Every week we’ll be highlighting the ten numbers about defense that will most help you understand the huge, sprawling, chaotic mass that is defense in the NFL.
1. 19 linebackers played 66 or more snaps this week.
66 is a significant number, because it’s the average number of defensive snaps each team plays. In years gone by, teams would deploy two or even three LBs as every-snap players. Those days are long gone.
Of course, some teams played fewer than 66 snaps, so their LBs could not hit those totals. But equally some teams played more, which makes it easier for even non-fulltime LBs to hit the number. Likewise, some LBs who were playing every snap got injured and missed time.
These are issues that will not go away. And the net result remains the same: full-time LBs are a fading breed, and their scarcity creates fantasy value.
2. Josh Allen was the top-scoring IDP of the week with 42 points.
This is in my favorite scoring. Yours can and will differ, and maybe TJ Watt or DeForest Buckner or Jessie Bates or Jordan Whitehead was your top-scorer. Either way, Allen had a huge day with three sacks, six solo tackles and an assist.
Those are the sort of days that can and should sway fantasy matchups. However it’s worth noting that Pro Football Focus ‘only’ credited Allen with four pressures. On average edges convert about 20% of pressures into sacks. But variation is very common. Just don’t put too much stock on it. Lions sophomore Aidan Hutchinson racked up seven pressures, and did not convert any to sacks. It’s pretty random. You just have to put your faith in volume.
These huge days are lovely when they happen. But don’t chase them. It’s like hanging around at the spot where lightning struck last week hoping for it to happen again.
3. The Chargers allowed the Dolphins to rack up 536 offensive yards.
The average for all teams was about 299 yards. Yes, the Dolphins offense is aggressive, and passing-heavy. Yes, they have spectacular downfield playmakers. But the Chargers knew this coming into the game and they abjectly failed to stop it in any way.
The Chargers have invested heavily in JC Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr as their top corners. And so far, neither has panned out. They’ll have better days than this for sure, but both have been below-average players in a Chargers uniform.
4. The Falcons recorded 28 pressures.
Another five teams had that many or more, so it’s not really that shocking. The Cowboys and Packers both created significantly more.
But the Falcons have been the worst pass-rushing defense in the NFL over the last three years. In the 2021 regular season, they recorded just 182 in total. In 2022 it was not much better at 195. At this rate, the Falcons will overhaul both of those totals in week seven. That’s probably a bit optimistic, but even if this Falcons defense can be an average pass-rush unit it’s a huge team-wide upgrade.
Note that Calais Campbell mostly played outside-the-tackles edge in this game. Just like he did in his best years as a Jaguar. If that continues, he’s a potential IDP positional cheat code this season.
5. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah led Browns LBs with just 43 snaps.
The Browns defense only played 54 snaps in total, so 43 was about 80%. That might seem like a lot, but it’s very worrying. 55 other LBs this week played as many or more snaps as Owusu-Koramoah did. We know there are 30-40 LBs who regularly play significantly more than 80% of snaps. And there’s every chance the Browns prove to be a low-volume defense in general.
All of this means that at this sort of volume, Owusu-Koramoah is unlikely in any given week to finish as an LB1-4. Whatever your scoring system it’s unlikely he was a top-48 LB this week, and that’s likely to be his sort of range, except in weeks where he manages a splash play.
The Browns have a significant history of moving away from fielding any full-time LBs (as have several other teams in recent years). Even with a new defensive coordinator, it’s a major part of their team-building strategy.
6. Seven different linebackers recorded a tackle efficiency of over 20%
That’s with a minimum of ten total tackles. If we include lower-volume guys, another handful hit that 20% barrier.
This is noteworthy because LB tackle efficiency continues to rise. It’s been rising steadily for the past few years, although many have not realized it. So, you often see it cited as a cross-season stat when that’s just not fair at all given the changing nature of it as a number.
7. Christian Wilkins had two total tackles this week.
One solo, and one assist. He’s made his IDP bones on the back of absurd tackle efficiency, but that’s just not a reliable metric. It’s a product of situation and circumstances, not personal ability. So, to see him rack up just two tackles from 67 snaps (3% tackle efficiency) probably surprised some.
In 2022 he recorded 95 total tackles from 952 snaps (10%). In 2021, it was 70 from 734 (10.7%).
He’ll have much better days, and it doesn’t change his value. But it’s a good reminder that tackle efficiency is extremely swingy, even if you think that this special guy breaks the rules and is super reliable.
8. The Browns allowed the Bengals just three offensive first downs.
Three. Wow. Teams normally average around 18-20 per game. The next best after Cleveland this week were the Commanders, Panthers and Rams with 13 each. The Chargers and Dolphins allowed each other 30 first downs.
It was raining, and the Bengals just didn’t turn up for whatever reason, but a defense gets some credit for a show like that. The Browns could be very good.
9. The Panthers converted 60% of their pressures into sacks.
Six sacks were second-most among NFL teams this week. The Cowboys recorded seven, and the Cardinals also had six. The problem is that 25 other teams racked up more pressures than the Panthers’ 10. The average for the week was 19.
So, the Panthers were a distinctly below-average pass-rushing team, who happened to record a bunch of sacks. This is extremely misleading. Not to mention that defense-wide pass rush often gets mixed up with how good the leading player is. “Brian Burns is a very good pass-rusher, so the defense as a whole must be pretty good at it, because he takes up double teams or whatever.” That’s how the logic tends to go at least. But it’s not true. We often see good pass-rushers playing on poor pass-rush teams. Myles Garrett, Aaron Donald and Maxx Crosby have all been notable examples in the last couple of seasons.
Do not be surprised at all if and when the Panthers’ sacks dry up.
10. The Jets recorded 12 interceptions in the 2022 regular season.
Jordan Whitehead had a career day this week by intercepting Josh Allen three times. What a great Monday Night Football performance, and he can tell his grandkids all about it.
But do not for a heartbeat think he has turned into some sort of ballhawk. As above, the Jets managed 12 picks all of last season, at a rate of 0.7 per game. That’s fairly average, and we should expect the same thing going forward. The Jets were the best defense in the NFL in 2022. So, everyone assumes they will be near that level again.
But they were the worst defense in the league in 2021. It is enormously swingy. Roster churn and injury luck (the Jets defense was weirdly healthy in 2022) are both huge factors here.
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