Just How Valuable is a Pass-Rusher?
posted at 6/18/2010 10:06 AM EDT
Here are some cold, hard football facts on the matter. This article focuses on the importance of DE Jared Allen to the teams' that he's played for:
We need a new individual honor in the NFL. We’re calling it the MV non-QB P – the most valuable player who doesn’t play quarterback.
It’s an honor long overdue.
After all, America’s pigskin “pundits” are obsessed with offensive players and with quarterbacks in particular. Just look at the long list of NFL MVP’s or college ball’s Heisman Trophy winners. Both awards are almost exclusively reserved for offensive players.
Hell, in the NFL, the tools who vote for MVP should just rename it the Peyton Manning Memorial Award: they now hand him MVP honors each year merely as a reflex, even on seasons when he clearly did not deserve it, as was the case in both 2008 and 2009.
RESPONSE: Did you read the above paragraph, Dog(gggg)?? LOL!!!
But we can’t be too critical: even the operatic Pavarotti of pigskin, the Cold, Hard Football Facts, is guilty of hitting a sour note when we too often sing the praises of quarterbacks at the expense of the 21 other guys on the field.
But at least we know we have a problem. And as our Uncle Bill tells us each Wednesday night in the basement of the Oak Street Baptist Church and Jiffy Lube, admitting you have a problem is half the battle. (In case you’re wondering, the sign out front of the Oak Street Baptist Church and Jiffy Lube reads: “Forbidden fruit creates many jams … and some tasty homemade wine coolers.”)
So it’s this obsession with offense and with quarterbacks that spawned the introduction of our new MV non-QB P.
And that player over the past six seasons, the NFL’s Most Valuable Non-Quarterback Player, is Jared Allen, the high-motor defensive end currently plying his trade with the Minnesota Favrkings.
It’s amazing what you learn at Taco Bell
Most outlets and pigskin “pundits” have few ways to measure the performance of defensive linemen, save for sacks and the often misleading tackles: the former was not even an official stat until 1982, the latter, the most basic function of defense, is still not an official stat.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts, however, boast a very official stat. In fact, we have one of the greatest indicators in sports and the only stat to our knowledge that measures the performance of each team’s defensive front. We call it the Defensive Hog Index, an incredible indicator pioneered by our beloved Colonel Comey one night while waiting in the Taco Bell drive-thru lane.
(The Defensive Hog Index, for you CHFF newbies, measures each defense in three areas: ability to stop the run, ability to force Negative Pass Plays – sacks and INTs – and ability to get off the field on third down. )
In the three years since we’ve offered the Defensive Hog Index, the No. 1 team in the indicator has twice won the Super Bowl (the 2007 Giants and 2008 Steelers). The No. 1 team last year easily won the NFC North (Green Bay). Not a bad performance considering the indicator came to Comey in between bites of a 99-cent chalupa.
In addition to identifying great teams, the Defensive Hog Index allows us to prove that Allen is the NFL’s MV non-QB P over the past several seasons.
The Jared Allen Effect
Consider Allen’s career in Kansas City. The pre-Allen Chiefs of 2003 went 13-3, won the AFC West and boasted the league’s No. 1 offense (30.2 PPG). But they fielded a brutal defense, as the football world witnessed in a divisional playoff game between the Chiefs and Colts.
Peyton Manning and the Indy offense shredded the Kansas City defense like cabbage in cole slaw: they gained 142 yards on the ground, 304 through the air, averaged a dominating 6.9 yards per play and the converted 8 of 11 third downs. The Chiefs were helpless defensively.
So Kansas City’s promising 2003 season came crashing down around it, with a frustrating a 31-28 one-and-done playoff defeat at home.
Big changes were needed, and Allen was a part of that movement to solidify the defense. The Chiefs drafted him in the fourth round of Idaho State. The Kansas City defense was no better in 2004, but Allen showed promise with 9.0 sacks as a rookie.
By 2007, the Kansas City defense had improved to the point that the stoppers carried the team despite a poor offense. And Allen was a dominant defensive end in 2007 – league leading 15.5 sacks – and the Chiefs were a dominant group of Defensive Hogs: No. 5 overall on our Defensive Hog Index and the NFL’s best defense on third downs.
