FanPost

Peppers absence may have profound effect, statistics show.


Now we all now how the Peppers saga ended.  He wanted out.  After supposedly turning down several long-term offers from Carolina, he got his wish, and swiftly jumped at the fattest contract he could find.  So he is a Chicago Bear now.  But in his wake also goes roughly one-third of the team's pass-rush.  To get an idea of how his absence may be felt, let's examine an interesting article from Football Outsiders.

The franchise's all-time sack leader and an integral part of the D-line for eight seasons, Peppers' impact on the defense was made several ways:

First, as a Panther, Peppers averaged more than 10 sacks per season.  Although a sack does immediately end a play, and end it profoundly, secondly, however, is arguably a more important statistic to analyze when dissecting a defenses' effect on quarterback play--and that statistic is known as the hurry.

See how Football Outsiders breaks down The Art of the Hurry, and make note of the lists that Peppers headlines.  Check it out after the jump...

"Pass pressure comes in different categories. The quarterback sack is the ubiquitous play, but at Football Outsiders, we track other methods of disrupting passing plays. There's the quarterback hit, in which a defender knocks the quarterback to the ground during (or after) the throw. Then there's the quarterback hurry, which we track with the Football Outsiders game charting project. These numbers are also adjusted based on individual game charters, but we end up with fairly accurate indicators of how many pressures either cause a hurried throw, or prompt offensive holding penalties. Hurries are the most common pass pressures -- in 2009, there were 1,106 quarterback sacks, 1,522 quarterback hits (including on plays cancelled by penalties) and 3,268 adjusted hurries."

Adjusted Hurry Leaders, 2009

Defender Team Adj. Hurries
Dwight Freeney IND 34
Ray Edwards MIN 33
Robert Mathis IND 30
Jared Allen MIN 29.5
Anthony Spencer DAL 28.5
DeMarcus Ware DAL 28.5
Justin Smith SF 28.5
Julius Peppers CAR 28
Mario Williams HOU 27
LaMarr Woodley PIT 26.5
Tamba Hali KC 26
John Abraham ATL 25
James Harrison PIT 24.5
Robert Geathers CIN 24
Antonio Smith HOU 23
Trent Cole PHI 23
Anthony Carter WAS 21
Brian Orakpo WAS 21

 

"Hurries aren't as immediately effective as sacks, in that they don't end plays, but they do affect quarterback play. Last season, the average pass play yielded 6.2 yards and a mean DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average, FBO's per-play efficiency metric) of 13.6 percent. When the defense hurried the quarterback, the average pass play gained 5.0 yards and averaged a DVOA of minus-16.2 percent. There are those rare quarterbacks, like Aaron Rodgers, Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger, who produce well when under that kind of pressure, but the average stats tell the value of the hurry.

One thing we noticed was that in 2009, hurries came in pairs. Of the top 20 players in adjusted hurries, there were seven sets of teammates. This makes sense, of course -- if opposing offensive lines have two elite pass-rushers to worry about, there are fewer double-teams, and blocking schemes are altered. This isn't an absolute year-to-year trend, though. Five pairs of pass-rushers made the top 20 in 2007, but just two sets of teammates did so in 2008. The Baltimore Ravens, who led the NFL in adjusted hurries that year, had three players in the top 20.

(For those curious, half-hurries are like half-sacks -- they come about when two players pressure the quarterback together or one player forces a scramble while another runs up to force a throw. There are also "overall pressure" hurries, when the whole line collapses and there is pressure from more than two specific defenders.)

On the other side of the equation, who gets the least amount of help? Over the past three seasons, Denver's Elvis Dumervil might have the most pressing case for nonsupport: His 49.5 adjusted hurries from 2007 through 2009 represent 25 percent of Denver's total hurries, and the Broncos finished dead last in the league in total hurries in 2008, when Dumervil posted 15.5 on his own, 32 percent of Denver's 48. But in 2009, another AFC West pass-rusher led the charge when it came to the most hurries without significant help."


Highest Percentage of Team Hurries, 2009

Defender Team Adj Total Hur TEAM HUR HUR PCT.
Tamba Hali KC 26 80 32.5%
Julius Peppers CAR 28 87 32.2%
Dwight Freeney IND 34 116 29.3%
Mario Williams HOU 27 101 26.7%
Stylez G. White TB 19.5 75 26.0%
Robert Mathis IND 30 116 25.9%
Anthony Spencer DAL 28.5 121 23.6%
DeMarcus Ware DAL 28.5 121 23.5%
Robert Geathers CIN 24 103 23.3%
Chris Long STL 20.5 89 23.0%

 

"Finally, here are the No-Help All-Stars for 2009 -- the 10 players with the highest percentage of single-season hurries over their next-most-productive teammates. Each of the top five names on the chart below have found themselves with an inordinate percentage of team hurries in previous years."


2009 No-Help All-Stars

Team Player 1 Player 1 Hurries Player 2 Player 2 Hurries Team Hurries Player 1 Team Pct. Pct. Above Player 2
CAR Julius Peppers 28 Everette Brown 11.5 87 32.2% 243%
CIN Robert Geathers 24 Michael Johnson 10 103 23.3% 242%
KC Tamba Hali 26 Mike Vrabel 12 80 32.5% 216%
DEN Elvis Dumervil 20 Vonnie Holliday 10 90 22.2% 200%
ATL John Abraham 25 Jonathan Babineaux 13 113 22.1% 192%
TB Stylez G. White 19.5 Jimmy Wilkerson 12 75 26.0% 163%
SF Justin Smith 28.5 Parys Haralson 18 128 22.3% 158%
OAK Richard Seymour 17 Gerard Warren 11 83 20.5% 155%
CHI Adewale Ogunleye 21 Alex Brown 14 102 20.6% 150%
GB Clay Matthews 21 Cullen Jenkins 14 122 17.2% 150%

 

"Dumervil and Tamba Hali may have the worst shot at getting help, with Vonnie Holliday now in Washington and Mike Vrabel pushing 35. But Robert Geathers will benefit from the return of Antwan Odom, who led the NFL in sacks through six games before losing the rest of his season to a torn Achilles tendon. John Abraham and Stylez G. White are the point men in front fours that are still under construction, but perhaps the most impressive performance on this list came from San Francisco's Justin Smith, who tied for fourth in adjusted hurries despite the fact that he played tackle in four-man fronts and end (as opposed to rushing linebacker) in three-man fronts.

Hurries are the most prevalent form of pass pressure, and they're more than just the results of unsuccessful sacks. That's why it's important to note not only who gets the most hurries, but which teams need the most help beyond their statistical leaders."

NOTE:  All above content complied and written by Football Outsiders.

So in breaking down the numbers, it looks like Peppers was among the leaders in hurries last season.  More dramatically, he was the team hurry leader (28) farthest ahead of the second place player on the team, in the Panthers case it was Everette Brown with 11.5.

It will be interesting to see if and how the Panthers can replace this pass-rushing production.  With Everette Brown seeing an increased role, and Charles Johnson expected to be a three-down player, look for the pass-rush to fall off a little bit.  We have to assume that John Fox and his defensive staff are in the think tank coming up with blitz schemes to force the issue.  Although it has not been a key cog in Meeks' defenses, the blitz will have to be utilized more often if the sacks and hurry numbers are going to be at an effective level.

That's the toughest part about June and July.  All we can do is speculate and take the wait and see approach.  Wake me up when the guys report to training camp...

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