Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Jun 2010

ESPN: Examining the Art of the Hurry

This week's ESPN Insider feature looks at the top defenders in quarterback hurries for 2009, and which pass rushers did a lot of work without much help from their teammates.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 01 Jun 2010

63 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2010, 7:42pm by grgory


by DZ (not verified) :: Tue, 06/01/2010 - 5:40pm

Dwight Freeney needs a few more big stat seasons to get a Hall of Fame nod, but no one should question the impact this guy has week in and week out.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 2:57am

Not sure I believe Freeney would ever deserve a HOF nod - he'e the ultimate 1 dimensional player. A beast rushing the QB, but he's been hilariously terrible against the rush (especially the draw play) too many times in his career to take him seriously as a "great" player. And for his level of fame, he doesn't really have any dominating/memorable playoff or Superbowl performances (like Lynn Swan or some other borderline candidates who got in) to seal the deal...

by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 6:43am

Actually he's not terrible against the run, and never has been. Freeney plays the way he plays because that's what the Colts' ask him to do. The Indy defense philosophically does not care about the run...hence the susceptibility to draw plays. FO numbers a few years ago showed that teams struggled when running at Freeney. With the Indy defense it's all about stopping the pass, because that's what really matters.

When you look at his forced fumbles numbers they are off the charts. Freeney causes turnovers like no DE in history (other than Robert Mathis). He's a lot closer than you realize. His one handed sack of Brees in the Super Bowl playing on one ankle will help him when his case is heard.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 8:44am

This approach by the Clots seems a lot like a discussion I had about the significance of the Saints run D being so poor.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 10:19am

I don't think you can have it both ways with Freeney. Yes he would probably look better against the run if the Colts asked him to stack and shed at the point of attack. However he would probably look worse at rushing the passer if he had to worry about a running lane instead of just looping around to the QB's back shoulder as quickly as possible. The fact that the other DE you mention as being similar plays on the same team and also can't defend the run makes the fumble production seem more scheme related than being due to HOF calibre players.

by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 10:29am

Freeney plays the run much better than Mathis.

My point on Freeney is that knocking him for not playing the run is silly. It's a strategic move that leads to more hurries, sacks and fumbles. The Colts have concluded that playing the run is a waste of time in today's game.

It's like ripping a homerun hitter for being a lousy bunter.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 5:03pm

Look at his numbers compared to Trent Cole - similar sacks, a few more hurries and he's involved in about half of the running plays as Cole (last year, even fewer running plays.) I don't know where the whole, "hey, he's only asked to do one thing and he's really good at it" idea comes from, but it is bunk. The fact is that there are plenty of pass rushers who produce similar sack numbers to Freeney but are far better against the run.

I mean, just looking at Cole vs. Freeney (and no one would be so foolish as to discuss Cole as future HOFer), Freeney's run defense is virtually non-existent. But they put up similar pass rush numbers. I just don't know what else there is to say about it.

The other important fact is that in HOF consideration you can cite any number of games where the Colts run d got slaughtered by the draw when Freeney just got run out of the play. Blame the coaches or scheme all you want, but every player has a coach and scheme forced on them...

by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 5:16pm

Freeney has 6 seasons with at least 10 sacks. Cole has two.

Freeney has 35 forced fumbles for his career. Cole has 10.

Check the article this thread is based on. Cole had 12 fewer hurries in two fewer games than Freeney last year. Freeney is better than Cole by most every pass rushing stat.

Through his first 5 years, Freeney had 56.5 sacks and 26 FF. Cole has 47 and 10. Over the last 5 years, Freeney has 47 to Cole's 47 (but Freeney missed half a season). However, he's forced 19 fumbles to Cole's 10.

Freeney has been better longer. You can't just say, "Cole is Freeney with better run stopping". I'm not sure the numbers support that. Cole doesn't have the volume or the quality of numbers Freeney has, so that's not a valid comparison. For the record, I said Freeney needed a few more productive seasons before he can realistically be considered. Three more double digit sack seasons would put him right there, however.

I'm not sure it's quite so easy to cite as many important Colts games where the D got run over. Freeney wasn't on the team in 99 or 2000 which are two of the prime examples. Maybe the 2004 game against the Pats in the playoffs (which Mathis missed). In the 2005 loss to the Steelers, Freeney was a beast and the best player on the field.

