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The NFL Has A New Way To Measure The Explosiveness Of Pass Rushers

Defensive ends and outside linebackers tasked with harassing the opposing quarterback are among the most physically imposing players in the NFL. Weighing 260 pounds on average, the current crop of NFL edge rushers is full of athletic marvels. Cleveland Browns defensive end and former first overall pick Myles Garrett has the physique of a pro wrestler, yet he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds and has topped 20 mph on the gridiron. 

While it’s not news that NFL athletes are big and fast, our ability to quantify their athleticism has improved immensely in recent years. And one of the most promising new metrics for judging pass rushers is the evocatively named “NGS Get Off” tracked by the NFL’s Next Gen Stats group.

Roughly analogous to timing a sprinter’s first two steps out of a block start, NGS Get Off measures the average time it takes for a defensive player to get past the line of scrimmage after the snap of the ball. The metric is a direct measure of quick-twitch athletic ability at a position for which such quickness is at a premium, and it allows us to ask a number of interesting questions about pass rush performance. Once a player makes it to the NFL and has met the athletic threshold to compete at the highest level, does being faster off the line tend to lead to more sacks, pressures and hits on the quarterback? Or do other factors like strength and technique start to dominate? And perhaps most importantly for evaluators and forecasters, is NGS Get Off stable? Do players who are quick or slow off the line one year tend to perform similarly the following season?

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To answer these questions, we took season-level data from 2017 through Week 9 of the 2021 season1 and tested the how well quickness off the line as captured by NGS Get Off correlates with ESPN’s Pass Rush Wins, pressures, quarterback hits and, finally, sacks. If being quick off the line and getting an extra half-step on an offensive tackle is beneficial — and since lower numbers are better — we’d expect to see a negative correlation between the metric and measures of rushing production. And that’s what we find.

Being quick off the ball leads to pass rush production

Correlation of the NGS Get Off metric with select pass rush productivity metrics, 2017-2021 seasons

Stat Correlation
Pass rush wins -0.51
QB Pressures -0.45
QB hits -0.35
Sacks -0.26

NGS Get Off measures the average number of seconds from snap to a player crossing the line of scrimmage. Data was filtered to players who lined up at least 50 times on the left or right edge of the defensive line each season.

2021 data is through Week 9.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information Group, NFL Next Gen Stats

The quicker a pass rusher is at getting across the line of scrimmage after the ball is snapped, the more good things tend to happen for a defense. Pass Rush Wins and quarterback pressures show the highest correlation with NGS Get Off, followed by QB hits and sacks. This makes intuitive sense. While sacking the opposing quarterback is the most valuable thing a pass rusher can do, sacks are fairly rare. QB pressures and hits occur more often and so are less influenced by randomness. As a result, players with low NGS Get Off times tend to see the greatest effect in their secondary, non-sack numbers.

Football metrics that describe good performance but fail to capture a repeatable skill are interesting curiosities but are of limited use for decision makers and analysts. The best metrics not only explain what already happened on the field, but also help us predict what might occur in the future. NGS Get Off is one of those rare stats. Its stability is high for a football metric,2 indicating that pass rushers tend to carry their NGS Get Off times with them from season to season.

Given the metric’s stability, it’s worth looking at where the league’s edge rushers stand at the season’s halfway point. Teams with fast defensive ends but poor sack totals — like the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints3 — might have reason to hope for more sacks down the stretch.

Who are the NFL’s fastest edge rushers?

Pass rushers by average number of seconds from snap to crossing the line of scrimmage, among those with at least 50 pass rush snaps from the edge this season, through Week 9 of the 2021 season

