True Sack Rate (TSR): A film project to quantify sack production - Week 13 update

For a complete background on the TSR metric including how sacks are graded, click here.

Results & findings through 13 weeks of the season

Listed below is every edge defender (4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker) in the NFL with a ‘sack score’ of at least ‘4.5’ (effectively a ‘Top 27’ in sack score through 13 weeks). You’ll also see their snap count, snap percentage, average number of snaps per sack (Sack / Snap), and average number of snaps per HQ sack (HQ Sack / Snap).

  • Bosa’s sack score ranks 3rd and comes on just 63% of snaps played, 152 less snaps than 2nd place Za’Darius Smith, making him the next most impactful edge-rusher in the NFL this season on a per snap basis after Garrett.

  • Za’Darius Smith has proven that his breakout 2019 campaign was no fluke as he ranks 2nd in sack score this season with the bulk of his production coming as a ‘spinner’ on the interior (seven of his 11 sacks), where he is able to use his immense physicality and quick, powerful hands to exploit guards more consistently than any other edge-rusher in the NFL.

  • T.J. Watt is tied for 3rd in sack score with Bosa and as mentioned in last week’s update, leads the NFL in pressures with 49, which is 12 more than the next guy on the list (Bosa is 2nd in pressures with 37). Watt’s All-Pro caliber season is being recognized by the TSR metric and is a good representation of where he ranks in the edge-rusher hierarchy at this point in his career.

    Pass-rusher Profile - Lions DE Romeo Okwara

  • Perhaps the addition of his younger brother Julian to the team and defensive line room this past off-season lit a spark for Romeo to take his game to new heights, or simply being in a contract year, but whatever the genesis, his spike in production has been noteworthy. Okwara (tied with Myles Garrett for 16th in pressures with 26) is easily the biggest surprise of the top 10 in sack score, where he ranks 8th.

    Okwara is already a half sack away from tying his career high in sacks set in 2018 despite playing 169 less snaps (716 in 2018, 547 so far in 2020) with four games left in the season.

    Okwara is predominantly a power-rusher with elite length and solid linear explosiveness that has used either a bull-rush or long-arm technique as the catalyst for five of his seven sacks this season, with four of those five counting as his “HQ sacks” shown below.

    You can really see how precise he has been with his hand placement on these rushes plus see some of his power to hit, lift, and move blockers off of their spot at the point of attack. Okwara strings together a forklift technique on the rep against Washington RT Morgan Moses that is indicative of a rusher with a plan rather than one attempting to bully his way through blocks.

    Okwara has been one of the few bright spots for the Lions this season that the TSR has taken notice of and with his deal set to automatically void next season, is likely earning himself a handsome payday in free agency, either with the Lions or elsewhere.

  • There are seven total edge-rushers in the top 27 in sack score that are at least 30-years old:
    - Brandon Graham - 32-years old - 19th in sack score (5)
    - Ryan Kerrigan - 32-years old - 24th in sack score (4.5)
    - Jason Pierre-Paul - 31-years old - 6th in sack score (7)
    - Justin Houston - 31-years old - 11th in sack score (6)
    - J.J. Watt - 31-years old - 18th in sack score (5)
    - Cameron Jordan - 31-years old - 22nd in sack score (4.5)
    - Carlos Dunlap - 31-years old - 25th in sack score (4.5)

  • The only edge-rusher in the top 27 sack score rankings that has played under 50% of snaps this season is Washington DE Ryan Kerrigan (4.5 score on 38% of snaps). Kerrigan has three HQ sacks this season that have all ended drives and been a result of stringing together moves. Even with the decrease in playing time this season, the 10-year veteran is making a sizable impact.

  • Notable edge-rushers without a single sack yet this season are Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, and Arden Key.

    Top edge-rushers sorted by total HQ sacks (minimum of three):

  • RHQ sacks aren’t tallied into the ‘High-quality’ column, so adding those in would put Joey Bosa in 2nd place above Za’Darius Smith since Bosa has two RHQ sacks and Smith has zero.

  • This would also boost Olivier Vernon in a tie with Smith with five total since he has one RHQ sack and Khalil Mack up a grouping since he also has one RHQ.

  • The Browns have three edge-rushers on this list for a total of 19 rare HQ and HQ sacks (Myles Garrett - 11, Olivier Vernon - 5, Adrian Clayborn - 3). To give some context as how impressive that number is consider the second highest amount of HQ sacks from edge-rushers on a team level is the Chargers with nine (Bosa - 7, Nwosu - 2).

  • Leonard Floyd is a surprise on the list with four HQ sacks this season, two from using a cross-chop technique and three total sacks ending drives. Floyd is benefitting from Aaron Donald’s presence taking up attention and one of the league’s most forward-thinking defensive schemes, but he should also get credit for the high-quality nature of his sack production.

  • Cardinals linebacker Dennis Gardeck is a former undrafted Division II player in his 3rd year that has only played 61 snaps the entire season, yet has three HQ sacks, giving him an absurd HQ sack every 20.3 snaps.

    Gardeck is listed at 6-0, 232 pounds yet packs a serious punch as you can see on a couple of his HQ sacks this season.

Gardeck delivers incredible force to knock back Jets RT George Fant and Rams LG David Edwards on two of these reps. What’s so incredible about that is those guys outweigh him by a combined 166 pounds. Gardeck’s ceiling is likely as a spark-plug off the bench, but his impact when he’s been on the field this season is an eye-catching, fun quirk worth mentioning.

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Top 5 leaders in most sacks per snap (minimum of 300 snaps):
1. Trey Hendrickson - 1 sack every 45.6 snaps (456 snaps)
2. Myles Garrett - 1 sack every 49.5 snaps (544 snaps)
3. T.J. Watt - 1 sack every 56.2 snaps (674 snaps)
4. Justin Houston - 1 sack every 56.9 snaps (455 snaps)
5. Za’Darius Smith - 1 sack every 58.1 snaps (639 snaps)

  • Trey Hendrickson leading the NFL in sacks per snap is an impressive feat for him but is misleading at the same time because just two of his 10 sacks this year are HQ with the rest being LQ or a result of the QB holding onto the ball for too long. Hendrickson does have five drive-killing sacks, so the timing of them provides additional impact and should be noted.

  • Justin Houston makes an appearance on the list after a three-sack performance in Week 13 and is now three away from the illustrious 100 career sack mark that only 35 other pass-rushers in NFL history have reached. Houston’s signature stab-chop combination is still one of the more potent moves in the league and has been used on four of his eight sacks this season.

Top 5 leaders in most HQ sacks per snap (minimum of 300 snaps):
1. Myles Garrett - 1 HQ sack every 49.5 snaps (544 snaps)
2. Joey Bosa - 1 HQ sack every 69.6 snaps (487 snaps)
3. Adrian Clayborn - 1 HQ sack every 103.3 snaps (310 snaps)
4. Olivier Vernon - 1 HQ sack every 114.2 snaps (571 snaps)
5. Carlos Dunlap - 1 HQ sack every 121.5 snaps (486 snaps)

  • Myles Garrett and Joey Bosa are dominating the HQ sacks per snap metric and are a good example of the value TSR brings; these are the two best edge-rushers in football and this speaks to their impact in a notable way.

  • Three Browns on the list is shocking and a testament to the quality of sack production they’re getting off the edge this season, which dwarfs every other team in the league.

  • Carlos Dunlap has been quietly having an underrated season both before the mid-season trade to the Seahawks and since his arrival.