This offseason, Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm will look into what is overrated and underrated in all aspects of the NFL. We fully expect your angry emails and comments that are sure to follow.
OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED: Pass rusher
Eric Edholm: Bears DE Jared Allen
The 32-year-old Allen has 128.5 sacks and 29 forced fumbles in his 10-year career, has had only two seasons with fewer than 11 sacks (his first and third years in the league) and has displayed an uncanny knack to handle a yeoman’s workload.
Allen routinely plays more than 1,000 snaps per season, which only a select few defensive linemen are capable of, and he has only missed three games in his career.
Then why so overrated?
Allen’s sacks often come in bunches, and the past few seasons when the Vikings have been out of contention he has racked up a lot of December sacks that padded his stats but didn’t really help the team that much. In 2012, when the team made the postseason, eight of his 12 sacks came when the Vikings were up nine points or more.
Look, sacks are never bad, and Allen gets a lot of them. But there’s a reason why the Vikings let him walk without much effort to keep him — and no outward concern that he landed with the division-rival Chicago Bears.
Allen impacts games, but he’s no longer the complete player he was. According to Pro Football Focus, despite ranking third among NFL 4-3 defensive ends in snaps played, Allen had fewer quarterback hits than Carlos Dunlap and only 34 QB hurries — 29 fewer than former teammate Brian Robison and the same number as Jason Babin, who played 304 fewer snaps for the Jaguars.
We love Allen’s hustle and his style. He brings a lot to the team he’s on. But he’s no longer an elite pass rusher.
Frank Schwab: Bills DE Mario Williams
Williams hasn’t had a bad career of course, but it has kind of left everyone wanting more.
Williams has been playing eight years and has been somewhere on the Associated Press’ All-Pro list just once, a second-team nod in 2007. He has failed to reach 10 sacks in four of his eight seasons.
This is a player who Houston selected as the first overall pick of the draft, and who became the highest paid player in Buffalo Bills history and the highest paid defensive player in NFL history when he signed a six-year, $96 million contract in 2012. He hasn’t been bad for the Bills, with 23.5 sacks in two years, but he hasn’t exactly transformed the franchise either. And for the money he got, that should be the expectation. He was classified as a 3-4 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus last year and he finished 17th among qualifiers, behind guys like Jabaal Sheard, Junior Galette and Brandon Graham.
Williams hasn’t been a bad player, and at age 29 there’s still plenty of time for him to have that great All-Pro season. But to this point, we’re still waiting for it.
EE: Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy
The interior rushers seldom get the love, typically because their sack numbers pale in comparison to the edge guys. Such is the case for McCoy, who tied for 25th in the NFL in that statistic.
But only three interior players — Jason Hatcher, Kyle Williams and Jurrell Casey — had more last season, and despite the Buccaneers facing only 547 passes last season (10th fewest in the NFL) and not featuring another quality pass rusher.
McCoy came into his own last season despite most things going wrong around him and despite being used early in the season in ways that don’t harness his best skills. He often was asked to be the initial penetrator on stunts, allowing double teams to be drawn his way.
But once the former defensive staff realized how unproductive this was, McCoy became untrammeled. In the final half of the season, he played as well as any defensive lineman in the game.
Watch the Seahawks try to block him in the near upset in Week 9. The Falcons had few answers for McCoy — in Week 7 or Week 11. Or Miami in Week 10, Detroit in Week 12, Buffalo in Week 14, San Francisco in Week 15 …
The good news, too, is that McCoy will have a pair of great advocates in the new defensive scheme with head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who will use McCoy in the same way they used Tommie Harris and Kevin Williams, respectively, to great results. With his first-step quickness and strong hands, McCoy has a chance to put himself into the Warren Sapp (who had a combined 29 sacks in 1999 and 2000) neighborhood of interior rushers.
McCoy, 26, is entering his fifth NFL season and is set to have his best one yet. He might be the best pure interior rusher in the game right now not named J.J. Watt.
FS: Ravens OLB Elvis Dumervil
Whenever discussion of the league’s best pass rushers comes up, Elvis Dumervil’s name doesn’t come up enough.
He was a terror with the Broncos. He had a very good first season with the Ravens in 2013. Dumervil is best known for being part of the fax machine fiasco that led to the Broncos having to cut him last year, and he also has been overshadowed by Von Miller and Terrell Suggs the past few seasons. But he had a 17-sack season long before he played with Suggs or before Miller was in the NFL, back in 2009. Dumervil also was dominant at Louisville too, for good measure.
MMQB’s Greg Bedard tracked pass rushers through the season, and late in the year Dumervil had the best pressure rate in the NFL based on Bedard’s film study, with a pressure on 12.4 percent of his pass snaps.
Dumervil, who has 73 sacks in seven NFL seasons, was overlooked in the draft because he’s short, but that helps him in the pros. Huge offensive tackles have a hard time getting low enough to neutralize him, and Dumervil has a great explosion around them.
Dumervil just turned 30 so we’ll see if he starts to slow down at all, but through his 20s he was fantastic, although a bit underrated.
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