There's more to playing on the edge than rushing the passer. Who's the best all-around player among those defenders? We tell you in these comparison charts requested by several teams for their draft preparation.
Ray photo by USA TODAY
With National Football League teams placing much more emphasis on speed along their first- and second-level lines of defense, it has become imperative for teams to have quality edge rushers.
Teams are looking for those blue-chip hybrids – players capable of eluding big blockers coming off the edge, yet still have the power to take on double teams and shoot the inside gaps.
Ideally, they are looking for athletes who not only have the raw power to play through trash, but also those who are quick enough and agile enough to drop back and handle linebacker chores, when the scheme requires them to cover backs, tight ends and slot receivers in the short-to-intermediate areas on the football field.
These charts compare the performances of the top-rated edge defenders eligible for the 2015
draft, using their 2014 season statistics for this project. The players chosen are based on the consensus ratings from teams in the league. Each of the players listed below are considered to be early-round
draft selections. I examine each athlete’s performance in detailed categories,
based on game averages or percentage of plays.
POINT SCORING SYSTEM
: Players are rewarded points for where they rank within each category…The point system used rewards 10 points for a player that ranks first in a particular category; nine points for ranking second; eight points for third; seven points for fourth; six points for fifth; five points for sixth; four points for seventh; three points for eighth; two points for ninth place.
|RUN DEFENSE COMPARISON CHART|
||PLAY BREAKDOWN vs. THE RUN|
TK indicates total tackles recorded by the defender…SO indicates solo tackles…AS indicates assisted tackles…TFL indicates tackles behind the line of scrimmage/lost yardage…NG indicates times defender stopped an opponent for no gain on a rushing attempt…ATT indicates plays made vs. the run…YDS indicates yards gained by the defender’s opponents on plays made vs. the run…TD indicates touchdowns allowed vs. the run…LG indicates longest rushing attempt gain vs. the defender…YPC indicates average yards per carry by the opponent vs. the defender…1st indicates carries by an opponent that resulted in a first down vs. the defender…3rd indicates third-down plays made by the defender vs. the run…4th indicates fourth-down plays made by the defender vs. the run…RZ/GL indicates plays made by the defender inside the red zone/on goal-line plays vs. the run.
|AGAINST THE RUN COMPARISON|
GP indicates games played by the athlete…TKA indicates average tackles per game…RK indicates rank in that category…TFLA indicates tackle-for-loss average per game…NG indicates tackles of ball carriers for no gain…R/AVG indicates opponent’s average gain per rushing attempt vs. the defender…3/4S indicates third and fourth-down stops vs. the run…PTS indicates points scored for each ranking category…TOT indicates that defender’s final ranking vs. the other players listed…The point system used rewards 10 points for a player that ranks first in a particular category; nine points for ranking second; eight points for third; seven points for fourth; six points for fifth; five points for sixth; four points for seventh; three points for eighth; two points for ninth place.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Outside of Dupree and Orchard, none of the rush ends really had great tackles figures (TKA), as most of their production came from behind the line of scrimmage rather than in the first- and second-level area. You hope that your rush end can average a half dozen tackles per game and at least one stop-for-loss. Kikaha made most of his big hits behind the line (TFLA) when charging from the second level or from the edge, but Orchard did pile up 12.5 of his stops-for-loss on the bull rush.
Mauldin dealt with injury issues the last two years and his shoulder problems were eased by having him play more at the line than trying to squeeze through trash. The result was his high amount of stops vs. ball carriers for no gain (NG), as he was very good at closing on the ball and reacting quickly to the action in front of him.
Beasley (12.0 sacks), Kikaha (19.0) and Ray (14.5) held runners to negative yardage for the season, but while most were the results from their lost yardage via sacks than as run stuffers, Beasley did stop runners nine times with Ray delivering losses on eight running plays. Kikaha delivered 6.5 stops-for-loss vs. running backs and Harold checked in with 7.5.
|PASS DEFENSE COMPARISON CHART|
||PLAY BREAKDOWN vs. THE PASS|
TK indicates total tackles recorded by the defender…PB indicates pass deflections…INT indicates interceptions…SACK indicates sacks recorded/lost yardage…PR indicates times defender pressured the quarterback…ATT indicates number of passes attempted in the defender’s area…NO indicates number of passes caught by an opponent vs. the defender…YDS indicates yards gained by the defender’s opponents on plays made vs. the pass…PCT indicates percentage of passes completed vs. the defender…TD indicates touchdowns allowed vs. the pass…LG indicates longest pass completion vs. the defender…1st indicates receptions by an opponent that resulted in a first down vs. the defender…3rd indicates third-down plays made by the defender vs. the pass…4th indicates fourth-down plays made by the defender vs. the pass…IC indicates times the defender prevented his pass coverage assignment from catching a pass (re-route/jam/covered on the play).