His injury in the 2007 season directly lead to the loss against the Chargers as did his injury last year hurt them against the Saints.

by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 7:13pm

That should read that Cole has 12 fewer hurries in 2 MORE games than Freeney.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 10:40pm

It's disingenuous to compare career stats (and had nothing to do with my point, anyway) since Cole has been a starter a much shorter length of time to Freeney. I'm not saying that Cole is Freeney with better run stopping - I'm saying Cole is comparable to Freeney in terms of the pass rush - your own numbers bear that out - but there is absolutely zero comparison in terms run defense production. Freeney's numbers are not 1/2 or even 1/3 of Cole's - the numbers for Freeney and the run are embarrassing. Are you even disputing that? And Cole is just a lower-tier Pro-Bowler that I just picked because I'm familiar with him - I'm sure if you looked at Jared Allen, Freeney would look even worse.

by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 10:50pm

I didn't compare their career stats. I clearly compared their first five year stats AND their last five year stats (which for Cole are the same). Freeney has done more than Cole no matter which standard you use, and that's just using sacks and forced fumbles, let alone other stats like pressures in which Freeney also dominates.

Again, If Cole puts up a bunch more double digit sack seasons, his profile will rise.

Freeney deserves mention because he's done what Cole has over a longer period.

BTW: Allen first five years 57.5 sacks, 17 FF. Freeney first five years: 56.5 sacks, 26 FF

by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 11:00pm

To be clear, my argument was all along that Freeney needs more productive seasons to merit a hall bid.

Take a guy like Trent Cole. You say he's a 'low tier Pro-Bowler'. But if he preforms at that level for 8-10 seasons, he becomes a borderline HoFer. No one mentions a guy like Cole right now because he's hit double digit sacks twice.

Lots of guys have a couple of good years. What makes a HoFer is having good years over and over and over again.

So Freeney, with 3xs the number of good seasons that Cole has becomes a borderline candidate when Cole isn't.

If Freeney posts 2-3 more outstanding years, his case becomes compelling. It's not there yet, but it could be. If Trent Cole posts another 6 or 7 years of double digit sacks, maybe his career will merit similar consideration.

Quantity is a factor in the HoF. Aaron Rodgers isn't a Hall of Famer just because he posted similar numbers to Peyton Manning for a couple of seasons.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 11:09pm

Listen, my argument isn't that Cole is as good as Freeney in any way, shape or form. My agrument is that a DE can put up sack/hurry numbers within a reasonable range of Freeney's numbers, but still produce against the run. There is no season where Freeney has numbers against the run comparable to any contemporary DE unde HOF consideration. A good DE (e.g. Cole) will post double digit sacks, significant hurries, force fumbles and be involved in roughly 4 times as many run plays as Freeney. That's the point.

by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 6:34am

And my points are:

1. that if Cole did that for 10 seasons, he'd be a serious HoF candidate.
2. Freeney forces more fumbles, gets more pressures, creates more sacks than Cole, and that stopping the run isn't that important for a DE.
3. Freeney plays the run fine, but that isn't his role. Again, it's like criticizing a 40 HR hitter for not having enough sacrifice bunts and comparing him to a 30 HR hitter who does.

by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 7:19am

By the way, according to Freeney's player page (link in my name) he was #1 in the NFL against the run in 2009. He plays the run just fine. They just don't want him to.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 10:53am

No, no, no, no - he was #1 in stop rate on a whopping 8 run plays. 8! EIGHT! What that means is that a running back happened to be in his way 8 times on his way to the QB - of course his defeat percentage is 100%!

For comparison, Jared Allen had similar sack numbers and was involved in 52 run plays while putting up more or less equal pass rush numbers - and Allen had an 81% stop rate. In the past three years, Allen was involved in 27, 32 & 41 rush plays. Freeney was involved in 8, 16 & 16. IN THREE YEARS HE BARELY MET THE TOTAL OF ALLEN'S BEST SINGLE YEAR. Freeney is a player with not below average, but hilariously terrible production against the run.

To top it off, Allen's stop rate hovered between 69%-81% - an average that is close enough to Freeney's 100%, 75%, 75% rate that you can't even argue that Freeney is notably good when he CHOOSES to play the run. Don't be blind man - Freeney has notably bad production against the run.

Say they don't want him to be involved in run defense all you want, fine. But the fact is his sack/hurry numbers don't dwarf other elite pass rushers in such a way to negate his near-total lack of production against the run. If he gets in the HOF it will be at the expense of more worthy players.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 10:42am

Additionally, I hate baseball, so stop bringing it up. I can't argue with your point because I don't even know what a bunt is.

I do know that football stats can't easily be broken out from team performance in the way baseball stats seem to be, so whatever you are arguing, the comparison is moot.

by Jerry :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 5:31pm

In the 2005 loss to the Steelers, Freeney was a beast and the best player on the field.

