Hardy and Clayborn showed some pass-rush skills, but they also played the run very well. That combination of skills was why they were on the field more than the rest of the NFC South defensive ends last season.
Hardy led division ends by participating in 891 of Carolina’s 1,023 defensive plays. That 87.1 percentage ranked Hardy No. 6 among defensive ends. Minnesota’s Jared Allen led the league at 94.3 percent.
Johnson was on the field for 77.5 percent (No. 16 in the NFL) of Carolina’s defensive plays and Smith took part in 75.8 of New Orleans’ defensive plays (19th in the league).
Ray Edwards led Atlanta’s defensive ends by taking part in 69 percent of the plays. Although he was on a play count and used mostly in pass-rushing situations, veteran John Abraham took part in 61.8 percent of Atlanta’s defensive plays.
Here’s a look at playing-time percentages for most of the rest of the NFC South defensive ends:
Michael Bennett, Buccaneers, 58.2
Cameron Jordan, Saints, 54.3
Kroy Biermann, Falcons, 52.3
Da’Quan Bowers, Buccaneers, 47.4
Junior Galette, Saints, 33.7
Lawrence Sidbury, Falcons, 21
Jeff Charleston, Saints, 20.2
Turk McBride, Saints, 19.3
Tim Crowder, Buccaneers, 17.5