Who was the Chicago Bears' top pass rusher in 2013?

Adam Bettcher

I was beginning to dissect some numbers to figure out which Chicago Bears defensive lineman had the most effective 2013 season rushing the quarterback. Then I figured I'd peek at the work over at Pro Football Focus, and wouldn't you know it, they had a Pass Rush Productivity stat sitting there for me.

I had a chart all drawn up and I was starting to do some actual math. I was adding, dividing, figuring out percentages, then it dawned on me... Why not scour the various Pro Football Focus databases to make sure the info I was compiling wasn't already out there.

It was.

Thankfully I didn't get too deep in my research before heading over to PFF.

Pro Football Focus charts sacks, quarterback hits, and QB hurries, and here's some pertinent info on their numbers before we continue.

They don't split their stats, so if two player officially get a half sack each per the NFL statisticians, PFF could hand out a sack to each player or just give the sack to one player. They also don't reward a sack in instances where the player did nothing to earn the sack. If a QB trips over his own feet and a defender touches his shoulder by accident, it's an official sack, but PFF probably won't count it.

They do their best to remain as objective as possible when grading and to be uniform from one grader to the next. Each PFF grader is taught a specific way to grade and I think they sum up what they do quite nicely.

Statistics in their raw form are considered objective. But in our opinion, with the small number of NFL games played each season, raw stats are very often unintelligent. If a QB throws three interceptions in a game but one came from a dropped pass, another from a WR running a poor route and a third on a Hail Mary at the end of the half, it skews his stats by far too great an amount to be useful. Our "subjective" grading allows us to bring some intelligence to the raw numbers.

I won't spotlight every player on the Chicago Bears that rushed the passer, only those that played over 200 total defensive snaps on the season. I'll also only keep this to the defensive linemen since they are doing the majority of the pass rushing in the Bears scheme.

The Bears did blitz on passing downs quite a bit under Mel Tucker, but that was because they had to find a way to pressure the QB. The Bears linebackers were credited with 11 of their 31 official sacks, and as could be expected their pass rushing productivity was higher since blitzing is unexpected to an offense.

Most of the data in the table below is taken directly from PFF. Total pressures is the sum of sacks, QB hits and QB hurries. Pass rush snaps is the total snaps the player actually rushed the QB on passing downs, on occasion the player would drop off ina zone blitz look, so those obviously weren't tabulated. Pressure per snap is just the percentage of total pressures the player had in correlation to how many times he rushed the passer.

The last number, Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP), is PFF's weighted formula to determine how effective a pass rusher is. The formula they use is (Sacks+0.75xHits+0.75xHurries)/Pass rush snaps. I've seen similar weighted formulas used by a few other saber-mathematicians.

Player Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Pass Rush
Per Snap %
Julius Peppers 7 6 27 40 442 9.0 7.2
Shea McClellin 5 9 19 33 357 9.2 7.3
Stephen Paea 2 1 14 17 252 6.7 5.3
Jeremiah Ratliff 1 2 3 6 116 5.2 4.1
Corey Wootton (DE) 1 1 6 8 181 4.4 3.5
Corey Wootton (DT) 2 3 19 24 283 8.5 6.5
David Bass 1 2 12 15 145 10.3 7.9
Landon Cohen 0 2 7 9 145 6.2 4.7

I can already hear the David Bass love growing...

I like Bass as a prospect, but keep in mind that he was often subbed in on obvious passing situations. Bass had one start on the season, and he was rotated in for the other 11 games he played. There's plenty of room for improvement in his game, but he did show a burst off the edge to harass quarterbacks.

For a little perspective on the PRP, the leading defensive tackle was Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy at 11.1 and the leading 4-3 defensive end was St. Louis' Robert Quinn at 15.3.

Among 4-3 DEs that took at least a quarter of their teams defensive snaps, Shea McClellin was the highest Bear on the list at 41. Peppers was right behind him at 42 and Wootton was last at 52.

Corey Wootton fared better as a DT, where he ranked 21st among the inside players.

41st best, 21st best... That's simply not good enough.

The Bears need some new blood on the defensive line. The draft is full of players that can be had in the first two rounds that could come in and make an impact. There are plenty of free agents out there that would be an upgrade over the guys that ended the 2013 season, and there's hope that their own injured players could return to form.

I like the switch to linebacker for McClellin. Even if he can't win a starting job out of camp, he'll still be in the role that's best suited for him, situational pass rusher. No more worrying about setting the edge in the run game against offensive tackles for Shea. As a strong side outside linebacker he'll be primarily matched up with tight ends, and on passing downs, he'll be rushing the passer. If he somehow carves out his niche in the middle, he'll still be getting after the QB on passing downs.

What do you think of the potential from Bass and the move to linebacker for McClellin? Do you think they will improve on their pass rushing numbers in 2014?

Do you think the Bears will make a splashy free agent signing and/or draft a pass rusher?

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