Better than Porter? Better than Roethlisberger? Hell, he might not have been the best DE on the field that day, but since Aaron Smith is a classic two-gap 3-4 end who absorbs blockers so his LBs can make plays, Smith's name will never come up.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 9:09pm

Perfect example of what's frustrating. Players in Smith's position (dominate without putting up any definable stats) will always be passed over for players like Freeney and Derrick Thomas. They should two have two or three years where the majority of inductees are o-line and DT's... There are 3 guys on the Chiefs o-line from the early 2000's all more worthy than Freeney and I bet only one even ends up in the discussion...

by DZ (not verified) :: Fri, 06/04/2010 - 7:51am

Freeney was the best player on the field that day (he single handedly kept Indy in that game).

There is no way there were three Chiefs better than Freeney.

That's nonsense.

by Murph (not verified) :: Sat, 06/05/2010 - 4:05am

I do think Dwight Freeney is HOF material. but just to be fair, that Chiefs thing holds water.

There were, in fact, three likely HOFers on those teams: Willie Roaf, Will Shields, and Tony Gonzalez. Of those, Gonzalez is clearly better than Freeney (Gonzalez is a reasonable choice for best ever at his position, Freeney, in my opinion, is not).

Roaf and Shields you can argue, but do remember that Roaf sports 11 Pro Bowls and 6 All-Pros and STILL wasn't as good good as the guy at the next locker, who had 12 and 9. (Freeney, at age 30, has 5 and 3.) More importantly, these two guys were responsible for making everyone think Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes were first-ballot HOF material. (If FBO ever invents a stat for trotting into the end zone untouched, Holmes and Johnson will come in at #1 and #2 all-time.) Very few teams, if any, have run the ball so well for so long.

It may be wrong to say that Freeney is worse than all three of those guys, but it certainly isn't ridiculous.

by tuluse :: Sat, 06/05/2010 - 5:28am

If FBO ever invents a stat for trotting into the end zone untouched, Holmes and Johnson will come in at #1 and #2 all-time.

Shaun Alexander bristles

by DZ (not verified) :: Sat, 06/05/2010 - 10:37am

I didn't realize we were counting Tony Gonzalez as a member of the O line.

That's a bit of a stretch.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 06/15/2010 - 9:33am

I think Wiegman was a hell of a good center. He never got much recognition in terms of post-season awards, so he will unquestionably never be considered for Canton, but I actually think if the All Pro and Pro Bowl voters had given him his due he'd get at least cursory consideration (though he still wouldn't get in, or deserve to, or be as deserving as Freeney). I presume the poster was talking about Brian Waters, who was indeed very good (and still is pretty good) but who also won't go and shouldn't. Roaf and Shields are both mortal locks, for my money.

I'd probably enshrine Freeney. He's been the second most important player for a Colts team that's been very, very good for a long time. I'd say the order of Canton-worthiness probably goes something like Manning-Polian-Freeney-Harrison-Dungy-Saturday-Wayne-James. I'm not sure where on that list the in/out cut-off should be, but I don't think it should be immediately after Polian.

by silentrat :: Mon, 07/12/2010 - 3:57pm

There's no way that anyone other than 18 deserves to see the HOF more than Harrison, and he should certainly be the first Indianapolis Colt in Canton. After him I would immediately put up Edgerrin James for discussion seeing as some people want to see Curtis Martin in the HOF, I consider them neck-and-neck, if one gets in so should the other. Freeney still has a lot to prove as does Reggie Wayne before it actually becomes prudent to consider.

by tuluse :: Mon, 07/12/2010 - 5:41pm

I really disagree with James.

I would put Tarik Glenn and Freeney in long before him.

by Nathan :: Sun, 06/06/2010 - 1:10pm

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with either of you but all those forced fumbles may be a style thing. Obviously there are many ways to get to the QB and different pass rushers have different toolkits. Does Cole use the bull rush a lot? Freeney's speed rush is the one that will force fumbles but it also leaves him susceptible to the draw. I bet very few of those forced fumbles have come off his spin move. But that move puts him in much better position to defend against the draw. It's a give and take.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 5:12pm

Also, the Colts have mediocre defenses too often for me to buy into any "strategy" of theirs. Maybe if they dominated against the pass I could buy it, but they don't. Year-in, year-in they have middling pass d and mediocre adjusted sack rates. And that limited success is only achieved at the expense of the running game. But they've never lost a game because the other team was able to burn the clock with draw-after-draw or control on the ground or anything, so what does it matter?

by tuluse :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 6:04pm

DVOA rank of Indy's pass defense since drafted Dwight Freeney

2009 - 11th
2008 - 9th
2007 - 2nd
2006 - 13th
2005 - 2nd
2004 - 18th
2003 - 7th
2002 - 14th

Looks pretty good to me, they've been in the top half of the league every year.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 10:42pm

Huh? That looks like the very definition of "just ok" to me - 2 great years, 2 good years, the rest middling. If the whole idea is to have a top flight pass defense at the expense of a run defense, then you're going have to do better than top-notch 2 out of 7 years.

