Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Sacks: NFC West QBs have 58 of them
By Mike Sando
The Buffalo Bills did not suddenly field a roster packed with perennial Pro Bowl linemen.
Their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, has nonetheless taken only two sacks in 147 drop backs.
I ran across this improbable stat when researching for the next MVP Watch item. It reinforced the idea that sacks, which are often drive killers, reflect so much more than a line's ability to prevent them.
The list of players with the fewest sacks in a season (minimum 300 pass attempts) features almost exclusively players lacking the raw speed or athletic ability to avoid defenders. Dan Marino, Mark Rypien, Kerry Collins, Joey Harrington and Troy Aikman are the only players in the sack era (since 1982) with at least 300 attempts and fewer than 10 sacks in a season.
The system a team runs, the receivers a team has and the decisions a quarterback makes also play prominently into the totals.
We're seeing that in the NFC West through four games.
The St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford is on pace for 72 sacks, which would tie Randall Cunningham for the second-highest total in a season since sacks became an official stat in 1982. He's learning a new system featuring deeper drop backs and slower-developing routes, all while playing without his most dependable receiver. Bad combination.
San Francisco's Alex Smith (14 sacks), Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson (14) and Arizona's Kevin Kolb (12) rank among the seven most-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL this season. NFC West starters have taken 58 sacks, with Rams backup A.J. Feeley also taking one. Line issues have played larger roles for Smith and Jackson, in my view. Kolb's feel for the pocket hasn't seemed strong enough, possibly a reflection of his inexperience and learning a new offense.
Sacks were down for Smith (three in 36 drop backs) and Jackson (zero in 38, against an Atlanta defense that now has no sacks in its past three games) in Week 4. The Rams are off this week, but the other NFC West teams rank among the 15 teams with at least 10 sacks so far this season. This will be a theme for the division in Week 5.