As Pro Football Journal's Nick Webster stated recently the only thing working against Watt winning his third defensive MVP is J.J. Watt. Said Webster, "I think Watt is suffering from Peyton Manning, Bill Belichick, even Mike Trout disease. You expect him to be the best, so unless what he does is otherworldly it isn't worthy of special consideration." And he is right, Watt is having a great year, it just is not up to the same level as 2012 and 2014.
Through 13 games in 2015 Watt was second in the NFL in sacks with 13.5 and second in the NFL in run/pass stuffs with 13, both excellent numbers. However, in 2012 and 2014 he had over 20 sacks and in 2014 he had 23.5
So, while his current numbers do not pale in comparison, it can be understood that players who are having great seasons as well (Josh Norman and Aaron Donald to name two) will be given greater consideration. In fact, in the last few weeks someone can really make a mark for themselves by finishing strong.
|JJ Watt. Artist: Bruce Tatman Artwanted.com|
The only issue was the lack of historical perspective. Forty-six percent sounds great, but what is the average? Who is next best in that category? Those would be rhetorical questions from viewers of the game who are interested in such esoteric things.
Now, for a little bit of that missing perspective, I can share a couple of research tidbits that Pro Football Journal has had in it's
|Reggie White. Art by Merv Corning. NFL Pro Set.|
That piqued my curiosity and I decided to take a look back at some old NFL games I had on videotape. In the 1980s, when the Los Angeles Raiders were playing and especially when Merlin Olsen was calling the game, it would be mentioned Howie Long's value to the Raider's defense and how he was a guy who did little things, drew holding calls, double teams that freed others to make big plays.
|Howie Long. Credit: NFL Proline|
Long's top seasons were probably 1983-84. I had 19 Raider games in my library so I went through them and tallied those little things. What I found was that Long had been double-teamed (includes any triple-teams) 41.2% of the time on passing downs in those select games. Not quite as high as White or Watt, but seemingly in the same ballpark. Long had 24 sacks (13 in 1983 and 11 in 1984) those two seasons and was All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in both.
Also, in 1983-84 the other left defensive end in Los Angeles, Jack Youngblood was going through a transition. He had to play in a true two-gap 3-4 defense under the aforementioned Fritz Shurmur. Youngblood had excelled for 12 seasons
|Jack Youngblood. Artist: Merv Corning. NFL Proline|
It seemed to pay off as he had 20 sacks for those two seasons (10.5 in 1983 and 9.5 in 1984) and on passing downs over those seasons, he was double-teamed 41.0% of the time, 39.9% in 1983 and 42.7% in 1984 (including playoff games).
So, in looking at what limited data available it seems that Watts 46% is a remarkably high percentage. Certainly, it would be great to know the percentage is for Lawrence Taylor or Bruce Smith or others, but it seems Watt is due a great amount of credit since the numbers bear out the anecdotal evidence that he's a guy that needs special blocking attention to slow him down.
One additional note in the Defensive MVP race is that PFJ has looked at Aaron Donald's 2015 season and in the first 14 weeks Aaron Donald drew a double-team on run downs of 39.5% of the snaps and on pass plays he drew a double 40.3% of the time. The percentage on run downs is higher than Watt and lower on passing plays, which could make the race even tighter. Donald also will likely have double-digit tackles for loss in the run game to go with his current 11 sacks, so he should get plenty of notice by the DPOY voters, at least he should in our view based on our eye test as well.
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