Stats & Info: DeMarcus Ware

Free agency after one month

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11

Getty ImagesDeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers will all be in new cities come the fall.
It has been one month since the beginning of NFL free agency and there has been no shortage of excitement.

Some of the game’s top defensive players have packed their bags, while the Denver Broncos have looked to bolster a defense that was exposed in the Super Bowl.

Here is a look at some of the major free agency headlines so far:

Broncos back at it
The Broncos were among the most active teams in the first few days of free agency.

DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward and Will Montgomery will all wear orange and blue in the fall. Denver is trying to become the third team in NFL history to lose the Super Bowl and then win the game in the following season (Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and Dolphins in Super Bowl VII).

But that effort has not been cheap.

The Broncos have spent more than $65 million in guaranteed money this offseason – second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Denver seems to be following a similar script to its 2013 offseason, when the team signed five players in the first month of free agency, including Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

While the Broncos have added some notable players, they have also lost some big names. On the offensive side of the ball, Denver will have to replace Zane Beadles, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno. On defense, the Broncos will look to make up for the loss of Champ Bailey and Rodgers-Cromartie, among others.

Bucs spend big
The Buccaneers have added 15 free agents – the most of any team – so it is no surprise that the effort has been costly.

They’ve spent more than $70 million in guaranteed money in the first month of free agency, including re-signings.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, spending money early in free agency does not necessarily mean the future is bright. Four teams spent at least $50 million in the first month of free agency last season (Lions, Dolphins, Colts, Cowboys) and the Colts were the only one of those teams to make the playoffs in 2013.

Show them the money
In terms of contracts that have been reported, five of the six players to get at least $20 million in guaranteed money were defensive players.

The Saints gave safety Jarius Byrd $26.3 million – the most guaranteed money during the first month of free agency among reported contracts. The next highest was Branden Albert, Aqib Talib, Michael Johnson, DeMarcus Ware and then Vontae Davis (re-signed with team).

Pass rushers swap teams
Since the start of the 2010 season, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers have the first and third-most sacks among NFL North players.

Those two defensive ends changed teams within the division in the first month of free agency. Allen went from the Vikings to the Bears, while Peppers signed with the Packers after being released by Chicago.

Allen and Peppers rank in the top three in sacks among active players and Allen has 10 more sacks in his career, despite playing two fewer seasons.

Top stats to know: NFL free agency (Day 2)

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
What were the top statistical storylines from Day 2 of NFL Free Agency?

Broncos bolster their defense
The Denver Broncos have now signed defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward already this offseason. The attempt to improve the defense should come as no surprise as the Broncos’ pass defense let them down the past two postseasons, especially when bringing standard pressure.

Ware should pair nicely with Von Miller. Miller has recorded the sixth-most most sacks since entering the NFL in 2011. Ware has recorded the third-most in that time.

The duo shouldn’t have to worry about getting in each other’s way. Miller has recorded 83 percent of his sacks when lining up as a left-side linebacker or defensive end. In the last six seasons, Ware has recorded 72 percent of his sacks when lining up on the right side.

The Broncos ranked 19th in sack percentage last season, a year removed from leading the NFL.

Darrelle Revis to the Patriots
As expected, the Buccaneers cut cornerback Darrelle Revis, who didn’t have the same impact with the Buccaneers that he did with the Jets. Within hours, he agreed to a deal with the New England Patriots, who needed a cornerback after losing Talib to the Broncos.

But how effective will Revis be?

From 2008 to 2012, when Revis was on the field, opposing quarterbacks completed only 56 percent of their passes and had a Total QBR of 38.9.

When Revis played in 2013, Buccaneers opponents completed 65 percent of their throws and had a Total QBR of 67.1.

Player to Watch: Josh McCown
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed quarterback Josh McCown, and new head coach Lovie Smith immediately announced he’d be the starting quarterback heading into training camp.
Josh McCown
McCown led the NFL in Total QBR last season, posting an 85.1 in eight games (encompassing 269 action plays), largely because of his 13 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio. The Buccaneers ranked 24th with a 41.3 Total QBR last season.

