainly appears to be an effective self-motivational strategy for him: I don't really think there's any particular element of myth to the stories of how hard or obsessively he works on his craft, and the results on the field are pretty unarguable (except in the sense of where exactly he ranks among the best defensive linemen in history) but I do think that's his most basic underlying motivation. Similarly, while I think he is probably a person with decent moral instincts, I'm certain that the drive to do the things which generate the feelgood stories stems in part from the desire to generate those stories. There's some selfishness in pretty much all altruism, but perhaps more than most in Watt's.

It will be interesting to see what all that means when the physical gifts start to seriously recede. Perhaps he'll play as long as he can to try to break counting records, but then again perhaps he won't want any part of being just a guy. Perhaps he'll star in some third rate action movies instead, or become some kind of UN ambassador.

12 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

Maybe if these teams had better offenses these guys wouldn't be on the field so much --and they would have less opportunities to make all these key plays. It's like a guy that looks good because he has so many tackles, when a lot of it is because the team stinks so he's always on the damn field. And these cats do play on 2 teams that are not exactly setting the world on fire.

21 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

Assuming competency from the Bucs front office (which, admittedly, isn't saying much in recent years) David would not be traded. Granted, I'm a Bucs fan for whom his play has been one of the only highlights these last couple years so I in particular don't want him to go, but he's one of the best defensive players in the league. Heck, he was one of the best defensive players in the league his rookie year.

16 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

I think one of these Defeats is not necessarily like the other - a tackle for loss or sack, foricing a turnover etc is far more signficant in my view than a 3rd down tackle.

Why? Because the defeat on a 3rd down pass may well be on a checkdown pass, where the true defeat was the DBs covering properly. The tackler on the RB getting the ball for a 2yd gain on 3rd & 8 may be just the right person in the right place. Sure, he has to make the play rather than whiff the tackle, but then, so does someone tackling a RB on a 3yard gain on 1st & 10 and thats not a defeat.
Same goes for a run on 3rd & 15 when the offense is essentially abandoning the drive to give the punter some room. Sure, the RB may get 8 yards and the tackler get a defeat, but is this of the same importance as an 8 yard sack? (which is what Defeats is trying to show?) A TFL for a loss on 3rd & 2 is far, far more impressive & important.
Maybe different plays could be weighted appropriately?

23 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

It would be interesting to see defeats broken down into each individual type, and to compare players in the same basic functional position (pass rushing LB vs. coverage LB, etc). But if you really wanted to get granular, not all sacks are equal (1 yd sack vs. 10 yrd sack). Also, why is a 0 yard tackle not considered a defeat?

32 Re: J.J. Watt and Lavonte David Lead NFL in 2014 Defeats

I would propose making it less of a simple counting stat and making it more of a cumulative magnitude stat.

Any failed (non-successful according to DVOA) offensive play is a defeat candidate. To get the magnitude of the defeat, I would propose (new_gain_for_successful_play/old_gain_for_successful_play) - 1. The maximum for this would be 2.0, which would be automatically assigned to turnover-forcing defeats.

If I remember right, success on 1st down is 45% of yards to gain and 70% on 2nd down. So a stuff for no gain on 1st & 10 would be (7/4.5)-1 = 0.55 defeat, but a 5 yard sack would be 1.33 defeats. (There would be no such thing as a negative defeat)

There would be some weirdness to work around on 3rd down, though. Perhaps if the offense actually punts on the next play, the previous play is a defeat candidate and would be assigned the average of its usual (though possibly negative) defeat rating and 1.0. So on a 3rd & 15 tackle of an 8 yard checkdown, the usual defeat would be (8/15)-1 = -0.47 defeat which would become a 0.26 defeat (or equivalent to a 2 yard gain on 1st & 10).