player Pos Team Pass Rush Snaps Avg. get off time
Yannick Ngakoue DL LV 217 0.73
A.J. Epenesa DL BUF 105 0.75
Myles Garrett DL CLE 222 0.76
Maxx Crosby DL LV 234 0.76
Payton Turner DL NO 92 0.76
Ola Adeniyi LB TEN 80 0.78
Micah Parsons LB DAL 80 0.78
Dee Ford DL SF 74 0.79
Bryce Huff DL NYJ 143 0.79
Jerry Hughes DL BUF 159 0.79
Nick Bosa DL SF 193 0.80
Derek Barnett DL PHI 205 0.80
Cameron Jordan DL NO 244 0.81
Trey Hendrickson DL CIN 235 0.81
Trevis Gipson LB CHI 95 0.81
T.J. Watt LB PIT 187 0.82
Josh Sweat DL PHI 171 0.82
Emmanuel Ogbah DL MIA 221 0.82
Shaquil Barrett LB TB 224 0.82
Leonard Floyd LB LA 229 0.82
Brian Burns DL CAR 219 0.83
Robert Quinn LB CHI 180 0.83
Justin Houston LB BAL 167 0.83
Kemoko Turay DL IND 73 0.83
Rashan Gary LB GB 212 0.84
Chase Young DL WAS 244 0.84
Dante Fowler Jr. DL ATL 109 0.84
Wyatt Ray DL CIN 64 0.84
Takkarist McKinley DL CLE 128 0.84
Chris Jones DL KC 83 0.84
Haason Reddick LB CAR 203 0.84
Mario Addison DL BUF 121 0.85
Tim Ward DL NYJ 54 0.85
Jaelan Phillips LB MIA 192 0.85
Alex Highsmith LB PIT 161 0.85
Benson Mayowa DL SEA 73 0.85
Harold Landry LB TEN 261 0.85
Uchenna Nwosu LB LAC 120 0.85
Frank Clark DL KC 147 0.85
Clelin Ferrell DL LV 59 0.85
Ryan Kerrigan DL PHI 91 0.85
Terrell Lewis LB LA 169 0.85
Carl Nassib DL LV 79 0.86
Melvin Ingram LB PIT 119 0.86
Jonathon Cooper LB DEN 122 0.86
Jake Martin DL HOU 166 0.86
Darrell Taylor DL SEA 118 0.86
Josh Uche LB NE 102 0.86
Oshane Ximines LB NYG 81 0.86
Carlos Dunlap DL SEA 163 0.87
Joey Bosa DL LAC 174 0.87
Everson Griffen DL MIN 163 0.87
Cameron Sample DL CIN 84 0.87
Von Miller LB LA 170 0.87
Randy Gregory DL DAL 145 0.87
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka LB TB 94 0.88
Dorance Armstrong DL DAL 57 0.88
Markus Golden LB ARI 203 0.88
Jadeveon Clowney DL CLE 193 0.88
Kerry Hyder DL SEA 50 0.88
Samson Ebukam DL SF 90 0.88
Shaq Lawson DL NYJ 153 0.89
Jonathan Greenard DL HOU 119 0.89
Montez Sweat DL WAS 219 0.89
Whitney Mercilus DL GB 138 0.89
Justin Hollins LB LA 73 0.90
Aaron Donald DL LA 81 0.90
Khalil Mack LB CHI 142 0.90
Azeez Ojulari LB NYG 207 0.90
Bud Dupree LB TEN 157 0.90
Preston Smith LB GB 160 0.90
Chandler Jones LB ARI 197 0.91
Malik Reed LB DEN 201 0.91
Devon Kennard LB ARI 54 0.91
Alton Robinson LB SEA 65 0.92
Tanoh Kpassagnon DL NO 65 0.92
Odafe Oweh LB BAL 179 0.92
Jeremiah Attaochu LB CHI 57 0.92
Carl Granderson DL NO 99 0.92
Kwity Paye DL IND 157 0.92
Romeo Okwara LB DET 75 0.93
Dawuane Smoot DL JAX 166 0.93
Tyus Bowser LB BAL 121 0.93
Kyler Fackrell LB LAC 89 0.93
Quincy Roche LB NYG 78 0.93
Obo Okoronkwo LB LA 80 0.93
Matt Judon LB NE 204 0.94
Andrew Van Ginkel LB MIA 118 0.94
Jordan Jenkins DL HOU 94 0.94
K’Lavon Chaisson LB JAX 69 0.94
James Smith-Williams DL WAS 85 0.94
Deatrich Wise DL NE 92 0.95
Greg Rousseau DL BUF 119 0.95
Julian Okwara LB DET 51 0.95
Adetokunbo Ogundeji LB ATL 109 0.95
Sam Hubbard DL CIN 252 0.95
Lorenzo Carter LB NYG 134 0.95
Alex Okafor DL KC 120 0.95
Jason Pierre-Paul LB TB 157 0.95
Charles Harris LB DET 136 0.95
Rasheem Green DL SEA 67 0.96
Jonathan Garvin LB GB 117 0.96
John Franklin-Myers DL NYJ 181 0.96
Arden Key DL SF 62 0.96
Al-Quadin Muhammad DL IND 210 0.97
Tarell Basham DL DAL 139 0.97
Arik Armstead DL SF 72 0.97
Charles Omenihu DL SF 81 0.98
Stephen Weatherly DL DEN 74 0.98
Michael Danna DL KC 162 0.99
Marcus Davenport DL NO 86 0.99
Pernell McPhee LB BAL 53 0.99
Danielle Hunter DL MIN 206 1.00
Tyquan Lewis DL IND 92 1.02
Denico Autry DL TEN 148 1.02
Steven Means LB ATL 147 1.02
Joe Jackson DL CLE 53 1.03
D.J. Wonnum DL MIN 136 1.03
Josh Allen LB JAX 197 1.03
Trey Flowers LB DET 93 1.04
Leonard Williams DL NYG 64 1.08
Chauncey Golston DL DAL 75 1.08

