Linking NFL Stats Together: Sacks, Picks, Rushing

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Looking at the top 5 sack leaders in the NFL, you will notice that a few of them are interior defensive linemen. There is nothing that J.J. Watt could do anymore to surprise us, or the Texans. He’s currently 2nd with 13.5 sacks with 3 games remaining. The man on top is none other than Khalil Mack for the silver & black. Last season, we simply had to take what players and coaches would say about the rookie. In his 2nd season, he’s figured out a way to translate into statistics with 14 sacks.

It appears that Detroit knew what they were doing when they drafted Ezekiel Ansah. The young defensive end just might be entering his prime, tied with Watt at 13.5 sacks. Watt is one of the interior linemen in the top 5, the others being Muhammad Wilkerson and Aaron Donald. Wilkerson has been a beast for the Jets since coming into the league and he has a dozen sacks. Donald just showed the football world on Thursday Night Football, exactly why there’s so much hype around him. The 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year joined a stacked Rams’ D-line, instantly becomes their best player, and is now a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Justin Houston would be on this list. Unfortunately he hyperextended his knee and might miss the rest of the season, which is a big blow to the Chiefs’ playoff run. At the moment, Mack is the only linebacker getting to the quarterback at an elite level. He’s coming off a 5-sack performance against the rival Broncos.

You can bet that Watt is going to do whatever he can to regain the lead. I just find it so fascinating that he continues to rack up these numbers despite getting double and triple teamed. He plays in 3-4 defense at both end and tackle, so what he does is even more remarkable than you already think. Some of the same can be said for Wilkerson, who plays at tackle in a 3-4 defense. Donald is also a D-tackle, and he’s been fantastic, but he does have a little more wiggle room playing in a 4-3 front.

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Something that goes hand-in-hand with a good D-line and pass rush, is that it benefits the secondary because of the duress that it puts on opposing quarterbacks. What I’m getting at is, three of these sack leaders have teammates in the top 5 of snagging interceptions: Trumaine Johnson has half a dozen for the Rams, Marcus Williams of the Jets has a handful, as does the ageless Charles Woodson for the Raiders. The other 2 players, they actually rank first and second, Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson and Carolina’s Kurt Coleman.

If you were beginning to connect the dots when it comes to statistics, look no further than the running game. Todd Gurley is proving St. Louis right for drafting him despite his knee injury. The rookie is a top-5 rusher, along with Chris Ivory of the Jets, who’s having a career year of his own. Mack’s teammate, Latavius Murray, he’s just outside the top 5 this season believe it or not.

A good ground game coincides with a good defense and these stats reveal that. For one, the offense isn’t going three and out so their time of possession is favorable. And two, the defense is fresh to unleash ruthless aggression.