Monday, March 16, 2015

One Piece of the Greatness of Patrick Willis

LOOKING BACK
by Nick Webster

When I first saw Patrick Willis play for the San Francisco 49ers there was only one player who came to my mind as a comparable talent—Ray Lewis. Hyperbole? No. Stylistically, physically, mentally, he was the most similar player I could think of. Over the course of the years that have passed, little has changed this impression in my mind. To me, the most obvious similarity is the combination of the anticipation to know where to make a play, and the ferocity with which they each arrived in making that play.
Patrick Willis. Art credit John Turney
Ray Lewis exploded on the scene in 1996 with an immediate impact, albeit on a poor Raven team, just as Willis would years later. Then, slowly, the Raven defense built around Lewis to become one of the best of all-time. Similarly, the 49ers built around their strongest asset: Willis, to build a defense that—were it not for their neighbors up North—would certainly be considered among the best of the decade.

In the year prior to reaching his crescendo as a Super Bowl champion, Ray Lewis posted one of the most extraordinary stats of all-time. He had seven pass stuffs during the 1999 season, seven times in a single season, from his linebacker position, Lewis was able to tackle a player who caught a pass behind the line of scrimmage—a pass "stuff".

Dating back to 1982, this was the first time a figure of this high was posted. And, that figure stood for just under two decades until DeAndre Levy tied it in 2014. To what degree was this a historical outlier?  Here are the pass stuff leaders for every year of the past two decades:

Year
Name
Pass Stuffs

Graph














1995
Ken Harvey
4








1996
Seth Joyner
4








1997
Jessie Armstead
4








tie
Randall Godfrey
4








1998
John Mobley
4








1999
Ray Lewis
7














2000
London Fletcher
4








2001
Takeo Spikes
3.5







2002
Al Wilson
3.5







tie
Mike Maslowski
3.5







tie
Sam Cowart
3.5







2003
Nick Harper
5










tie
Antoine Winfield
5










2004
Morlon Greenwood
4








2005
Demorrio Williams
4








2006
Scott Shanle
3






tie
Chris Gamble
3






tie
Asante Samuel
3






tie
Karlos Dansby
3






tie
Deshea Townsend
3






2007
David Thornton
4








tie
David Harris
4








tie
Nate Webster
4








2008
Antoine Winfield
4








2009
Nick Barnett
3.5







tie
Patrick Willis
3.5







tie
DeMeco Ryans
3.5







2010
Paris Lenon
6












2011
Aaron Curry
4








tie
Navorro Bowman
4








2012
Thomas Davis
5










2013
Thomas Davis
6












2014
DeAndre Levy
7















Lewis’ seven was an absolute outlier amongst a series of four pass stuff leaders. And while Willis appears only once as a single-season leader, his year-in year-out consistency mean his career pass stuffs are in excess of any linebacker to play in the past twenty years—a list that includes many of the recent greats at the position. Pro Football Journal will miss you,  Patrick Willis, the Hall of Fame awaits.

Career leaders in pass stuffs:
Rk
Nm
PStf
Avg
GP
1
Patrick Willis
21.5
3.1
112
2
Thomas Davis
18
2.5
117
3
Brian Urlacher
17.5
1.5
182
3
London Fletcher
17.5
1.5
256
5
Karlos Dansby
16.5
1.6
164
6
Ray Lewis
15
1.1
228
7
Daryl Smith
13.5
1.3
166
8
DeAndre Levy
12.5
2.2
89
9
Bradie James
12
1.2
157
9
Will Witherspoon
12
1.0
189
9
Derrick Brooks
12
0.7
224
12
Takeo Spikes
11.5
0.8
219
13
Wesley Woodyard
11
1.7
103
13
David Thornton
11
1.5
121
13
Keith Bulluck
11
1.0
170
16
Lavonte David
10.5
3.7
46
17
Pisa Tinoisamoa
10
1.6
98

No comments:

Post a Comment