STDL: Elvis Dumervil’s pressure

From Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus earlier today:

In 2011 Elvis Dumervil went eight straight games with a sack late in the season. While he doesn’t have a sack yet this year, he has 13 overall pressures which ties him for the most among defensive linemen.

Pressures, schmessures. What every fan wants to see is sacks. There’s something exciting about seeing an edge rusher taking on a player who might outweigh him by 50 lb. and still flash by him, to, and through the quarterback. They’re the Holy Grail for the weekend watchers, a stat you can reel off and feel like you’re talking sense. And, no one can argue that sacks aren’t a great way to create negative yardage for the offense.

The sack is big news.

Elvis Dumervil doesn’t have one this year, and fans are getting antsy. Talk is increasing about how Doom isn’t having the same impact this season; how he’s been soundly beaten by offensive left tackles Sam Baker and Max Starks. With Jason Hunter out for the year and the DL having to try different options to get the pressure that the John Fox/Jack Del Rio scheme calls for, is Doom unfit for his role with the team?

Before folks get the bit in their teeth on this one, it’s worth noting that the coaching community doesn’t always see things in quite the same way that the fans do. Doom will get his sacks this year, but he might get a few less. Ted’s mentioned that; so have I. Part of that is scheme - Derek Wolfe has one sack and a couple of hurries, Wesley Woodyard and Joe Mays each have one, while young phenom Von Miller already has three sacks. What sets Miller apart from a lot of pass rushers is that he’s also gotten three QB hits and eight hurries, for a total of 14 total plays that influenced the quarterback. That’s a lot of pressures. (Note: All figures are courtesy of PFF, whose sack figures do not always match up with the official stats. PFF uses its own criteria to credit players with sacks.)

Elvis Dumervil has two hits and 11 hurries, for a total of 13 pressures - just one behind Miller. That, as folks used to say, ain’t hay. Those 11 hurries lead the team. When you look - as all coaches do - at the total number of sacks, hits, and hurries, things look pretty good. Before folks break out the torches and pitchforks, let’s take a short look at how Doom really compares with other players. It’s enlightening.

Doom and Miller are very different players. Doom isn’t likely to build up his coverage skills as Miller is - he’s not a Joker-style OLB/DE. He might not become the run stopper that every team wants on the edge, but he has six total tackles, which is good for a pass-rushing specialist.  When you look at what the Broncos ask of him, he’s a long way from disappointing. Why?

To start, 13 plays that influence the quarterback in only two games is a very good level of production. He had a hit in each game, with six hurries against Pittsburgh and five more against the Falcons. Those 11 hurries tie him for the lead in the NFL among all defensive linemen, with Kamerion Wimbley and Chris Long. Wimbley also has a sack, but no hits, giving him 12 pressures, while Long, like Doom, has no sacks and two hits for 13 total pressures.

You might make the argument that a lot of sack and QB pressures come via OLBs who, like Von Miller, operate differently from the DEs. It’s a fair point to consider. From that perspective, Green Bay LB Clay Matthews is the only player in the league with more than Miller's three sacks this season. Considering his improvement in the run and coverage phases of the game this season, Miller’s probably in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. It’s very early, and the sample size is minute - I don’t get too carried away by things like that.  But here’s something that did snatch my attention:

Among all defensive players, only Von Miller and Washington's Ryan Kerrigan have more total pressures (14 each) than Doom, who's tied with fellow ends Chris Long and Michael Bennett (13 each). Of these five players, Von and Doom have 11 total tackles, while the other three have just eight among them. Dumervil and Long are the only of the five with zero missed tackles.

In short, rumors of his dearth are greatly exaggerated.  Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are the most productive bookend players in the league right now. Doom is very nearly as productive as Miller in the pass rush - he’s just providing more hurries, while Von has more sacks.

Hurries will, over time, lead to incompletions, throwaways, and interceptions. They’re not as exciting to watch as sacks or hits, and fans often see them as failed pass rushes, rather than effective ones. That’s understandable, but it's not accurate. They’re something that coaches want to see and want to know about. Denver’s bookends are still the dangerous pair that fans expected over the summer.

Doom’s handling his business very well.  If he keeps it up, he’ll put together the sacks that people want to see. Hopefully, in Denver against Houston.

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