Aided by the presence of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, McCown was 17 for 36 with four touchdown passes on throws at least 16 yards downfield Tthe league average completion percentage on such throws was around 40 percent). He also was solid on short throws, completing 72 percent of passes thrown fewer than 10 yards downfield (league average: 68 percent)

Seahawks lose a key offensive piece
Former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate signed with the Detroit Lions. Tate was targeted 183 times by Russell Wilson last season (including playoffs), 44 times more than the next highest Seahawk.

Tate also led all wide receivers (minimum 50 receptions) with an average of 7.8 yards after the catch.

On defense, the Seahawks released Chris Clemons. He’s the third defensive linemen who ranked among their top seven in snaps played last season to be cut by Seattle.

Browns prepping to draft a quarterback
The Browns released Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, who combined to start 13 games last season. That leaves Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney as the only quarterbacks left on their roster.

The Browns pick fourth and 26th overall this year, and if they take a quarterback with either pick, it’ll be the third time since 2007 they’d have taken a quarterback in the first round. The Browns are the only team to take multiple quarterbacks in the first round since 2007.

How bad have the Browns been at drafting?

In 2012 the Browns used two first-round picks to select running back Trent Richardson (third overall) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (22nd overall). Both players are no longer with the Browns.

A.J. Jenkins is the only other first-rounder from 2012 who is no longer with the team that drafted him.

Top stats to know: NFL free agency (Day 1)

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
What were the top statistical storylines from Day 1 of NFL free agency?

Most prominent signing: Saints nab Byrd; Broncos net Talib
The New Orleans Saints made the biggest acquisition of the day, agreeing to terms with three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.
Jairus Byrd

Byrd has intercepted 22 passes since he entered the NFL in 2009. Only Asante Samuel (25) has more interceptions over that time.

Late Monday, the Denver Broncos agreed to a deal with former New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.

Talib's 23 interceptions are the sixth-most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2008.

Talib will look to support a secondary that has defended deep passes well in the regular season the last two years, but has struggled mightily in the postseason.

Joe Flacco went 6 of 11 with 3 touchdowns when passing 15 or more yards downfield to eliminate the Broncos in 2012, and Russell Wilson went 3 of 3 for 80 yards in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Browns and Buccaneers spend on defense
The Cleveland Browns positioned themselves to be aggressive in free agency, entering the day $50 million under the NFL Salary Cap (third-most under the cap in the league) and they made an immediate impact by agreeing to deals with ex-San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner and former Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

Whitner was a two-time Pro Bowler and a key part of a defense that allowed the third-fewest points in the NFL last season. Opposing quarterbacks had a 39.9 Total QBR against the 49ers last season, sixth-lowest in the NFL.

Dansby was one of two players with 4.0 sacks and four interceptions last season (Lavonte David).

He led all linebackers last season with 17 total passes intercepted or defended and was one of nine players with multiple defensive touchdowns last season.
Alterraun Verner

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also made a pair of prominent defensive acquisitions, signing Michael Johnson and Alterraun Verner.

The Buccaneers recorded only 6.5 sacks last season by players lining up as a traditional defensive end (end of line, hand in dirt). That was worst among any 4-3 defense and second worst overall. Johnson has recorded 25.0 of his 26.5 career sacks when lining up as a defensive end.

Verner could be a key replacement for Darrelle Revis. Verner is one of 12 cornerbacks in the NFL to start every game in the last two seasons and has never missed a game in four seasons. His 17 pass breakups last season tied for second-most in the NFL.

Position of Note: Offensive Tackle
There was a major first-day run on offensive tackles with Jared Veldheer (Cardinals), Branden Albert (Miami Dolphins), Rodger Saffold (Oakland Raiders) and Eugene Monroe (Baltimore Ravens) all inking huge deals to join new teams.

Albert’s signing may be the most prominent. He played 72 percent of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive snaps last season. When he was on the field, the Chiefs averaged 5.7 yards per run to the left side. When he was off the field, that dropped to 4.1.

The Dolphins averaged 4.4 yards on runs to the left last season, a hair below the league average of 4.5.

