Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Dec 2013

J.J. Watt's Festival of Quarterback Smackdowns

So, J.J. Watt isn't leading the league in Defeats again this year. Lavonte David is instead. And Watt isn't getting as much attention playing on a 2-12 team as he did a year ago playing on a playoff team. But he's still having a phenomenal year, worthy of consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.

While most of Watt's stats can't match the amazing numbers he put up in 2012, he has dominated the league in one metric: Quarterback Hits. I went through and updated our count of quarterback hits, not including sacks but including plays cancelled by penalty. Watt is lapping the field. In fact, he's once again having a record-setting year. Watt has 32 hits, a dozen more than second-place Robert Quinn (another Defensive Player of the Year candidate, by the way). Watt's total has already set a record. OK, it's not a mind-blowing record since our count of QB hits only goes back to 2006, but the previous record was 29 QB hits by Dwight Freeney in 2009.

Most QB Hits, Weeks 1-15 2013
(not including Monday Night Football)

Player Team QB Hits
99-J.Watt HOU 32
94-R.Quinn STL 20
93-M.Johnson CIN 17
72-M.Bennett SEA 15
69-J.Allen MIN 14
93-J.Worilds PIT 14
58-J.Babin JAC 13
90-N.Suh DET 12
92-D.Bryant CLE 12
94-C.Jordan NO 12
Player Team QB Hits
98-Q.Coples NYJ 12
93-G.McCoy TB 12
91-C.Wake MIA 12
91-D.Morgan TEN 12
91-J.Tuck NYG 11
98-N.Fairley DET 11
50-R.Ninkovich NE 11
93-J.Galette NO 11
76-G.Hardy CAR 11
96-C.Dunlap CIN 11

A couple of things you should know about these numbers:

1) A quarterback hit is defined as a play where the quarterback is knocked to the ground after the pass. A play where a defender makes contact with the quarterback but doesn't knock him over doesn't count as a QB hit.

2) We include plays cancelled by penalty in our count of QB hits, since if you get smacked to the ground on a roughing the passer it hurts just as much as if you get smacked to the ground on a legal play.

3) Unfortunately, QB hits are marked very inconsistently by official scorers from stadium to stadium. For example, if you combine both their offense and defense, the Raiders have only 14 QB hits at home but 45 on the road, which is a bit ridiculous. On the other hand, Cleveland has 72 at home and 42 on the road -- again, this is combining both sides of the ball, so it doesn't have anything to do with home-field advantage. The moral of the story is that we tend to make a lot of recommendations to the NFL to change QB hit data once the season is over and we've reviewed our charting, so these numbers are far from final.

I'll run numbers from the other side, for quarterbacks, later this week.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 16 Dec 2013

10 comments, Last at 20 Dec 2013, 1:04pm by Aaron Schatz


by andrew :: Mon, 12/16/2013 - 8:27pm

" A quarterback hit is defined as a play where the quarterback is knocked to the ground after the pass."

So if he knocks him to the ground before the pass (i.e. a sack) it isn't a QB Hit?

FWIW not all sacks involve the QB being knocked to the ground (e.g., plays where the qb is chased oob behind the los)...

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 2:01am

Or a forced fumble regardless of what happens to the QB's body afterwards

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 12/18/2013 - 9:35pm

Yes, this seems to be pretty standard from what I've seen -- sacks are counted separately from non-sack hits.

The one stat is most mysterious to me is "QB pressures".

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 1:04pm

That's because there's no standard count of QB pressures. Different stats groups count it differently, and it's not an official stat in the PBP.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/16/2013 - 8:51pm

This is what our definition of a QB hit is. We also count QB knockdowns, which are QB hits plus sacks (except for those run out of bounds sacks).

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 2:02am

So are you going to give us the knockdown list? C'mon, you know you want to.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 2:03am

What on earth would the football world be like if George Allen (was it he?) had said "we're gonna take that (Craig) Morton salt and put him in a cylindrical box-tube thing because that's they way they sell salt in the supermarket" instead of "put him in a sack?"

The world will never know.....

Such an excellent word, recalling the pillaging of ancient cities as well as improperly sold condiments.

by CBPodge :: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 5:38am

The adjective of choice for guys like Robert Mathis and Robert Quinn would be "tube-master" rather than "sack-master". I'd be fine with that.

It's probably better that George Allen evidently bought his salt in bulk though.

by Andy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 12:05am

Given he's got 2 games left, he definitely could have more sacks+hits than last season. Also, he's had less snaps rushing the QB, so he's been a more efficient pass-rusher this season than he was last year. At Pro Football Focus, if he keeps up his average, his pass-rushing grade & run-grade will be better than last year (despite batting down passes left often this year). Just goes to show you that the media just cares about sacks. He has 11 less & gets less attention - despite performing better.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 12:51am

His team has also won 10 less games. That's probably a bigger reason no one cares.