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
"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.|
|Stylez G. White||TB||19.5||75||26.0%|
"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...