Contextualizing Sack Production | NFL Week 10 results

Nov 12, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) strips the ball away from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

All sacks are good for a defense. They represent positive plays by individual players, regardless of situation or context. Let’s clear that up right away. A sack has the same meaning to a team if the defender takes the quarterback down on an unblocked path to the pocket or if he somersaults over the entire offensive line on his way to the backfield. However, for the purposes of evaluating individual talent in a tiered structure across the NFL, separating skilled sacks from situational sacks is very important.

Enter Contextualizing Sack Production, or the CSP, a project charting every sack by NFL edge defenders in 2017 to find which players achieve the most production by winning one-on-one battles for sacks, rather than a quarterback rolling into their lap or a scheme such as a twist or stunt opening a clear path to the quarterback. For further explanation on what the CSP is and how to understand the various categories, check out Week 1’s results.

Week 10 results

I think the true mark of an awe-inspiring performance is when you know there will literally be a game named after you.

For all time we’ll refer to the Atlanta Falcons’ temporarily season-saving 27-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys as “the Adrian Clayborn game,” after the veteran edge rusher went off for six sacks against the Cowboys’ backup left tackles. It was tied for the second-best individual performance in NFL history, and is the best single-game result I’ve seen in two years of compiling the CSP: Clayborn finished with five high-quality sacks. The scary part? He could have had more.

Clayborn was unblockable all game long, at least by the abysmal competition Dallas trotted out there for him to face. He blew by Chaz Green using a chop move with his inside arm for four of his six sacks, simply swatting Green’s hands down and turning the corner uncontested. Clayborn isn’t a bendy pass rusher, so using his hands well is critical to his abilities to win the edge. As Clayborn remarked after the game, he really only has one move, but that was all he needed on Sunday:

Underrated high-quality sack of the week

Joey Bosa is pass-rush clinic tape as an artful defender with the ability to string moves together seamlessly. He attempted the cross chop to begin this rush, but when it didn’t hit he immediately transitioned to a long-arm stab before dipping under this opponent’s punch for the finish. He’s reaching legendary status at 22 years old.

Old man high-quality sack of the week

Elvis Dumervil has been awesome all year long for San Francisco, coming up with four high-quality sacks despite a limited snap count. Even without his once-elite burst, Dumervil is still quick and savvy enough to corner at a high rate with textbook pad level and shoulder dip around the top of the arc. What a great late free-agent signing by John Lynch.

2017 cumulative high-quality sack leaders

Here are all the edge rushers in the NFL with four or more high-quality sacks this season. I’m hoping we will see a big game from the glut of players stuck at five or six high-quality sacks, because this season has a chance to show some eye-popping results. Last year 24 edge defenders finished with six or more high-quality sacks, including three in the double-digit range. I think this season has the potential to surpass that number.

The top names still looking for their first high-quality sack of the season are Carlos Dunlap, Olivier Vernon, William Hayes, Solomon Thomas, Shaq Lawson, Taco Charlton and Jordan Willis. Notable names with just one high-quality sack on the season: Vic Beasley, Brian Robison, Bruce Irvin, Trey Flowers, Cameron Wake, Bud Dupree and Robert Quinn.

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