No matter how good your pass rush is, if the opposing QB can get the ball out in less than two seconds, you’re probably not going to sack him. Unless the offensive line completely forgets to block Micah Parsons - which happens!
So it stands to reason that if you want to avoid getting sacked, get the ball out quick; “one, two, go!”
But not all QBs can do that, not all plays allow for that, and not all schemes are designed for that.
It’s still early in the 2022 season, but two games have already been played, and we now have the “Pocket Time” for those two games for all NFL QBs. Pocket time measures the average time the QB had in the pocket between the snap and throwing the ball or pressure collapsing the pocket, in seconds.
And that pocket time number, even if it may change as more games are played, suggests there could be three tiers of QBs in the NFL:
- “Red” QBs that get the ball out in less than 2.4 second on average and may be tough to bring down.
- “Yellow” QBs that get the ball out in 2.4 seconds, which is the median value in the NFL.
- “Green” QBs that hold the ball longer than 2.4 seconds and that might provide stat-padding opportunities for pass rushers.
Here’s the full list, courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com:
|1||Cooper Rush||DAL||2.0||T10||Ryan Tannehill||TEN||2.4||T23||Trey Lance||SFO||2.5|
|T2||Josh Allen||BUF||2.1||T10||Baker Mayfield||CAR||2.4||T23||Geno Smith||SEA||2.5|
|T2||Joe Burrow||CIN||2.1||T10||Aaron Rodgers||GNB||2.4||T23||Marcus Mariota||ATL||2.5|
|T4||Tom Brady||TAM||2.2||T10||Jacoby Brissett||CLE||2.4||T23||Lamar Jackson||BAL||2.5|
|T4||Davis Mills||HOU||2.2||T10||Jalen Hurts||PHI||2.4||T23||Russell Wilson||DEN||2.5|
|T6||Dak Prescott||DAL||2.3||T10||Jared Goff||DET||2.4||T23||Matt Ryan||IND||2.5|
|T6||Mac Jones||NWE||2.3||T10||Trevor Lawrence||JAX||2.4||T29||Kirk Cousins||MIN||2.6|
|T6||Mitchell Trubisky||PIT||2.3||T10||Jameis Winston||NOR||2.4||T29||Carson Wentz||WAS||2.6|
|T6||Matthew Stafford||LAR||2.3||T10||Patrick Mahomes||KAN||2.4||T31||Daniel Jones||NYG||2.7|
|T10||Derek Carr||LVR||2.4||T31||Justin Herbert||LAC||2.7|
|T10||Kyler Murray||ARI||2.4||33||Justin Fields||CHI||3.0|
The Cowboys have already faced two “red” QBs in Tom Brady (2.2 seconds) and Joe Burrow (2.1 seconds) and have collected two sacks against Brady and six against Burrow.
And that could bode well for the rest of the 2022 schedule, at least from a pass rush point of view. The remaining 15 games feature only two more “red” QBs in Davis Mills (2.1) and Matthew Stafford (2.2).
Using the red, yellow, green color designation, here’s what the remainder of the season could look like from the perspective of the Cowboys pass rushers:
Of course, opponents might anticipate a strong Cowboys pass rush, and devise a game plan with a lot of quick throws. But that could turn out to be a double-edged sword.
A quick-throw game plan necessarily favors the short pass over the long pass, thus also reducing (though not eliminating) the threat of a big play. Also, if you’re considering changing your game plan just to protect against the pass rush, you may also decide to keep in an extra blocker to help with protection (perhaps doubling Micah Parsons with an extra TE?), leaving just four guys on offense to run routes.
If the Cowboys can continue to generate pressure on the QB with just four pass rushers (and this has been their key to success in both games so far), you’ve potentially got seven guys dropping into coverage to defend against four route runners, and that matchup is going to favor the defense every time.
As an opposing offensive coordinator, do you trust your offensive line to protect against the Cowboys’ pass rush, do you build your game plan on a quicker passing game, or do you avoid the pass rush altogether by simply running the ball a lot? How opposing teams answer that question is going to be fun to watch this season, starting with the Giants on Monday night football.