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information Group, NFL Next Gen Stats

Which teams have the quickest rushers? The Las Vegas Raiders have the luxury of trotting out two of the fastest edge rushers in the league after their offseason acquisition of Yannick Ngakoue and the ascension of 2019 fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby. And Buffalo’s league-leading defense appears legit: The Bills are anchored by the league’s second-fastest duo off the ball in A.J. Epenesa and Jerry Hughes. Meanwhile, the Chargers’ 19th-ranked duo of Uchenna Nwosu and Joey Bosa currently leads the NFL in sacks with 28 and may be due for some regression.

Las Vegas has the fastest duo off the edge

Fastest pass rushing duos per NFL team by average number of seconds from snap to crossing the line of scrimmage, through Week 9 of the 2021 season

Rank Team Duo Avg. Get Off Time
1 LV Yannick Ngakoue, Maxx Crosby 0.75
2 BUF A.J. Epenesa, Jerry Hughes 0.77
3 NO Payton Turner, Cameron Jordan 0.79
4 SF Dee Ford, Nick Bosa 0.79
5 CLE Myles Garrett, Takkarist McKinley 0.80
6 PHI Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat 0.81
7 TEN Ola Adeniyi, Harold Landry 0.81
8 NYJ Bryce Huff, Tim Ward 0.82
9 CHI Trevis Gipson, Robert Quinn 0.82
10 CIN Trey Hendrickson, Wyatt Ray 0.83
11 DAL Micah Parsons, Randy Gregory 0.83
12 PIT T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith 0.83
13 MIA Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips 0.83
14 CAR Brian Burns, Haason Reddick 0.84
15 LA Leonard Floyd, Terrell Lewis 0.84
16 TB Shaquil Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka 0.85
17 KC Chris Jones, Frank Clark 0.85
18 SEA Benson Mayowa, Darrell Taylor 0.85
19 LAC Uchenna Nwosu, Joey Bosa 0.86
20 GB Rashan Gary, Whitney Mercilus 0.86
21 WAS Chase Young, Montez Sweat 0.86
22 HOU Jake Martin, Jonathan Greenard 0.87
23 BAL Justin Houston, Odafe Oweh 0.88
24 IND Kemoko Turay, Kwity Paye 0.88
25 NYG Oshane Ximines, Azeez Ojulari 0.88
26 DEN Jonathon Cooper, Malik Reed 0.88
27 ARI Chandler Jones, Markus Golden 0.89
28 ATL Dante Fowler Jr., Adetokunbo Ogundeji 0.89
29 NE Josh Uche, Matt Judon 0.90
30 JAX Dawuane Smoot, K’Lavon Chaisson 0.93
31 MIN Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter 0.93
32 DET Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara 0.94

Limited to players with at least 50 pass rush snaps from the edge this season.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information Group, nfl next gen stats

Sunday’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans pits Cam Jordan and Payton Turner against Ola Adeniyi and Harold Landry in what could be a sack-filled affair. And the Detroit Lions’ edge rush doesn’t appear to offer much hope for a team hungry for its first win of the season: The two are the slowest duo off the snap in the NFL and have hit the opposing quarterback just 27 times this season, also worst in the league.

Speed still matters in the NFL. For defensive pass rushers, it can be the difference between hurrying a quarterback into a mistake or watching him celebrate a touchdown.

Check out our latest NFL predictions.


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Footnotes

  1. Filtered to players with 50 or more pass rush snaps from the edge in a given season.

  2. Year-over-year r-squared of 0.30.

  3. The teams are tied for 18th in the league with 18 sacks.

Josh Hermsmeyer is a football writer and analyst.

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