NFL Preseason 2012: Rookie Pass-Rush Production Through Week 3
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Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III may be the talk of the mainstream NFL media, but there are other rookies out there who deserve some attention and are equally as important.
Rookie pass-rushers drafted in the first two rounds are expected to come in and make impacts even more immediate than those of other rookies.
A pass-rusher's importance is equal to that of a franchise quarterback, because the best way to slow down a franchise QB is to get pressure on him.
With the NFL shifting even more heavily toward the pass, pass-rusher has become just as important as any position on the field.
Last year saw an unprecedented level of sack production from NFL rookies drafted in the first two rounds. Leading the way were rookies Aldon Smith, who had 14 sacks, and Von Miller, who notched 11.5.
The pressure for the 2012 rookies to match that level of production started the minute they were drafted by their teams and will continue throughout their careers.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at the production thus far of the rookie pass-rushers on each team to see how they're producing so far in the preseason.
If this article generates enough positive comments and discussion, I'll try and make it a weekly updated feature so we can follow those who are having the most productive pass-rushing seasons amongst the rookies.
The notable rookies we can take a look at, that were drafted in the first two rounds, start with Seattle's Bruce Irvin and end with Vinny Curry of the Eagles.
I put together this spreadsheet from NFL.com's gamebooks with stats that include tackles, sacks, tackles for loss (TFL), quarterback hits (QBHs) and forced fumbles (FFs).
The most significant discovery I've made from this preseason is regarding the player most scrutinized when he was selected, Seattle Seahawks rookie Bruce Irvin. Irvin was considered a reach, and thus far in the preseason, he has been unable to overcome the negative perception surrounding him. Irvin was the first pass-rusher selected in the draft, coming off the board at No.15 overall.
Irvin through three games of the preseason has zero tackles, zero sacks and zero QBHs. Thus far he hasn't logged a single official NFL defensive statistic.
On the other end of the spectrum, we find Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry, who may not be logging high sack totals but has been disruptive. Curry has collected 10 tackles and three TFLs through three games.
The most productive pass-rusher through the first three games of the preseason also had the highest sack total in college in 2012. Whitney Mercilus through three games has notched 2.5 sacks and four QBHs.
Through Week 3 of the preseason, eight of 10 rookies have notched at least one sack each, and it looks as though they'll be valuable contributors to their respective teams.
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