For comparison, the Eagles were 5th, 3rd, 11th & 7th since Cole has been the starter... and he also produces against the run. So, they have better overall pass defense in head-to-head comparison and their leading pass rusher also stops the run. I'm just not seeing it with Freeney. He has a giant hole in his game. It's grasping at straws to spin it any other way.

Whether that hole is his game is the ONLY thing that allows his to produce above average sack and hurry numbers is up for debate. I say, it's enough of a debate that he doesn't merit real HOF consideration.

by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 11:10pm

Again, you are assuming that:

Freeney's lack of tackles are a "hole in his game". On the field, I don't see that. They are by design, not because of lack of skill. He makes plenty of run plays. In fact, if you check the Colts line numbers, you see that in many years runs around end at Freeney didn't do very well. They were 10th in 2008 and 1st overall in 2006 for example.

Second you are assuming that run stopping by an end is proportionally as important as pass rushing. That's simply not true, at least not in the Indianapolis defense.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 11:15pm

And just to be clear, the reason I belabor this, it that there's a glut of stellar offensive line-men who really desrve to be in the HOF who won't get in because the slots with go to Stat Warriors like Freeney who have some gaudy number to hang their case on. It's bad enough that guys who probably deserve to be in the HOF will always win out over guys who definitely deserve to be in the HOF, provided the "probably" guys play a position like DE, WR, RB or QB where it is easy to point at impressive numbers, without having "maybe, possibly" guys like Freeney in the discussion because they have big, "impressive" numbers demonstratbly at the expense of things other most players at their position are expected to do (like defend the run.)

by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 6:38am

Back to my original comment:

Freeney changes games.

Say what you want about 'stat compilers', Dwight Freeney is a man that must be accounted for on every play and has made a career of showing up large in the biggest games for the Colts.

The whole point of this article is that Freeney lead the league in pressures.

That's not a generally accepted stat. That means that his impact is felt BEYOND just sacks and forced fumbles. He is influencing the game as much or more than other DEs with similar sack totals.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 10:51am

I agree that Freeney changes games... in that the Colts have a black hole of run defense on his side of the field.

Seriously, plenty of players are in the realm of his sack/hurry totals, but he is not anywhere close to their run production. Your argument can't be he the greatest pass rusher of all-time far exceeding his peers (which renders his run defense entirely beside the point) and therefore deserves HOF consideration because it's not true - he's not so much better at pass rushing than Jared Allen or Julius Peppers or Michael Strahan.

Your only argument is: the run defense doesn't matter, the Colts want to be dominate against the pass, they don't care if they have a mediocre run defense, the whole idea is that the rest of the defense is built to let Freeney do his thing. But I don't buy that because they're only just ok against the pass. And to top it off, again, Freeney's numbers aren't so wildly amazing that you can just disregard all of the obvious complications with his on-field production.

by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 12:42pm

1. There's no evidence the Colts have a "black hole in run defense on Freeney's side of the field". Their run D to Freeney's side isn't any worse than their run D to any other side, and in most years it's actually better. Indy's system has the line funnel runners to the LBs and corners who make plays. You are confusing a lack of tackle stats with poor production without understanding the system. Indy always has low tackle stats for the line and high tackles for the corners. It's the way their D works.

Mathis IS a black hole in run defense. Freeney is most definitely not. Check out his 2008 season (link in my name).

2. Freeney numbers are far and away better than other rushers. Not every rusher every year, but almost every rusher almost every year. Especially when you consider stats like pressures in which is his a perennial league leader and fumbles forced. His sack totals don't always lead the league, but by most other standards of judging QB pressure, he's right there.

3. Freeney's run numbers are what they are because of strategy not talent. Yes, his 8 run stops are crazy few, but the point is that every run play he makes is a big play. He doesn't get in on 5 and 6 years run gains. You can't say that ever run tackle Jared Allen made is actually a good play. Freeney makes run stops every time he gets an attempt. If he was truly a bad run player, you wouldn't see the quality of stops that he produces.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 2:25pm

1. But their run defense is very frequently below average - so you funnel it to LB's and CB's, what's the difference if it doesn't work?

2. Freeney is definitely top-tier in sacks/hurries/FF - but his numbers don't dwarf other pass rushers like Allen (or Cole.) He would need a comparable inverse gap in his production vs. other top players in sacks/hurries to the one in his run production for me to take this seriously.

