CHART WEEK – Part 1: Pass Rush


Welcome to Chart Week! It’s like Shark Week, but instead of terrifying sea creatures, we have screenshots of Excel spreadsheets. You tell me what’s more exciting…

If you checked out the weekly Film Study posts during the season, you probably became familiar with several charts tracking certain stats from that week’s game. Now we’ve aggregated those charts for the full 2016 season, and each day this week, we will use a few of those season-long charts to learn something about what happened in 2016 and what might happen in 2017. Today we start with charts related to the IU defense’s pass rush.

  • In the chart to the right:
    • A “pressure” is a play in which the quarterback is sacked, hit or hurried by a defender. It is a somewhat subjective measure – these pressures are based on my own classification and not official sack/hit/hurry numbers – so these numbers should be considered approximations. This definition applies to the rest of the charts in this post as well.
    • “Blitz %” is: the amount of snaps in which IU brought 5 or more rushers / total defensive snaps.
    • “Pressure %” is: the amount of snaps in which IU generated a pressure / total defensive snaps.
    • “Blitz/pressure %” is: the amount of snaps in which IU generated a pressure / the amount of snaps in which IU brought 5 of more rushers.
  • On the season, Coach Allen blitzed on almost every other play. When Allen called a blitz, his defense generated a pressure just under 40% of the time, compared to 19% when the defense rushed just 3 or 4.  IU, then, was twice as likely to generate pressure with a blitz than without. Diving deeper, when IU added just one extra rusher, from 4 to 5, IU more than doubled its pressure percentage, from 17% to 36%.[ref] I think the 35% pressure percentage on 3-man rushes is probably a small sample size issue, but there is possibly some merit to the argument that dropping 8 in coverage forces the QB to hold the ball longer, giving the 3 rushers a chance to get home.[/ref]
  • Ideally, you’d like to see the 4-man pressure percentage improve, but without Ralph Green, IU’s best interior pass rusher, and without a proven, consistently effective edge rusher, I don’t think Coach Allen can count on that in 2017.  If IU wants to improve upon its overall 29% pressure percentage, it will probably need to blitz more. The good news: Coach Allen can feel comfortable being more aggressive with the blitz, knowing that he has the best secondary IU has had in years providing coverage.

  • In 2016, Coach Allen had five blitzes that he called around twice a game or more, and three that he used about three times a game.[ref] I’m defining blitzes solely in terms of personnel. I’m sure there were many variations in Tegray Scales’ blitzes from the WLB spot, but for our purposes, they are treated as the same.[/ref]
  • Of the 3 most common blitzes, the most effective was 4-DL/MLB. The least effective was 4-DL/Husky.  The next 2 most common blitzes were roughly as effective as 4-DL/MLB. Perhaps not coincidentally, both also involved the MLB (3-DL/MLB/WLB and 3-DL/MLB/Husky). In both blitzes, the weakside defensive end drops into coverage.
  • Some more small sample size weirdness here: when a cornerback was the only blitzer, IU didn’t generate a pressure in 4 attempts. When a CB blitzed along with another blitzer, IU generated a pressure on 4 of 4 attempts.
  • Allen only brought true safeties (boundary or free safeties, as opposed to Husky) on the blitz on 5 occasions, and generated a pressure on 4 of the 5. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more safety blitzing in 2017, as the coaches have more confidence in any non-blitzing members of the secondary to cover for the blitzing safety.

  • Despite the better numbers for MLB blitzes, WLB Tegray Scales actually led the way with 17 pressures. Scales and MLB Marcus Oliver combined for 24% of IU’s pressures. So you think Marcus Oliver was important to this defense or what?? These charts highlight the importance of finding a replacement for Oliver that can supply at least some of his blitzing production. From what we saw in 2016, Chris Covington seems like the clear best option in terms of blitzing prowess, especially as compared to Dameon Willis. Covington only generated one more pressure than Willis, but he did so in far fewer snaps, and his physicality, size and athleticism stood out in limited duty.
  • 72% of IU’s pressures come back in 2017, but Allen & Co. will have to replace 3 of the top 6 in Oliver, Patrick Dougherty and Ralph Green.
  • Husky Marcelino Ball’s 6 pressures is equal to the number of pressures generated by the rest of the secondary combined – which makes sense because Ball blitzed far more than any other member of the secondary.
  • Not surprisingly, IU did not have a single defensive lineman who averaged more than 1 pressure per game. While IU’s fairly heavy rotation along the D-line certainly was a factor[ref] As was a scheme that is at least somewhat designed to set up linebackers as the playmakers, while defensive linemen occupy blockers.[/ref], I’m confident in stating that the Mark Hagen wants more in 2017. If I had to pick one player to exceed that 1 pressure per game mark in 2017, it would be Robert McCray. He finished with 9 pressures in 9 games played in 2016, after missing the first 4 games of the season to injury. Greg Gooch, who reportedly is having a great spring, and Nile Sykes could threaten that number as well.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some passing game charts for Mr. Lagow and the rest of the offense.