The Raiders were also in need of an offensive line upgrade. Oakland quarterbacks were under duress on 32 percent of dropbacks last season, the fourth-highest rate in the league.

The Cuts
Costly contracts resulted in some notable names being cut loose, adding to the free agent pool.

The most notable among them were DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers.

Ware leads all players with 57.5 sacks as a stand-up linebacker over the last six seasons.He has also gotten to the passer as a defensive end, recording 26.0 sacks with his hand in the dirt. Only three other players have 20 sacks when lining up as a linebacker and defensive end over that time- John Abraham, Tamba Hali and Shaun Phillips.

Peppers ranks third among active players with 119 career sacks, trailing only Abraham (133.5) and Jared Allen (128.5). Ware’s 117 rank fourth. Those 117 trail only Reggie White’s 137 for most by a player in his first nine seasons.

Why these five have to thrive for Dallas

August, 9, 2012
Getty Images/Trevor Ebaugh, ESPN Stats & Information
Roll over each player to see why they’re so valuable to the Cowboys.

The Dallas Cowboys have immense expectations for 2012, as they will look to advance past the Divisional Round of the playoffs for the first time since the franchise won Super Bowl XXX in 1996. The Cowboys have a very talented roster, but here are five integral players who must play well for them to succeed.

Tony Romo
Tony Romo is the most important player for the Dallas Cowboys, and when he plays well, they win. In the Cowboys’ eight wins last year, Romo boasted a 82.7 QBR, throwing 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He was able to avoid sacks, taking only 11 (1.38 per game) and averaging 8.3 yards per pass attempt. However, Romo was a completely different player in the Cowboys’ eight losses. He threw seven interceptions and was sacked 25 times (3.13 times per game) with a mediocre 53.4 QBR. If Romo can limit turnovers and keep his jersey clean the Cowboys should be a force in the NFC East.

DeMarcus Ware
DeMarcus Ware is the premier edge pass rusher in the league. Ware’s 19.5 sacks last year was the second-most in the NFL, trailing only the Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen (22). Ware had the most sacks (9) of any player in a base defensive formation (3-4 or 4-3), and the sixth-most sacks when the Cowboys put five or more defensive backs on the field. He is a balanced pass rusher who can get to the quarterback in any situation, and will be a key cog in Rob Ryan’s defense.

Miles Austin
Miles Austin picked up last year right where he left off in 2009 and 2010. He was tied for first in the league in receiving touchdowns (4) and targets (24), and fourth in receiving yards (233) through the first two weeks of the 2011 season. But a recurring hamstring injury derailed his season, and he just simply could not match his production of his two previous years. In only eight games he caught 29 passes for 346 yards, with three touchdowns and one reception of 30 yards or more from Weeks 3 through 17. A healthy Austin should provide Romo with the elite big-play weapon the Cowboys need to compete in a very strong NFC East.

Sean Lee
Sean Lee is the defensive play-caller and leader of the Cowboys defense. Despite dislocating his left wrist tackling Michael Vick in Week 8 last season, Lee displayed his toughness by playing the rest of the year in a cast. He still led the team in combined tackles (104) and tied with David Harris for the most interceptions (4) in the league among linebackers. With Lee fully recovered, he should be even more effective in coverage and possibly take a step forward in 2012.

Jason Witten
Jason Witten has been one of the most consistent receiving tight ends in the league since 2007. He has finished in the top five among tight ends in both receptions and receiving yards in every season since then, and has led the Cowboys in receptions in each of the past five seasons. Witten is also an indispensable safety valve for Tony Romo when defenses send extra pass rushers. Since 2009, Witten’s 98 receptions against five or more pass rushers is the second-most among all receivers in the NFL behind Roddy White’s 116.

Credit: AP Photo/Dave EinselAfter making Mario Williams the first pick in 2006, the Texans will likely lose him to free agency.
The Houston Texans surprised a lot of people when they chose to take defensive end Mario Williams with the first pick in 2006 NFL draft and not running back Reggie Bush.