3. "You can't say that ever run tackle Jared Allen made is actually a good play. Freeney makes run stops every time he gets an attempt." In 2009 year, he had a 100% stop rate. In 2008 & 2007, he had a 75% stop rate. Those years average at to a stop rate very similar to Allen's for the same span.

Again, Freeney is really great in some regards and I'd love if he played for the Eagles. But I am specifically trying to discuss the HOF and his place in the pantheon of great DE's. He's just not on Strahan's or Allen's level, if run production matters at all. Your argument is that it doesn't matter. I happen to disagree. These guys did everything Freeney did AND MORE.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 2:20pm

And one more thing, I think the other argument for the HOF induction is "is it impossible to tell the story of Pro Football without mentioning this player?" On that acocunt, there's no signature game (like Derrick Brooks in the Superbowl) or rival that he always came up big against. Indy has feasted on weaklings since the divisional realignment, which hurts Freeney in some ways because he got his stats by beating up on chumps. I think of all the playoffs games Indy has been involved with in the past decade and very few of them were Freeney-centric. That said, I think this is the better angle for his HOF cred than his stats...

by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 2:51pm

Freeney played great in the playoffs. His one handed sack of Brees in the SB was a signature play. His hit on Tom Brady's INT to end the 06 AFC championship game is another. Freeney is definitely a signature player of the 00s.

Freeney has always showed up large in playoff games, even ones Indy lost.

You can say Indy's defensive strategy isn't wise, but my point is that you can't criticize Freeney for it. They don't play that way because Freeney is limited. They play that way for philosophical reasons. Freeney could stop the run if they wanted him to, but they don't. Why? Because they value turnovers more than stopping the run. Should they? That's open for the debate, but you can't knock Freeney for doing what he's told to do.

You can say Freeney isn't as good as Allen or Strahan. He doesn't have to be better than Strahan. Strahan is probably going to the HoF. Allen will too, if he puts together a bunch more seasons than he already has.

Freeney doesn't have to best the best pass rusher ever to make the Hall. If he finishes around 130 career sacks, the record for most forced fumbles (a record he is likely to own), at least 3 All Pro teams, and at least 1 SB ring, he'll be in serious contention for the Hall of Fame.

As he should be.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 9:06pm

Are they consistently generating more turnovers than 90% of the league? I honestly don't know the answer. I'd be a little more sympathetic to the idea that the Colts braintrust has this brilliant defensive strategy in which Freeney is only a cog, if it resulted in great defenses (like say... Aaron Smith on the Steelers as mentioned above.) Listen, if generating sacks and turnovers is his only job, he should do it much better than he does, period. Because other players are doing almost as well and doing far more against the run. Freeney needs more scak/hurry/FF production for me to accept the excuse of "that's all he is asked to do" - you know what, other HOF do just as much and more.

Also, Strahan is "probably" in the HOF? The dude is first ballot! Anyway, I'll totally buy the 06' hit to end the AFCCG as a memorable Freeney moment - but how was he the rest of the game? How many FF/sacks/hurries? When I said memorable/signature I was thinking of Lynn Swann and his circus catch Superbowl performance where a player's stats/production for his career don't merit induction, but there's a game or two where the player comes so big in such an unforgettable fashion that everyone instantly knows what you are talking about. It's tough for non-Qb/RB/Wr's to have that type of guy, which is why I mentioned Derrick Brooks having a huge game in the Superbowl: the best player on a legendary defense having a huge game on the biggest stage imaginable - it is something most people remember because it's the culmination of a season and a dominate performance. I just don't think there's a comparable "Freeney game."

Anyway, I sincerely want to mention I'm enjoying this conversation and I hope I'm not coming across as too much of an asshole. I just think it would be very stupid for Freeney to get in.

by DZ (not verified) :: Fri, 06/04/2010 - 2:00am

Freeney's other huge play in the 2006 AFC championship was his sack of Brady on third down to end the Pats drive in Colts territory up 21-3. The sack kept the pats from going up 3 TDs, and the Colts answered with a FG before the half.

I'd say that was a pretty huge play in that game.

Unfortunately, he had plenty of other huge games in games Indy lost (2 sacks and FF against the Steelers in '05, 2 sacks against the Chargers in '08, a HUGE sack on Brees in the SB). Ironically, our version of the Freeney game was the 28 points surrendered by the Colts to the Chargers in '07. Freeney was on IR and the defense had no pass rush at all and looked lost.

I 100% disagree that Freeney should be doing more. You've named two players who do more. One is, as you say, a first ballot HoFer in Strahan. The other is Allen, who has had a brilliant, though still short career. Strahan isn't the standard Freeney has to meet.

