Traditional statistics and most modern analytics measure how effective a player is without necessarily taking into account assignments or degree of difficulty. While I’ve made passing reference in my game analysis to how often certain players have been double teamed, nobody tracks this, so I’ve been keen to figure out whether the reality matches up to our expectations and my recollection from watching the film.
In part one of this series, I set out my methodology for charting every snap from the 2013 season and went through some of the things I learned from undertaking this task.
After the jump, I share the first set of data, which shows how often each of the Jets defensive linemen were double-teamed or chipped while rushing the passer. I’ll also be seeking to identify trends and differences between how each player was handled or between the approaches taken by each team. Finally, I’ll outline what this data tells us and what additional research would be needed to answer some of the questions that the data alone cannot answer.
The following is a list of how many times each player was double-teamed. For a more detailed definition of a double-team, refer to part one, but essentially this includes anyone who was being blocked by two players as the pass was thrown or the quarterback took off. Note that in the rare instances where there was a triple team, that player would get credited twice.
Wilkerson – 193
Richardson – 136
Coples – 102
Harrison – 53
Ellis – 34
Douzable – 32
Pace – 21
McIntyre – 6
Others – 10 (Sapp 4, Barnes 3, T. Davis 2, Cunningham 1)
Note: I did not chart double teams for inside linebackers or defensive backs, but these were rare…probably less than 10 in total for the whole season.
What this tells us
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Muhammad Wilkerson was doubled much more than anyone else, although of course some of the players on this list played a lot less on passing downs. We will therefore express the numbers in percentage terms later on. That will prove more instructive when comparing the numbers for players who play the same kind of position like Harrison/Ellis and Coples/Pace (although you can already see that Coples was doubled a lot more than Pace).
While we could also make the argument that perhaps Wilkerson deserved more credit for his pass rushing production on this basis – and that he should therefore have been a Pro Bowler or not snubbed from any Top 100 lists, we cannot make that argument based on this data alone. In order to make that claim, we’d need to investigate how often some of his peers were double teamed and then make a comparison which may or may not show that Wilkerson was doubled teamed more than some of the players with equivalent or superior production. Similarly, we could consider making a similar argument for Sheldon Richardson to explain his lack of production despite a high pass rush attempt count, but again would need to compare with his peers.
As explained in more detail in part one, a chip is used as a catch-all term for any situation where a defensive player is blocked by two offensive players, but one of those is just temporarily. The second offensive player must deliberately impede the defensive player’s progress. You can be chipped twice on one play or by a third player on a play where you were doubled.
Wilkerson – 213
Richardson – 134
Harrison – 84
Coples – 70
Douzable – 57
Ellis – 29
Pace – 17
McIntyre – 9
Others – 4 (Sapp, Barnes 3)
What this tells us
Once again, the obvious leader is Wilkerson, but the big mover here is Harrison. As explained in part one, the initial double team is a product more of where the player lines up than who he is, so it’s perhaps not that surprising to see that most of these plays involving Harrison would constitute an initial double team where one of the blockers then breaks off to double team someone else. To some extent, you’re always likely to get more chips on the inside and then doubles on the outside, so we’ll look at a breakdown.
Let’s now consider the ratio of doubles-to-chips. As noted above, you might expect this to be higher for a player on the outside and lower for a player on the inside, purely by the nature of teams having to make an initial double team to prevent immediate interior pressure. However, for those players who play on the inside, it’s also a measure of how often they (a) were double teamed initially and managed to collapse the pocket enough so the double team had to be sustained throughout the play or (b) they were beating a single-block, forcing someone else (or a spare man) to give help to that player.
Coples – 1.5
Pace – 1.2
Ellis – 1.2
Richardson – 1.0
Wilkerson – 0.9
McIntyre – 0.7
Harrison – 0.6
Douzable – 0.6
What this tells us
The interesting one to note here is Ellis. I can confirm that most of these were cases where he got an initial double team that had to stay on him because he was collapsing the pocket. Entering the game fresh helps him here and makes him a tough assignment for anyone operating as a single blocker.
As suggested above, this does illustrate how double teams are used with more frequency than chips for anyone on the outside. Wilkerson does line up outside the tackles sometimes, but that’s mostly in run-stopping situations. Richardson does that less often and Harrison/Ellis hardly ever.