Williams did not disappoint, becoming Houston’s all-time sacks leader with 53. Now, Williams will likely be the most sought-after defensive player when free agency begins Tuesday at 4 ET.

In the last five seasons, Williams averaged 0.73 sacks per game, only DeMarcus Ware (1.0) and Jared Allen (0.99) had higher averages among players with at least 20 sacks.

Williams had five sacks in as many games in 2011 before he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. Houston’s defense played just as well last season after Williams suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5 (see chart).

Williams has 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Despite the Texans using five or more rushers at the third-highest rate over that span, Williams picked up 10 sacks when part of a pass rush that sent four or fewer after the quarterback.

Williams isn’t the only free agent who can get after the quarterback. With Jason Taylor’s recent retirement, John Abraham will enter 2012 as the leader in sacks among active players with 112. Abraham has recorded all 22.5 of his sacks the last two seasons when part of a four or fewer man pass rush. Only Jared Allen (26.0) and Jason Babin (23.5) have more as part of such rushes.

The Tennessee Titans are one of many teams that will be interested in a pass-rusher like Williams, but one player who might not be back with the Titans is cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Last season, Finnegan played every defensive snap for the Titans, one of five defensive players in the NFL to play every snap for his team. His 1,142 snaps played were the third-most by a defensive player last season. He’s also started 42 straight games, the fourth-longest active streak among cornerbacks.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers intercepted a career-high six passes last season (previous high was two), with five coming on throws traveling at least 15 yards downfield. Only Chargers safety Eric Weddle had more interceptions on throws of such distances. And since 2008, Rogers’ 66 pass breakups is tied for fifth most in the NFL.

How Pierre-Paul and Ware cause trouble

December, 30, 2011

Icon SMI/US Presswire
Jason Pierre-Paul (left) and DeMarcus Ware (right) could be pivotal figures in Sunday's showdown
With Eli Manning and Tony Romo combining for 721 pass yards and six touchdowns in the New York Giants’ 37-34 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, defense was a bit of an afterthought.

However, when the two teams meet Sunday night for the NFC East title, two of the most important players to watch for will be rushing the passer: Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants and DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys.

In Week 14, Pierre-Paul recorded two sacks –- one of which was a safety –- and blocked Dan Bailey’s game-tying field goal attempt.

The Giants relied heavily on a four-man rush against the Cowboys in Week 14, sending four or fewer rushers on 24 of Tony Romo’s 32 dropbacks, the Giants’ fourth-highest rate of the season. Pierre-Paul recorded both of his sacks in such rushes and has been one of the hardest defenders to stop in those situations all season.

Pierre-Paul’s active arms, as seen on that blocked kick, are also prevalent in his ability to swat down passes. Since the start of the 2010 season, no defensive lineman has batted or defended more passes than Pierre-Paul (15), whose eight this season are second-most on the Giants.

Romo is not the easiest quarterback to bat passes down against.

After having four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in his first five games this season, he's only had one pass batted down in his last 10 games, in which he's made 292 pass attempts.

For the Cowboys, Ware had a quiet game against the Giants in Week 14. He was held without a sack for the fourth time this season despite rushing the passer 33 times. However, Ware’s versatility always makes him a tough assignment.

Ware’s 18 sacks this season are tied for second-most in the NFL, but unlike the other top pass rushers in the league, Ware has done his damage from both sides of the line.

Ware is just one of four defenders with at least 4.0 sacks when lining up on either the left side of the defense or the right side. By comparison, Pierre-Paul has recorded 12.5 of his 15.5 sacks when starting on the defense’s right side.

In contrast to Pierre-Paul’s ability to get to the quarterback in standard pass rush schemes, Ware is at his best when the Cowboys send extra rushers.

Ware has picked up a league-high nine sacks when a part of a five-plus man pass rush, 2.5 more sacks than the next highest rusher (Connor Barwin, 6.5).

Ware has lined up on the right side of the line on just under 70 percent of his snaps played, which means he is more likely to bring down the quarterback when lining up on the defense’s left.

Manning was ready for Ware in the first go-around and has a lot of experience in passing against teams sending five or more rushers this season. His 208 attempts are 34 more than anyone in the NFL.

