Pass Rusher Profile — DeMarcus Ware | PFF News & Analysis | PFF

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Pass Rusher Profile — DeMarcus Ware

In the first of a series detailing player performance, Ben Stockwell looks at the pass-rushing skills of one of the league's most recognizable talents — DeMarcus Ware. Ware has a fearsome reputation, but how does he stack up to his peers and how does his performance cope when broken down via tape to a level rarely seen before?

No pass rusher applied more pressure last season than DeMarcus Ware: On 554 regular-season pass rushes in 2009, Ware registered 85 total pressures (56 pressures, 17 hits, 12 sacks). Taking off the pressure that came unblocked, Ware beat a block to apply pressure to a passer once every 7.80 pass rushes. Among pass rushers who applied the highest volume of pressure, only Dwight Freeney (once every 6.14 pass rushes) applied pressure more frequently than Ware. But Freeney rushed the passer 151 fewer times than Ware.

Ware showed a high level of play and made it last over a high snap count. He didn't put up the gaudy sack total he managed in 2008 but he applied pressure more consistently. Ware put up 32 more total pressures on 54 more pass rushes in '09 than '08: He applied pressure (blocked and unblocked) once every 6.52 pass rushes in '09, compared to once every 9.43 pass rushes in '08. Both were extraordinary seasons but '09 was a step up in pass-rush consistency for Ware.

Ware is a very balanced pass rusher — he beat blocks to get as much pressure inside (32 total — 21P, 6H, 5Sk) as he did outside (32 total — 23P, 4H, 5Sk). For some context, the average pass rusher gets around 15 percent more pressure to the outside of tackles than they do driving or stunting inside. Adding to his work inside of blockers, Ware was also more powerful than the average pass blocker as well, getting 12.94 percent of his pressure from the bull rush (8P, 2H, 1Sk). Only Lamarr Woodley bettered this (6P, 4H, 3Sk) among pass rushers in '09.

Ware's balance is what makes him such a great pass rusher. His ability to beat a blocker outside is unquestionable and he tore past a tackle's outside shoulder once every 17.31 pass rushes in 2009 to apply pressure to a quarterback. However, when combined with his ability to work inside and drive blockers back, he is — simply put — the complete package as a pass rusher.

Ware extended his high level of pressure to the crunch situations of third down as well, registering 19 pressures, 6 hits and 3 sacks on third-down situations. Only Trent Cole and Freeney applied more third-down pressure in '09. However, in terms of grading (raw, non-normalized grades for third downs) Ware drops to 10th. Considering his high snap count, Ware perhaps didn't get quite so much of his pressure on third downs as you might hope and expect.

Ware's all-around game, combined with Anthony Spencer's league-leading 26 quarterback hits and Jay Ratliff's excellent pass rushing inside at nose tackle, makes it tough to take Ware away as a pass-rushing threat. This was proven by his consistency in '09: He was never shut out as a pass rusher. The fewest pressures he registered all season was a two-pressure performance at Denver in Week 4. His consistency is illustrated below in a graph. While he had a slow start to the season in terms of sacks, he brought constant and consistent pressure all season for the Cowboys.


Fig 1. Graph mapping DeMarcus Ware's pressure throughout the season.

Throughout the season Ware clearly faced a wide range of tackles in terms of ability. Simply from our gradings in terms of pass blocking, he faced a range from the sixth-ranked pass blocker (Jason Peters) to the very worst pass protector (Mario Henderson). He got pressure all season long but was held without a sack by such highly rated pass protectors as Peters (twice) and Ryan Clady. However, he was also held in check by lesser tackles such as David Diehl (Week 2) and Marcus McNeill (Week 14). But even in those eight games in which he was held without a sack, he still brought the heat with hits and pressures.

By sack numbers alone, Ware's season was feast or famine and he only really turned it on in the middle of the season. But his consistent pressure throughout the season formed a large part of the Cowboys' defense and propelled his team to an NFC East title, fully justifying his status as one of the league's most deadly pass rushers.

Want to comment on this article? Stop by our forum, get in touch via Facebook or twitter, or get contact the writer here with any other queries or points. Stay tuned for more player breakdowns in the upcoming weeks featuring unique stats and insight from the Pro Football Focus staff, and check out our previous breakdowns on the home page.

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