The Redskins Defensive Line Pass Rush, Jason Hatcher & D-Linemen Age

Part 1: The Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof) of the Redskins' Defensive Line Pass Rush

It's no secret that the Redskins' defensive line has not been an area of strength for the team over the past couple of seasons.  The pass rush has been a particular area of concern for this group.  The number of offensive snaps and the percentage of passing plays that NFL teams run have steadily been rising for several years now, and last year NFL teams passed the 60% mark for passing play percentage.  So, needless to say, it is an especially inopportune time to be lacking in the pass rushing department.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, because ignorance might be bliss for fans in this case), most of us are unaware of just how poorly the Redskins front line has fared when it comes to disrupting passers on the opposing offensive.  Hopefully, with the help of a few stats this article can start to change that.

Just how bad exactly has the pass rush from our front-3 been?  I'm sure many of you have heard the number 5.5 being thrown around in relation to this group.  According to NFL.com, that's the number of sacks that the entire line produced in 2013.  But where do we rank in relation to the rest of the league, and why are we only looking at sacks when discussing the pass rush?

I used Pro Football Focus (don't worry PFF haters, I didn't use their rating system) to determine how the Redskins defensive line stacked up against other D-lines around the league.  I totaled up the number of sacks, QB hits, QB hurries, total pressures and pass rushes for each line.  With the exception of total pressures, these stats are all unique events.  For example, a sack is also not counted as a hit and a hurry.  It should also be noted that PFF awarded the Redskins 7 sacks instead of 5.5.  For consistencies sake, we'll be generous to the Redskins and stick with the 7 sacks.  Just keep this in mind though as we go on.  So, without further ado, here are the Redskins 2013 defensive line pass rush stats and rankings.

2013 Team Defensive Line Pass Rush Statistics
Sacks QB Hits QB Hurries Total Pressures Pass Rush Pressure % Sack %
Redskins 2013 Totals 7 21 66 94 1347 7.0% 0.52%
2013 NFL Average 24.13 35.91 116.25 176.28 2054.19 8.4% 1.14%
Redskins 2013 NFL Rank 32nd 24th 28th 30th 30th 25th 32nd

Not.  Good.  As you can see the Redskins defensive line performed well below the NFL average in each of the categories listed.  Their highest rank in any one category was 24th (QB Hits).  The group ranked dead last in sacks (even with the aforementioned 7).  There were 36 individual defensive linemen that had 7 or more sacks by themselves last year.

You might also notice that the Redskins D-line ranked near the bottom of the league in number of Pass Rushes by individual players.  This however, is not an excuse for the unit's poor production, because they were horribly inefficient with the number of pass rushes that they had.  I looked at total pressure % (percentage of pass rushes that resulted in a pressure) and sack % (percentage of pass rushes that resulted in a sack) so that we could see how efficient the pass rush was for each NFL team.  The Redskins ranked 25th and last in these categories respectively.

However, it's not really fair to compare the pass rush generated by the Redskins defensive line to that of the rest of the NFL's 31 other teams, because the Redskins were one of 15 teams that ran a base 3-4 defense in 2013.  It's not fair because defensive linemen in the 3-4 defense are typically responsible for 2 gaps and are asked to occupy blockers so that the linebackers are free to make plays.  Thus it's the linebackers that are usually responsible for most of the pass rush in the 3-4 scheme.  Although, this in no way negates the need for a pass rush from the line.  It's especially important to create some push up front if the team in question doesn't have any truly elite pass rushing linebackers or defensive backs.  Either way, the more equitable thing to do in this case would to compare the Redskins' defensive line to the other lines that ran a base 3-4 defense.

2013 Team Defensive Line Pass Rush Statistics (Base 3-4 Teams Only)
Sacks QB Hits QB Hurries Total Pressures Pass Rush Pressure % Sack %
Redskins 2013 Totals 7 21 66 94 1347 7.0% 0.52%
2013 NFL Average (3-4 Teams) 15.47 23.40 76.33 115.20 1527.53 7.5% 1.01%
Redskins 2013 Rank (out of 15 Teams) 15th 8th 11th 13th 13th 9th 15th

The rankings seem a little bit better relative to the rest of the pack, but the Redskins are still below average for each metric and they are obviously still ranked last in sacks and sack %.  Maybe last year was just a fluke though?

2012 Team Defensive Line Pass Rush Statistics
Sacks QB Hits QB Hurries Total Pressures Pass Rush Pressure % Sack %
Redskins 2012 Totals 6 27 62 95 1707 5.6% 0.35%
2012 NFL Average 23.94 32.88 100.69 157.50 2100.88 7.2% 1.09%
NFL Rank (Out of 32) 30th 23rd 23rd 25th 21st 27th 31st
2012 NFL Average (3-4 Teams) 12.00 19.83 54.08 85.92 1452.50 5.9% 0.82%
Redskins 2012 Rank (Out of 12 Teams) 10th 3rd 4th 5th 1st 7th 11th

Again, these results aren't quite as dreadful as what we saw in the first table, but they're still not encouraging by any means.  Especially when you consider that much of the improvement is derived from the team's individual defensive linemen combining for more pass rushes than any other 3-4 team.  Also, just as they did in 2013, PFF awarded the Redskins with more sacks than NFL.com did.  NFL.com had them at just 3.5 sacks on the year.  Let's take a look at the numbers from 2012 and 2013 combined.  Please note that statistics are not provided for 3-4 teams in the following table, because several teams switched base defensive schemes between 2012 and 2013.

2012-2013 Team Defensive Line Pass Rush Statistics
Sacks QB Hits QB Hurries Total Pressures Pass Rush Pressure % Sack %
Redskins 2012-2013 Totals 13 48 128 189 3054 6.2% 0.43%
2012-2013 Average 48.06 68.78 216.94 333.78 4155.06 7.8% 1.12%
Redskins 2012-2013 Rank 32nd 24th 27th 27th 24th 28th 32nd

In my opinion, the most important metrics here are sacks, sack %, total pressures and pressure %, and those are the areas that the Redskins' defensive line has struggled with the most over the last two years.  The Redskins' linemen have simply not been able to get to the quarterback on any kind of a consistent basis.

There is clearly a disconcerting trend occurring here.  One that Bruce Allen and company failed to address during last year's offseason.  The question is: has it been adequately addressed so far this offseason?

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 and find out.

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