Freeney has forced more fumbles than anyone in football since 2002. I'm not sure what more he could do than that. The point of this article was that he lead the league in pressures and had the third highest % of his teams's total pressures (to go with his 13.5 sacks in 14 games).

As for the team rankings, I can only tell you the priorities. The Colts do ok in terms of forcing turnovers, but they don't employ the kind of corners that make a lot of picks. In terms of forcing fumbles from quarterbacks, no one does it better than Mathis and Freeney. What turnovers Indy does cause are usually the result of something Freeney or Mathis does.

The best argument I can make for Freeney is to say watch the Colts when he doesn't play. It's a disaster and has been for years.

by Jerry :: Sat, 06/05/2010 - 2:15am

For the record, Freeney had one sack and no forced fumbles in the Steeler playoff game.

None of this is to say that Freeney doesn't do what he does well, but it seems to me that a front seven player looking for recognition for doing one thing well would be advised to make it sacking, whether we're talking Lawrence Taylor or Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

by DZ (not verified) :: Sat, 06/05/2010 - 10:39am

I'm sorry I misremembered. It wasn't a forced fumble. He hit Roethlisberger as he threw and Cato June picked off the pass.

It was a forced pick.

My mistake.

by Jimmy :: Fri, 06/04/2010 - 11:24am

If he finishes around 130 career sacks, the record for most forced fumbles (a record he is likely to own), at least 3 All Pro teams, and at least 1 SB ring, he'll be in serious contention for the Hall of Fame.

Tell all that to Richard Dent. Not that I don't think Dent should be in the Hall, just that he has all those things and more and still isn't in.

by DZ (not verified) :: Fri, 06/04/2010 - 12:09pm

Dent is in serious contention for the Hall. He isn't in, but he's in the conversation and has been a finalist.

Dent only had 1 All Pro team. Freeney already has 3. Dent had 4 PBs. Freeney already has 5. Dent had two more forced fumbles for his career. He was also never the most important defender on his team.

The only thing Dent has over Freeney is quantity of sacks (which does matter greatly).

All that proves is that what I said is true. If Freeney gets the quantity of sacks necessary, he will have his case heard in the final room.

I've never argued that he'll be a shoo-in. I've only been saying that he'll be right there on the cusp.

For the record, I think Dent eventually gets in.

by tuluse :: Fri, 06/04/2010 - 4:48pm

He was also never the most important defender on his team.

Except for the Superbowl, when he won MVP.

Which is usually the kind of thing voters like.

I don't understand why Dent isn't in, other than the voters feel there are too many Bears in the HOF already maybe.

For the record, I see no reason Freeney shouldn't get in. Yeah he doesn't do much in the run game, but 1) Indy doesn't ask him to, and 2) it's not as important as it once was. It's like complaining that Randy Moss doesn't run block.

by DZ (not verified) :: Sat, 06/05/2010 - 10:40am

Moss blocking: thank you. I was trying to come up with a football metaphor since Chemical doesn't like my bunting illustration.

That works nicely

by silentrat :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 1:03pm

Is today the first time you've heard of Dwight Freeney or something? I ask because I really thought it was obvious to anyone who has seen him play that he is the first and second blocking priority for any team who plays the Colts. Robert Mathis should owe Dwight 1/4 of every paycheck he ever gets. So to suggest that Dwight just gets a sack here or there to make himself look good is preposterous. I have seen him get no less than 10 total game ending sacks in that the other team must score on this drive and he just kills their hopes. That is one thing FO should do a study on, as it is football's hidden analogue to the "save"

by Tim Wilson :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 9:42pm

Derrick Thomas was entirely one-dimensional and he got in.

by grgory (not verified) :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 7:42pm

Yes man , that is exactly my opnion too

by drobviousso :: Tue, 06/01/2010 - 6:57pm

Needs hurries + hits + sacks numbers, and year to year numbers

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 06/01/2010 - 9:21pm

You'll find those numbers through 2008 on the player pages on FO, and we'll add the 2009 numbers as soon as the book is done and we're not going insane anymore with work...

by Big Johnson :: Tue, 06/01/2010 - 11:32pm

is the football outsiders almanac gonna be available in book form or in pdf form? either way im definately buying, but i do prefer book form.

by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 2:30am

Both, just like last year.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 06/01/2010 - 11:52pm

You know, I keep forgetting you have individual pages, not just team stats....

by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 12:13pm

We're looking for ways to bring more attention to the individual stat pages in the coming months so you don't forget them!