Then Allen moved to Minnesota in 2008: the Vikings instantly went from a great run-stopping defensive front to a dominant group of Defensive Hogs. They remained a dominant group in 2009, as well.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, imploded in the wake of the Allen departure.
A dominant defensive front in 2007, the Chiefs fielded one of the worst defensive lines in memory 2008. They barely improved in 2009.
Quarterbacks rarely have that kind of immediate impact on a team’s fortunes, let alone defensive ends. So let’s break it all down.
The 2007 and 2008 Chiefs
Allen’s 2007 Chiefs were a dominant defensive front. Here’s how they sized up on our Defensive Hog Index:
5th overall; 24th in run defense (4.34 YPA); 6th in forcing Negative Pass Plays (10.22%); 1st in third-down defense (31.3%)
Here’s how the Chiefs stacked up in our Defensive Hog Index in 2008, the first year without Allen:
32nd overall; 31st in run defense (5.0 YPA); 32nd in forcing Negative Pass Plays (4.3%); 31st in third-down defense (47.4%)
Talk about a total statistical collapse.
The Chiefs fielded a below-average run defense with Allen in 2007; they fielded a terrible run defense without him in 2008.
The Chiefs were among the best in the NFL at forcing quarterbacks into Negative Pass Plays (sacks and INTs) with Allen in 2007; they were the worst in football at forcing Negative Pass Plays without him in 2008.
The Chiefs were tops in the NFL on third down with Allen in 2007; they fell to 31st in the NFL on third down with him in 2008.
Most tellingly, the Chiefs fell from No. 5 on our Defensive Hog Index in 2007 to 32nd and dead last in 2008.
It was a disastrous collapse the likes of which we’ve really seen out of a single defensive unit in the space of one season.
The 2007 and 2008 Vikings
The Vikings acquired Allen for big bucks before the start of the 2008 season. If you value the performance of your Defensive Hogs, it was money well spent, as Minnesota witnessed an instant improvement in the fortunes of their defense.
The pre-Allen Vikings of 2007 were great on run defense but, overall, an average group of Defensive Hogs.
The 2007 Vikings finished 14th overall on our Defensive Hog Index; 2nd against the run (3.13 YPA), 24th at forcing Negative Pass Plays (7.75%) and 18th in third-down defense (40.2%).
Add Allen and 2008, and the Vikings instantly become a dominant defensive front in all phases of the Defensive Hog Index.
The 2008 Vikings finished 4th overall on our Defensive Hog Index; 2nd against the run (3.31 YPA); 8th at forcing Negative Pass Plays (9.9%) and 4th in third-down defense (33.5%).
The 2008 Vikings, in other words, remained a tough group of run stoppers. But their ability to force quarterbacks into sacks and INTs, and their ability to get off the field on third down, skyrocketed in both instances.
The Allen impact was most noticeable in third-down defense: the Chiefs fell from No. 1 in 2007 to No. 31 in 2008; the Vikings improved from No. 18 in 2007 to No. 4 in 2008.
Both defenses, it appears, were just tougher and nastier and more likely to get off the field with Allen in the line-up.
Kansas City’s struggles, and Minnesota’s dominance, continued in 2009.
The 2009 Chiefs finished No. 29 overall on our Defensive Hog index: 31st against the run (4.72 YPA), 28th at forcing Negative Pass Plays (7.14%) and 15th in third-down defense (38.12%).
The 2009 Vikings finished No. 3 overall on our Defensive Hog Index: 6th against the run, 9th at forcing Negative Pass Plays (9.97%) and 3rd in third-down defense (34.5%).
The Allen impact was also obvious, at least in Kansas City, in the most important place: the scoreboard.
The 2007 Chiefs surrendered 20.9 PPG (14th in the NFL); the 27.5 PPG (29th) in 2008 and 26.5 PPG in 2009.
The Chiefs, in other words, have fallen apart in every measureable way defensively since Allen left for Minnesota.
The Vikings, for their part, have remained static in scoring defense with Allen in the line-up: 19.4 PPG (12th) in 2007; 20.8 PPG (13th) in 2008; and 19.5 PPG (10th) in 2009. But clearly, as chronicled above, the production of their defensive front.