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The 5 O’Clock Club: Poll Rewind - 2017 sacks

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Welcome back to the Poll Rewind series!

As you probably know already, each 5 o’clock club post ends with a poll question. Usually, the results are forgotten within a day or two, but no longer!

Over the course of the off-season (From now to July 2018) we will be re-visiting some (not all) of the results of polls that were published from June to December 2017.

Several of the writers on Hogs Haven — Ken, Mark, James Dorsett & Cadillactica — have agreed to help me out with the poll reviews by adding commentary so you aren’t stuck with my voice all the time.

Today, the comments come from our ‘deep’ researcher, James Dorsett.

(A note from Bill-in-Bangkok - do yourself a favor and click on the “quality sacks” link that James inserted into the article. It will give you an enhanced appreciation for Kerrigan’s skills. Also, take a look at the original post from July; nobody was tipping Demarcus Lawrence to be a leading pass rusher in the division in 2017.)

We go back to 14 July 2017 when the poll asked how many sacks the Redskins defense would get in 2017.

Comments from James Dorsett

The two most popular picks in this poll were that the team would record between

  • 30-39 sacks (31%) or
  • 40-49 sacks (43%)

Smart Readers!

The former (30-39) was the safe answer, as the Redskins recorded between 32 and 38 sacks in each of the five previous seasons (32, 36, 36, 38 and 38).

On top of that, 42% of the Skins’ seasons since the merger and 47% of all team seasons in the last ten years have ended with between 30 and 39 sacks.

The readers turned out to be right, as the more ambitious prediction of a 40-plus sack season came to fruition (42 sacks).

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

A dangerous pass-rushing unit

This marked the third consecutive season in which the Redskins led the NFC East and ranked in the top half of the league in sacks (7th in the NFL), sack percentage (7th) and adjusted sack rate (4th).

Per Football Outsiders, the Washington defense also led the entire NFL in pressure rate in 2017 (37.7%).

Clearly, the Redskins not only had the best pass rush in the division, they had one of the most dangerous pass-rushing units in the entire league last season.

A re-shaped pass rush

Much of the team’s 2017 sack production came from new sources.

Nearly half of the Redskins’ 2017 sacks (46% of the team total) were recorded by players who had never recorded a sack in a burgundy and gold uniform. Almost 50% of that new production came from second-year Skins, Anthony Lanier (5) and Matt Ioannidis (4.5), who ranked 3rd and 4th on the club in sacks.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Exactly half of team’s sacks came from starting outside backers, Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan. Smith’s 8 sacks tied a career high.

Buffalo Bills v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Kerrigan finished the year just a half-sack shy of his personal record (13 sacks ranked 4th in the NFL) and ranked second in the division in sacks, total pressures (64 pressures) and pass rushing productivity (13.0 PRP ranked 8th in the NFL).

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Pro Football Focus credited Kerrigan with a league best 18 sacks (half sacks count as 1). The Heartbreak Kid also recorded more “quality sacks” than any other player, per John Ledyard of FanRag Sports.

The cream of the division

I wish I could say Kerrigan was the scariest pass rusher in the division, but that honor has to go to Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who led the division and ranked top-3 in the NFL in both sacks (14.5) and pressures (79).

Lawrence posted a 14.8 PFF pass-rushing productivity score, which was tied for tops in the NFL with Aaron Donald and Elvis Dumervil (minimum of 150 pass-rushing snaps).

The skills of the many outweigh the skills of the one

Lawrence may have been a one-man wrecking crew for Dallas, but it takes multiple effective pass rushers to make it into the upper echelon of team sack production; that is exactly what the Redskins have with Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier and Jonathan Allen.

If the Skins can get anything out of Ryan Anderson, re-sign Galette or Murphy, and add another player in free agency or the draft, then this group will have the makings of a truly elite pass-rushing attack.

Sacks given up

Things didn’t go as well for Washington on the other side of the ball. Kirk Cousins was sacked 41 times (5th most in the NFL) for 342 yards (most in the NFL), both of which were easily career highs. In fact, those numbers are nearly as high as his two previous career highs combined. I guess that’s what happens when your opening-day starting offensive line misses 39% of the offensive snaps.

Denver Broncos v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Don’t expect a lot from Alex Smith in this department. Smith’s 7.8% sack rate ranks 52nd out of the 63 players with 1,000 or more attempts since he entered the league in 2005; Cousins ranks 11th with a sack percentage of just 4.8%.


The Redskins defense tallied 42 sacks in 2017. What do you expect in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    More than 42
    (168 votes)
  • 24%
    Less than 42
    (62 votes)
  • 8%
    Exactly the same
    (21 votes)
251 votes total Vote Now


Cousins was sacked 41 times in 2017. How many times will the Redskins QB be sacked in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    More than 41
    (30 votes)
  • 83%
    Less than 41
    (206 votes)
  • 4%
    Exactly the same
    (11 votes)
247 votes total Vote Now


What’s your attitude toward Trent Murphy & Junior Galette, who are both upcoming free agents?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Let ‘em both walk
    (13 votes)
  • 24%
    Re-sign Murphy only
    (66 votes)
  • 10%
    Re-sign Galette only
    (28 votes)
  • 60%
    Re-sign them both to give the ‘Skins a deep and talented corps of pass rushers
    (161 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now