by Super Bowler (not verified) :: Wed, 06/02/2010 - 12:01pm

I like the hurries stat idea, but when comparing the ratio of player to team hurries, or player1 to player2 hurries, I think the stats should account for time lost due to injuries. You mentioned in the article about the dropoff from Geathers to Johnson and how Odom's injury affected that. But had Odom stayed healthy all year, and close to his early season production, Geathers wouldn't have made the "Needs Help" list, instead likely adding Odom to top 20 guys in hurries (and yielding yet another set of teammates to do so). Have you considered/explored the idea of doing the player1 to player2 comparisons based on percentage of playing time and/or team plays or snaps? Seems unfair to the Bengals to say that Geathers, who's always been a steady producer, had no help when his best help--who was better than he was himself--got hurt early in the season.

by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 06/03/2010 - 7:41pm

To the remarks in the comments regarding Indy's defensive goals, it seems pretty clear that they have a bend but don't break style designed to keep people out of the end zone as best as possible...with the knowledge that their QB is likely to win "the battle of the drives" in most games if the defense does its job.

Jim Armstrong's Drive Stats at this website show...

2009: 8th
2008: 6th
2007: 7th
2006: 29th
2005: 8th

If they truly had a crappy run defense recently, how could they rank in the top eight in fewest TD's per drive in four of the last five years? Opponents don't know how to exploit a crappy run defense when they get to the red zone? In the NFL? Opponents lose their minds and try to pass when there's "a black hole of run defense" on Freeney's side of the field?

It's tough to properly capture in stats what a team like Indy is doing defensively, particularly since the team itself has established that they're worried about keeping teams out of the end zone rather than accumulating raw stats. The drive data does a pretty good job I think.

Would agree with those suggesting player evaluation on the Colts should come within the context of what the unit as a whole is trying to do.

And, I guess I should ask why Baltimore (ranked 3rd in rushing offense DVOA this year), couldn't score a TD in two games against Indy this year (ranked 20th in rushing defense DVOA). The 3rd best team in rushing couldn't score a TD in eight quarters against a team that has a black hole of run run defense on Freeney's side of the ball?

by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 06/04/2010 - 7:02pm

Did a little more playing around this afternoon after seeing the TD/Differential on the Drive Point page showing Indianapolis and New Orleans at 1-2 in the league for the season. (Baltimore a very solid 4th). I know Delta Whiskey, and maybe some others too are tinkering with alternatives for evaluating teams within the scope of the FO stat framework.

Offensive TD Differential for the Year (no special teams or def TD):
Indianapolis 50-29
Baltimore 43-26

Figured those by hand from the regular season boxscores, only counting offensive TD's for the subject teams and their opponents. Both were strong, with Indy at +21 and Baltimore at +17. Given that Indy won 2-0 head to head in their regular season meeting, they were both actually at +19 when not playing each other.

Baltimore did have a few more soft spots on the schedule though, getting five games against teams at 5-11 or worse. Indy only had two. Both lit up those teams in offensive TD differential...with Baltimore winning 19-3, and Indy 9-2. This did have an impact on full season stuff...and is arguably at the heart of the reason Baltimore grades out #1 in DVOA. They obliterated bad teams worse and more often than other contenders obliterated bad teams.

If you throw out the four best and four worst performances for Baltimore and Indy (picking the middle 8 games of the season to exclude outliers):
Indianapolis 25-15
Baltimore 18-14

If you only look at the 10 games each team played vs. opponents who finished 8-8 or better, you get:
Indianapolis 31-17
Baltimore 20-22

So, that combination seems to best represent Indy's edges over Baltimore and the rest of the AFC. Touchdown differential, because that's what they prioritize over everything else...and the ability to do it vs. quality instead of just creating illusions vs. the dregs on the schedule.

Moving forward, I think this shows some potential for overall evaluation. I think the Drive Data is a great starting point, with Jim Armstrong's page showing the following for net TD differential rankings:

1) Indy
2) New Orleans
3) Minnesota
4) Baltimore
5) New England
6) Green Bay
7) Dallas
8) San Diego
9) NY Jets

The top two teams made the Super Bowl. In the playoffs...teams generally lost to somebody right next to them or better than them...with the exception of Green Bay who lost to #12 Arizona on the road in overtime (no shame in that).

Compared to DVOA:
1) Baltimore
2) Green Bay
3) New England
4) Philadelphia
5) Dallas
6) New Orleans
7) Minnesota
8) Indianapolis
9) NYJ

The Super Bowl teams ranked 6th and 8th. In the playoffs, 4 got routed by 5, 5 got routed by 7 in the NFC...and 1 got routed by 8 in the AFC.

