The 2022 True Sack Rate (TSR): Week 18 Update (Final rankings)
Welcome everyone to the final update of the 2022 True Sack Rate (TSR) metric where I study and chart every sack of the season from all defensive linemen.
If you are new to the TSR, here are the final leaderboards from the 2020 season for edge-rushers and interior D-linemen and the 2021 season for both positions. In the past I’ve paid homage with the cover photo to the top two sack artists of all-time, Bruce Smith and Reggie White. This season I wanted to use the player fourth on the all-time sack list and one of my favorite pass-rushers of all-time, Julius Peppers.
From a team perspective, all sacks are positive for a defense, but they can mean very different things for an individual pass-rusher making the play. Depending on a variety of different factors, player evaluation based on raw sack statistics can often be misleading.
Players can add a ‘sack’ on the stat-sheet after the quarterback handles the ball for too long (either due to great coverage or the QB failing to recognize the opening in the defense), as a result of a protection breakdown, by tackling the QB at the line of scrimmage, while still being blocked, or by soundly beating the blocker in front of them due to superior athletic ability and/or technique.
By differentiating and qualifying these different pathways to notching a sack into four different categories — using film study, charting, and a simple grading scale — we gain valuable insight into which players are earning their production vs. which players are the beneficiaries of fortunate circumstances.
Through this process, we will be able to more accurately evaluate sack and pass-rush production as a whole for the defensive line position.
The TSR will provide us with each rusher’s “sack score,” based on a point system that specifies four different types of sacks and forced fumbles, as outlined below:
1.25 points: Rare High Quality (RHQ) Sack - A 1-on-1 win over a very good (Ex: Laremy Tunsil) or elite (Ex: Trent Williams) blocker due to the rusher’s skill, move(s) and/or athletic ability.
Example: (2021) Saints DE Cameron Jordan beating Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs 1v1 with a stab-chop move strung together with a bull-rush for a strip sack. Jordan received an additional .5 points for forcing the fumble for a total of 1.75 (1.25 RHQ + .5 forced fumble).
1.0 point: High Quality (HQ) – A 1-on-1 (or 1-on-2) win over an above average (or below) blocker due to the rusher’s skill, move(s) and/or athletic ability.
Example (2022): Titans DT Jeffery Simmons using a stab-club move to win 1v1 vs. Giants LG Joshua Ezeudu. Simmons received an additional .5 points for forcing the fumble for a total of 1.50 (1.0 HQ + .5 forced fumble).
.5 points: Low Quality (LQ) – A sack coming as a result of being unblocked or a scheme such as a twist or stunt, in which no special skill or move was required in order to record the sack.
Example (2022): Texans edge-rusher Jerry Hughes unblocked in pursuit being the first defender to touch an already down QB.
.5 points: Coverage / Cleanup Sack – An effort sack coming as the result of excellent secondary work or a quarterback hanging onto the ball for too long.
Example (2022): Chargers edge-rusher Khalil Mack getting a free run at the QB and cleaning up a missed sack by linebacker Drue Tranquill.
Both a low-quality and coverage/cleanup sack are valued the same and should be viewed similarly, but the distinction between the two is another layer of context in the evaluation process.
Before we get into the results through 18 games, a few notes:
818 sacks by 114 players have been graded this season.
All stats are from Pro Football Reference and TruMedia.
Only players with two or more sacks will be graded.
Half sacks were counted as full sacks if the rusher beat the blocker and/or was going to likely take down the quarterback without the help of a teammate.
Recorded sacks when the quarterback got back to the line of scrimmage and didn’t lose any yardage were not counted, because of their relatively limited impact.. All sacks I counted required at least a loss of one yard or more.
If the QB dropped ten yards or more behind the line of scrimmage and an edge-rusher got the sack, the rush was more heavily scrutinized to determine if it was high or low-quality. The threshold that QBs are given on nearly every drop-back is between 9-9.5 yards. Anything past 9.5 yards, and the angle becomes increasingly difficult and unrealistic for tackles to match vs. rushers. If the QB drops beyond that depth, it’s then his responsibility to step up into the pocket or evade the rush on his own. This is admittedly a gray area, which sometimes makes it difficult to assign a grade. In those rare situations, I reached out to at least one outside expert for an extra set of eyes to get their opinion for clarity.
If you are a paid subscriber and want to see an individual player’s charting information throughout this season, please send me an email with your requests and I will shoot those over.
This will be a regularly updated article with new graphs, videos and takeaways throughout the regular season.
Below is an example of the data I chart for each player using Browns edge-rusher Myles Garrett’s individual player sheet:
Now for the fun stuff. Let’s get into the results and takeaways from the 2022 season.
Edge Results through Week 18
*All graphics made by John Pulice.
Listed below is the top 43 in ‘sack score’ among edge rushers in the NFL (minimum score of 5).
Haason Reddick’s sack score of 16.5 was the best in the NFL this season and is tied with T.J. Watt’s 2021 sack score of 16.5 for the second best since I started the TSR in 2020 (first belongs to Robert Quinn’s 2021 sack score of 17.5).
Reddick finished with 18 overall sacks, ten of them HQ, and a league-leading five strip sacks. Reddick also led the NFL in drive kill percentage at 78% (14 of his 18 sacks) among rushers with at least ten sacks. Drive kill percentage measures the rate of sacks that ended drives.
Among edge-rushers with at least 500 snaps played, Reddick finished tied with Myles Garrett for second in fewest snaps per sack at one sack every 45.4 snaps. He also ranked third in snaps per HQ sack at one HQ sack every 81.7 snaps.
To get a better idea of how Reddick won as a rusher this year, here is his individual player sheet:
One of the more understated aspects of Reddick’s game over the last few seasons has been the power-element that he brings as a rusher combined with a ‘pull-through technique’ to counter it. Once blockers feel Reddick go to a version of the bull-rush, their feet stop. If they are able to anchor, Reddick can string together that pull-through technique and slip by them in a flash. He is a nightmare to prepare for due to all of the ways that he can win, including speed moves to the corner and an inside spin.
Reddick’s bull-rush (sacks #4 & #5) followed by the pull-through counter (sacks #2, #3, #17)
Myles Garrett’s sack score of 15.75 was second-best among edge-rushers and tied for second-best overall with Chiefs DT Chris Jones (more on him later). This is tied with Jones for the fifth best score ever in the TSR and exceeded Garrett’s previous career-high score of 15.25 set in 2020. Garrett’s one HQ sack per 74.3 snaps was the second best rate in the NFL behind Eagles DE Josh Sweat’s blistering 58.7, but Garrett also played more than 200 more snaps than Sweat. Garrett also led the NFL in total HQ sacks with 11.
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