The nerds who dwell in their nerdery with their nerd calculators (Football Outsiders) penned this recent article on QB Hurries, basically a junior varsity version of the Sack. Sacks grab attention but hurries can be just as influential, especially since they are much more numerous than sacks.
How much more numerous, you ask? Well, as part of the FO Game Charting Project (where they literally hire folks to rewatch every play of every game and hopefully record better and more accurate statistics), FO found that last season there were 3,268 hurries. That is about 3 times the number of sacks and just over twice the number of QB hits (QB knocked down but not sacked). FO found that the average pass play last year yielded 6.2 yards but that when hurried the average pass play fell to just 5 yards, about a 20% drop. And I'm sure the effect would be greater if you compared it to the average pass play when the QB was not hurried at all.
Now to my eyes, our defense line still does not provide as much pressure as I'd like. And in particular, I always thought Geathers seemed like a culprit for this. But it appears my lyin' eyes dun fooled me again, the FO guys rank Geathers in the top 15 in hurries. But more importantly, they note that Geathers ranked 9th highest in the percentage of hurries he accounted for on his entire team (23.3% of all hurries by the Bengals) and 2nd highest in ratio of hurries compared to the next closest guy (242% more hurries than our number 2 guy). The implication here is that Geathers had little help when pressuring the QB. As is obvious from the FO tables, the leaders in hurries tend to come in pairs (think Freeney and Mathis, or Jared Allen and Ray Edwards) so help really matters.
Geathers played without Odom opposite him most of the season. Our next closest guy in hurries was actually Michael Johnson, which a) speaks highly for his potential given he was a rookie with limited playing time - and Zims situational use of him - and b) speaks poorly to the rest of the defense's ability to get to the passer.
Anyway, for a pessimistic guy like myself this article mostly provided a nice little boost to my confidence for a unit I believe is a relative weakness (assuming, of course, their charting project accurately captures Geathers' performance). To recap:
- Geathers may be better than I thought
- Having Odom back to provide help may matter more than I thought
- There is evidence Michael Johnson may actually realize his freak potential
We face some nasty passing offenses this year. Nothing will be more important to the Bengals' success than pressuring the opposing QB.
Update: I must say though, Justin Smith ranks pretty damn high according to these stats too and I always thought he was not that great a player. Certainly good, but overrated and overpaid. So perhaps I will tone down my enthusiasm.
Update 2: funny, Geoff Hoblaw's Hobblog has some stuff up on Geathers including this quote: "When it comes to team stats, that’s another story because it is the ultimate team game. You can’t look up stats for a guy like Bengals left end Robert Geathers and really know if he had a good year or a bad year, or appreciate his value like you can find on the back of a baseball card." Translation: our front office doesn't use data. Look, football is harder to measure than baseball, but you should still try to measure things that you can, like hurries.