Imagine zooming in with a microscope. Zooming in to the "TD Differential Level" shows things about as they are (particularly if you adjust for outliers/strength of schedule). Zooming in further to the "per play" level which DVOA tries to do, actually messes up the picture...because strategies aligned with scoring and preventing TD's aren't quite the same as those aligned with per play production (particularly in the case of the Indy defense).

Certainly think Freeney's impact is part of this too...as he hurries opposing QB's a lot more than Manning gets hurried. Maybe that REALLY matters on key plays in drives in a way that influences TD differential over the long haul. Indy's quick strike approach on third downs and in the red zone is much more effective than what opponents are able to do in those high priority situations.

by Joseph :: Sun, 06/06/2010 - 12:07am

Do JA's #'s re: TD differential include D scores? Since, iirc, the Saints had 7/8 non-offensive TD's, including Robert Meachem's TD return after stripping the Redskins' guy after his INT of Brees right before halftime. Plus they had 2 more in the playoffs--Porter's in the SB & Bush's punt return vs. ARI. In fact, against the Dolphins, Redskins, & Rams, they don't win without those non-offensive TD's--and the SB is a last-minute nailbiter. (I bet that, if Armstrong's # DON'T include non-offensive TD's, that the Saints move to #1 because of it. I also would say, for the Saints and Colts, that their week 17 games shouldn't count. Prob. week 16 for Indy also.)

by Jeff Fogle :: Sun, 06/06/2010 - 1:21pm

Pretty sure Jim Armstrong's data is only what happens on drives...so non-offensive TD's aren't counted. The numbers I did by hand are only offensive scores.

In terms of excluding the season finales for tanking teams...if you exclude the outliers on either end (like using the middle eight in the example above), those get taken out. The list using results vs. opponents at 8-8 or better also excludes Indy/Buffalo because Buffalo was 6-10. Indy/Jets in Game 16 was actually a 2-1 win in offensive TD's for the Colts, with the offense scoring under Manning...but the game getting lost later largely on non-offensive scores for the Jets. Not something that would mess up any conclusions you'd draw from the numbers.

Went through and did the Saints by hand to throw in the mix off Joseph's comment.

OFFENSIVE TD'S IN "MIDDLE 8" GAMES (throwing out 4 best and 4 worst)
Indianapolis 25-15
New Orleans 26-18
Baltimore 18-14

OFFENSIVE TD'S VS. 8-8 OR BETTER (excluding NO/Carolina w/o Brees)
Indianapolis 31-17
New Orleans 29-18
Baltimore 20-22
(Note, this is 10 games apiece for Indy/Baltimore, but only 8 games for the Saints. At that rate...NO would come closer to Indy's differential with two more games, and would pull further away from Baltimore...36.3 to 22.5 pro-rated to 10 games. Of course, we have the second half of Indy/Jets in this sample...which would add a fraction to Indy if we accounted for that. NO and Indy virtually interchangeable in terms of differential, and well above Baltimore)

by Samson151 (not verified) :: Fri, 06/04/2010 - 10:33am

To me the Freeney vs Cole vs the Run argument just highlights the futility of comparing individual productivity stats across very different schemes and strategies. Other than a few hours of argumentative fun, where's the endpoint? Or is there a counter-argument for everything?

Here's what caught my attention about the article: some QBs handle pressure better than others. Now that's worth measuring. If you were an NFL club looking for a FA QB, even a backup, that's a good place to start. The article mentions Aaron Rodgers, McNabb, and Big Lusty Ben.

If the pass rush is more important than pass coverage in pass defense, a QB who is effective when hurried would the most important single factor in a successful pass offense -- or so it seems to me.

by Joseph :: Sat, 06/05/2010 - 11:59pm

Samson--that's a great point. However, I would love to dig into the numbers (if I had the time/numbers) to see if there are a few outlier plays that make Rodgers/McNabb/Big Ben's numbers better than they really are. Also, I think BR's size & ability to shed rushers if they don't get a clear hit on him probably helps him greatly in regards to this metric. Who knows with the other two.
To me, I also wonder about sample size issues regarding PM, TB, DB, & BF (& maybe others). Since Brees & Favre didn't take many sacks all year, my guess is they weren't as hurried either--simply because their O-lines are better and they are known for a quick release.

by Samson151 (not verified) :: Sun, 06/06/2010 - 6:43pm

I'm confident you're right about the context making a difference in those figures. But it just struck me that if there really is something to the idea of QBs who perform better than others under pressure (measurably, I mean), then it would change the way teams draft QBs and sign FA QBs.

I hope Schatz does something more on that measurement. He obviously had something clear in mind but I didn't see him elaborate.