Now let’s consider how often a player was either doubled or chipped with reference to their pass rush snaps. These are normalized to total chips and doubles per 100 pass rush attempts.
Ellis – 70
Douzable – 65
Wilkerson – 64
Harrison – 60
Richardson – 53
Coples – 36
McIntyre – 17
Pace – 13
What this tells us
It’s interesting to see Ellis and Douzable at the top of this list. Perhaps that gives some credence to the theory above which states that entering the game fresh is more likely to earn you some extra attention.
Harrison is surprisingly doubled or chipped more often than Richardson and almost as much as Wilkerson, but then again a much higher percentage of these were chips, usually due to temporary initial double teams where one player was able to break off and double someone else.
Again you can see that Coples drew much more attention than the other outside linebackers. However, here’s where we need to add some context in respect of his role. First of all, Coples occasionally lined up inside during the first half of the season. As we’ve already learned, that’s automatically going to make him more likely to get doubled or at least chipped. Secondly, although he lined up outside during the second half of the season, he rushed inside pretty regularly and that forced a lot of double teams up the middle.
We can see that if we break down the splits from each game. Over his first seven games, Coples was doubled 63 times and chipped 51 times. Over his last seven (remembering he only played 14), he was doubled 39 times and chipped 19 times. The two key takeaways here are that (a) that gives us a good explanation for why his production was so much better over the second half and (b) that even when he did move to the outside full-time, he still had to be double teamed a lot more than Pace and the other outside linebackers.
That does add some context to the fact that Calvin Pace had more sacks and generated pressure at a comparable rate, although in Pace’s defense remember that Bart Scott outlined the additional responsibilities someone playing Pace’s position has, which could have an effect upon productivity. This would suggest Coples is clearly a more disruptive force in the pass rush than his statistics would suggest and that because he rushes inside on a regular basis, any comparison of his 2013 per-snap pass rushing numbers with other outside linebackers who lined up on the outside all the time and primarily rush outside could be misleading.
Of course, to get a better idea of where he stands on a league-wide basis, you’d need to investigate how often some of those other edge rushers were being double teamed.
For most of the players, the amount of double teams they saw was pretty consistent throughout the year. One exception was Leger Douzable. As you can see from his above numbers, there is a bit of a drop-off from him to Richardson (and an even bigger drop-off from him to Wilkerson) suggesting that he’s less disruptive than they are. However, while he only averaged just under five chips/doubles over the first 15 games, he was double teamed seven times and chipped 10 times in the last game, both season highs and perhaps a sign of the improvements he made over the course of the season.
Ellis and Richardson saw modest increases over the second half of the season, while Harrison actually saw a slight reduction in doubles and a corresponding increase in chips.
I’ll also be looking for interesting differences between the approach that teams took, although this was more of an issue in the running game. I guess it’s easier for teams to dictate who blocks who in the running game, while they have to react more to the defense when passing. Also, the differences in run-blocking schemes between man and zone have an influence.
There was one interesting anomaly though. In the first meeting with the Bills, Sheldon Richardson was never chipped. He was either double-teamed (seven times) or just single-blocked (11 times). The Bills are an interesting case because they’ve often adopted an approach against the Jets whereby they mitigate pressure by employing moving pockets, blocking in unison and relying on quick releases or the dynamic nature of their quarterback. Nevertheless, after the Jets generated constant pressure in their week three clash, the Bills reverted to a more basic approach in their second meeting, doubling him eight times and chipping him five times.
As noted, this data does not enable us to compare these Jets players with players from other teams or with their treatment or that of their teammates in previous seasons. However, the data does put into better perspective the statistical productivity they did generate and allows us to get a better idea of who deserves the most credit for how disruptive their pass rush has been.
It’s not simple enough to assume that a player shouldn’t be expected to generate any pressure when they draw a double team, so we can’t simply exclude those snaps from the calculation. In fact, Wilkerson in particular seemed to make just as many plays when he was double teamed. However, maybe some kind of normalization would be a good way of taking into account those players who were disadvantaged by being double-teamed all the time and therefore were outproduced by lesser players as a result.
Coming up in part three on Sunday, we break down double-teams (and “peels”) on running plays in similar fashion. Hopefully I’ve covered this topic comprehensively, but if you have any questions, then let me know in the comments and I’ll be able to address them while the data collection process is still fresh in my mind.