Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Patrick Peterson principle: Ware over Revis
By Mike Sando
Jake from Lafayette, Calif., strongly disagrees with my decision to rank DeMarcus Ware third and Darrelle Revis only ninth in our rankings for top defensive players. He says Ware has yet to "consistently perform at an elite level, and he can't even anchor the Dallas defense to a decent level," while Revis "consistently shuts down any superstar wide receivers" for a playoff-tested defense.
Mike Sando: It's misleading to say Ware has not consistently performed at an elite level, or that he has not played for good defenses.
Ware has 80 sacks in six NFL seasons, including 46.5 over the past three. The Cowboys were second in points allowed two seasons ago. They have ranked among the top 10 in yards allowed three of the past four seasons. Football Outsiders' defensive rankings also put them in the top third to top half of the league multiple times.
The Cowboys haven't had great defenses, but they've had decent defenses. Ware has been a dominant player for those defenses.
Consider that the great Bruce Smith had 76.5 sacks in his first six NFL seasons, but he never had more than 43 sacks over a three-year stretch of his 19-year career.
Kevin Greene, who ranks third on the since-1982 career sack list, once had 45 sacks in a three-year span. Reggie White, who ranks second, had 57 sacks over three seasons.
Sacks do not define players, but the great pass-rushers tend to get a lot of them. Ware certainly does.
Even if Revis played cornerback better than Ware played outside linebacker, it's still plausible to rank Ware higher based on overall impact.
Quarterbacks can decide to throw away from Revis. They have apparently done this, explaining why Revis had zero interceptions last season. Quarterbacks cannot avoid Ware as easily. Teams can set their blocking schemes to handle him, but if they do this, they're making significant sacrifices in other areas. I think those sacrifices outweigh the sacrifices associated with throwing away from Revis. Teams can send up to four other players into pass patterns.
Great cornerbacks still have value, of course. But the overall principle applies in the NFL.
That's why LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson lasted until the fifth overall choice even though he was arguably the best player in the draft, independent of positional considerations. The Arizona Cardinals were thrilled to get Peterson, but there's a reason pass-rusher Von Miller went second overall. Teams value what Miller does more than they value what Peterson does, even though Peterson also provides value in the return game.