News & Analysis

Ranking NFL linebackers by pass-rush productivity through Week 10

By Mark Chichester
Nov 16, 2017

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Oct 1, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) signals during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With 10 weeks of the 2017 season firmly in the books, it’s time to focus our attention on another PFF Elite stat. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the league’s linebackers, and the top performers in terms of pass-rushing productivity.

PFF’s pass-rush productivity measures pressure tallied on a per-snap basis with a weighting toward sacks produced. It gives us an indication of a player’s production in the pass-rush that goes beyond just sack-total and pressure rate.

1. Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys

PFF Grade: 42.6

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 31.7

Smith has accumulated one sack, one hit and four additional hurries on just 15 pass-rush attempts this season. Showing his ability to get to the passer, the Cowboys may be keen to have him rush the passer a bit more often down the stretch, especially as they have two matchups with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz on the horizon, and Wentz fields the NFL’s fourth-highest passer rating (114.6) when kept clean from pressure in the pocket.

2. Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PFF Grade: 73.0

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 30.0

Through 10 weeks of the season, the third-year linebacker has been disruptive on limited pass-rushing action, and produced three hits and three hurries on the 15 snaps where he’s been asked to rush the passer. After showing promise in the pass-rush, the Bucs should maybe look to utilize him more going forward, especially as the team has two games left the Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan. Through his team’s nine games, Ryan has posted a passer rating of 104.9 when kept free from pressure in the pocket, the league’s 12th-best mark. However, that passer rating tumbles all the way down to 66.8 when pressured, 20th among signal-callers.

3. Mason Foster, Washington Redskins

PFF Grade: 63.0

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 28.5

Prior to his season-ending shoulder injury, Redskins’ defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was using Mason Foster’s athleticism to great effect in the pass-rush, and sent him to rush the passer on 21.6 percent of his passing plays. Foster was mightily productive in these scenarios, producing two sacks, one hit and 10 hurries on his 36 rushes. Now, with Jonathan Allen (12.0 PRP – fourth-best among interior defenders) on IR and Matt Ioannidis (11.7 PRP – fifth best) set to miss more time with a broken hand, the Redskins could have really used Foster’s help in the pass-rush down the stretch. The team will hope he gets healthy and returns at 100 percent for the 2018 season.

4. Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

PFF Grade: 95.8

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 26.7

Wagner’s excellence in all facets of the game is the reason he currently ranks first among linebackers with an ‘elite’ grade of 95.8. An underrated aspect of Wagner’s game is his ability to create pressure when rushing the passer, something that he’s excelled in this season, as he’s produced two sacks, two hits and six hurries from his 30 pass-rush snaps. With two games against the Arizona Cardinals still left to play, Wagner will almost certainly be able to take advantage of the Cardinal’s sub-par pass blocking unit that has allowed 153 quarterback pressures through 10 weeks, the second-most among teams.

5. Alec Ogletree, Los Angeles Rams

PFF Grade: 36.9

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 21.6

While Ogletree hasn’t graded particularly well this season, he has found success in getting to the quarterback. Through 10 weeks, his pass-rush grade of 78.0 significantly betters his run defense grade of 40.5 and his coverage grade of 33.9, due to the fact that he’s produced 14 total pressures on his 51 pass-rushing snaps, the third-most among linebackers. As his team makes a final push for the post season, Ogletree can look to add to his sack total going forward, but it’ll be tough in the team’s Week 11 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings and quarterback Case Keenum, who has taken a sack on just 4.9 percent of pressured dropbacks this year, the best mark in the league.

6. Vince Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers

PFF Grade: 74.0

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 21.3

Through 10 weeks of the season, Williams is arguably having the most productive season of his career, especially in the pass-rush. Logging a total of 40 pass-rushing snaps, Williams has produced four sacks, one hit and five hurries, and has the second-most sacks among his teammates. He’ll look to add to that total in Week 11 against the Tennessee Titans, who allowed three sacks, four hits and 11 hurries in Week 10.

7. Zach Brown, Washington Redskins

PFF Grade: 72.3

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 20.9

With Mason Foster lost for the season, Brown has seen an uptick in pass-rush snaps over the last few weeks, and he seems to have picked up straight from where Foster left off. All told, Brown has produced 13 total pressures from 49 pass-rushing snaps and will look to see if he can disrupt quarterback Drew Brees during his team’s Week 11 contest against the New Orleans Saints. Through 10 weeks, Brees has fielded an adjusted completion percentage of 80.8 percent from a clean pocket this season, the best mark among quarterbacks.

8. Danny Trevathan, Chicago Bears

PFF Grade: 84.5

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 20.0

Through 10 weeks of the season, Trevathan has been an integral part of the Bears’ defense, and has made a real impact in the pass-rush. In the eight games he’s played, he’s rushed the passer on 14.7 percent of his pass defense snaps, and notched one sack, one hit and seven hurries. While he’s currently recovering from a calf strain, Trevathan will be aiming to get back as soon as possible. He has a real chance to add to his sack total in Week 12 against the Cinncinnati Bengals and quarterback Andy Dalton, who has taken a sack on 25.3 percent of his pressured dropbacks this season, the second-worst mark in the league.

9. Nick Vigil, Cinncinnati Bengals

PFF Grade: 40.3

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 19.9

Vigil has tallied one sack, one hit and eight hurries on 35 pass-rushing snaps this year, and has contributed to an already talented pass-rushing unit. Given his production, the Bengals should look to utilize Vigil more against the Denver Broncos in Week 11, with an aim to get to quarterback Brock Osweiler. In the last two weeks as the team’s starter, Osweiler has field a passer rating of just 34.2 on throws under pressure, the second-worst mark among quarterbacks in that span.

10. Brock Coyle, San Francisco 49ers

PFF Grade: 34.4

PFF Pass-Rushing Productivity: 18.8

Through 10 weeks of the season, Coyle has made his presence felt in the pass-rush, and has accumulated three hits and two hurries from just 20 pass-rushing snaps. Going forward, the 49ers could look to use him in an expanded pass-rushing role, especially as the team faces off against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. In nine games, the Seahawks have allowed 151 total pressures (third-most among teams) and quarterback Russell Wilson is coming off two straight games of poor play under pressure, where’s posted a passer rating of just 49.9, 24th among the league’s quarterbacks.

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