If sacks were the only way to measure the effectiveness of a team’s pass rush, then the Cardinals would have the worst pass rush in the NFL: They’re last in the league with just four sacks, and also last in sack rate, with just 2.8 percent of opposing quarterbacks’ dropbacks resulting in a sack.
But sacks are not the only way to measure the effectiveness of a pass rush, and the Cardinals say they’re making a big impact in other ways.
One such way is knocking down quarterbacks’ passes at the line of scrimmage, and the Cardinals did that very well on Sunday against Baker Mayfield and the Panthers, knocking his passes down seven times. Defensive linemen Zach Allen and J.J. Watt both said that was all part of the goal with their pass rush.
“That was part of the game plan,” Allen said, via the Cardinals’ website. “To get your hands up and affect the throws, and it worked. It’s good to have that in our back pocket.”
“We played great,” Watt added. “It was guys making plays all over the place, with sacks, batted balls, interceptions, just guys flying around making plays.”
ESPN’s pass rush win rate stat, which measures how often a defensive lineman beats his block within 2.5 seconds, actually puts the Cardinals as the third-best pass rush in the league, with a 52 percent win rate. So there may be some truth to the idea that even if the sacks aren’t there, the effect on opposing quarterbacks is there.
If so, the sacks should come — and that’s what every defensive lineman loves to do most.
“At the end of the day,” Allen said, “you go for sacks.”