Manning's completion rate against five-man rushes (55 percent) is right at the league average, but when he hits a pass against the blitz, his 16.5 yards per completion is the best in the NFL.

Regardless of where Pierre-Paul or Ware line up Sunday night, the offensive lines will have to take notice. Only Jason Babin has more games (six) with multiple sacks this season than Pierre-Paul and Ware (five each).

Mark Simon also contributed to this post

Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireAaron Rodgers and Jared Allen meet again on ESPN's Monday Night Football
The Green Bay Packers are looking unstoppable this season, winning their first eight games for the first time since 1962 when they started 10-0 on their way to the NFL title.

The Packers join the 1990 San Francisco 49ers and the 1998 Denver Broncos as the only reigning Super Bowl champions to start 8-0.

Aaron Rodgers gets much of the credit for Green Bay’s success and rightfully so. He has thrown at least two touchdowns in each of the eight wins. Rodgers is also the first player in NFL history to throw for over 2,600 yards and 24 scores in his team’s first eight games.

If the Vikings hope to end a three-game losing streak to the Packers, Jared Allen will have to play a key role. He is second in the league with 12.5 sacks this season – half a sack behind the leader DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys.

On offense for Minnesota, Christian Ponder will start for the third time, coming off of his first win in Week 8 against the Panthers. Ponder lost his first NFL start to the Packers in Week 7 as he threw for 219 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Ponder will have opportunities against a Green Bay defense that gives up nearly 300 yards per game through the air – second to last in the league. But he will also have to be careful as the Packers lead the league in interception rate, picking off five percent of passes thrown against them.

Another thing that Ponder has going for him is Adrian Peterson in his backfield. Peterson continues to be one of the most physical runners in the league, picking up 455 of his 795 yards after the first hit. In Week 7 against Green Bay, Peterson racked up 89 yards after contact, the third highest single-game total this season.

D-Gaps: More yards allowed, more wins?

September, 30, 2010
(Filling you in on what you may have missed on the "other" side of the ball this week)

Three weeks into the season and across the league teams are winning despite surrendering obscene amounts of yardage. The 16 winners in Week 3 allowed a total of 5,752 yards (359.5 per game) and 73 MORE total yards than they gained. That’s right, losers gained more total yards than winners last week.

Five teams -- the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears -- won despite being outgained by at least 100 yards. A team has been outgained by triple digits 24 times in 2010, and those teams’ record is 12-12.

Last year, teams which were outgained by at least 100 yards were 18-102 (.176 win percentage). That number is in line with what we've seen from teams outgained by that much dating to the merger. From 1970-2009, teams were 638-2,949-21 (.180 win percentage). So over the previous 40 seasons, teams won 18 percent of the time when being outgained by triple digits. So far in 2010, they're winning 50 percent of the time.

Ware, Cowboys defense secures first win
Needing a win to avoid an 0-3 start, the Cowboys got a huge performance from their defense -- especially linebacker DeMarcus Ware -- against the Houston Texans. Ware recorded three sacks and six tackles, five for a loss. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, a Cowboys player has registered at least three sacks in a game 20 times. Ware has done it six times, two more than any other Cowboy. Among active players, only Julius Peppers, with seven, has more three-sack games than Ware.

The rest of the defense combined to force their first three turnovers of the season as Dallas finished plus-three in turnover margin. The Cowboys have won 15 straight games with a plus-three or better in the turnover column since losing to the Cardinals in 1997.

McNabb needs to keep it short vs Eagles secondary
As Donovan McNabb returns to Philadelphia to face the Eagles for the first time, he would be smart to throw the ball underneath and check down frequently against a much-improved Eagles pass defense.

Quarterbacks have completed 1-of-12 passes and have a 27.8 passer rating on throws at least 20 yards downfield against the Eagles this season. The Eagles have allowed fewer completions on throws of that length than 29 of the NFL’s 32 teams in 2010. In 2008 and 2009, opponents completed 31.6 percent of throws 20 or more yards from the line of scrimmage vs Philadelphia and had a passer rating of 60.2 on those attempts.