|AGAINST THE PASS PERFORMANCE CHART|
SKA indicates average of sacks recorded per game…RK indicates rank in that category…PRA indicates average of quarterback pressures per game…1st indicates average amount of passing first downs defender allowed an opponent per game…3/4SA indicates average of third/fourth down stops made by the defender vs. the pass per game…PDA indicates average of passes defended (interceptions/ pass break-ups) by the defender per game…IC indicates times the defender prevented his pass coverage assignment from catching a pass (re-route/jam/covered on the play)…PTS indicates points scored for each ranking category…TOT indicates that defender’s final ranking vs. the other players listed…The point system used rewards 10 points for a player that ranks first in a particular category; nine points for ranking second; eight points for third; seven points for fourth; six points for fifth; five points for sixth; four points for seventh; three points for eighth; two points for ninth place.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Let’s face it, rush ends are just that – players rushing the passer. As important as the big sack is to stopping an offensive attack, rattling the quarterback on hurries and chase-downs also hold great importance, as it will generally lead to a loss-of-down. All but Fowler had very good success in getting to the quarterback for an emphatic sack. Fowler and Gregory were major nuisances in the backfield, along with Mauldin and Ray, as all reached double digits in the QB pressure department.
Five of Fowler’s hurries caused interceptions or fumbles. Gregory created three turnovers and Ray four from their QB hurries. Ray and Fowler also killed the most drives, delivering 14 and 12 third- or fourth-down hits vs. the pass last season. One look at the amount of times that Orchard and Ray managed to reroute and jam receivers on pass plays (IC) and it gives you confidence that both have the athleticism and ability to handle linebacker chores at the next level. Beasley, on the other hand, was often replaced when Clemson’s defense was facing obvious passing situations and that could be the reason teams are not optimistic that he can make the conversion to being a second-level defender.
|NEGATIVE PLAYS CHARGED AGAINST THE DEFENDER|
1STR indicates amount of first downs defender allowed an opponent on running plays…1STP indicates amount of first downs defender allowed an opponent on passing plays…PEN indicates amount of penalties charged to the defender…TDR indicates touchdowns defender allowed on running plays… TDP indicates touchdowns defender allowed on passing plays…10+R indicates running plays for 10 yards or longer charged to the defender…20+R indicates running plays for 20 yards or longer charged to the defender…10+P indicates passing plays for 10 yards or longer charged to the defender…20+P indicates passing plays for 20 yards or longer charged to the defender…NP indicates total amount of negative plays charged to the defender (total from each category)…AVG indicates average of negative plays charged to the defender per game…PTS indicates points scored for each ranking category…TOT indicates that defender’s final ranking vs. the other players listed.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
While this chart highlights the poor performance of some of the players, Beasley’s ranking comes with an asterisk, as he was rarely on the field for passing situations and had just one particular task assigned to him – getting to the quarterback. Orchard, Harold and Dupree were run at often. If you subtract the yards lost via sacks, Dupree actually allowed an average of 3.6 yards per rushing attempt, along with being bulled over on three plays for touchdowns. Harold gave up 2.75 yards per carry and Orchard allowed 2.65 yards per tote.
Both Ray and Harold were penalty prone (PEN), but Ray’s were mostly personal fouls, including one ejection for targeting, while Harold’s were more for jumping off-side. Ray needs to keep his emotions in check better and the rash of penalties came on drives that produced four touchdowns and one field goal. Harold’s issues are with cadence, but that has been a recurring factor for him throughout his career, leading some to wonder about his inconsistent ball awareness skills.
|POSITIVE PLAYS MADE BY THE DEFENDER|
TFL indicates tackles behind the line of scrimmage/lost yardage (total of solos and assists)…NG indicates times defender stopped an opponent for no gain on a rushing attempt…FUM indicates total of fumbles recovered/ caused…PR indicates times defender pressured the quarterback…PD indicates pass defended (break ups/interceptions)…3DS indicates total amount of third-down plays made (pass/run)… 4DS indicates total amount of fourth-down plays made (pass/run/punt return coverage)…TDSR indicates touchdown-saving tackles made vs. the run…TDSP indicates touchdown-saving tackles made vs. the pass…RZ indicates plays made inside the red zone…NP indicates total amount of negative plays charged to the defender (total from each category)…AVG indicates average of negative plays charged to the defender per game…PTS indicates points scored for each ranking category…TOT indicates that defender’s final ranking vs. the other four players listed…The point system used rewards 10 points for a player that ranks first in a particular category; nine points for ranking second; eight points for third; seven points for fourth; six points for fifth; five points for sixth; four points for seventh; three points for eighth; two points for ninth place.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
If you look at Fowler’s stats sheets, his season looks pretty pedestrian compared to the others, but he made the most out of those opportunities. The chart above is a good indication of who is really a clutch performer. Fowler, Orchard and Ray not only produced at a high level, but they did it in a variety of ways – whether by a sack, a tackle-for-loss, a forced fumble, a pressure or a big third- or fourth-down hit. Harold and Beasley had most or all of their success as pass rushers.
|FINAL REPORT CARD|
|FOWLER, Dante Jr.||10
This chart lists the statistics compiled by each defensive lineman during their respective seasons…AR indicates points scored in the above Against the Run Comparison category…AP indicates points scored in the above Against the Pass Performance Chart category…NP indicates points scored in the above Negative Plays Charged category…PP indicates points scored in the above Positive Plays Charged category…PTS indicates total points scored from all of these categories…RK indicates final ranking, based on total points scored.