Shawne Merriman is pretty good. He might be the best linebacker in the league. But beyond position, he is clearly the game’s best pass rusher. But that’s easy for me to say, because I’m a Chargers fan, right? I guess so. But there are some interesting numbers that back up my claims.
Sacks are an easy statistic to look up. So I could have easily gone ahead and added up all of Shawne’s sacks since 2005 (Merriman’s rookie year) and compared it to his league counterparts'. His 39.5 sacks since 2005 already puts him at the top of the list. But there are a number of guys who have similar sack totals, so there is not enough information in that statistic to make for an interesting argument.
Let’s take Jason Taylor; Taylor has 36 sacks since 2005. That’s a very impressive number. Diminishing it’s impressiveness, however, is the fact that Jason Taylor only recently started playing a DE/LB hybrid role. The same is true of Derrick Burgess. Burgess has 35 sacks since 05. But again, he only recently started playing with his hand off the ground. Defensive Ends are allowed to rush the quarterback every down, so their opportunities for sacks are greater. Merriman, on the other hand, is often asked to drop into coverage. Sure he blitzes a lot, but his opportunities to rush the quarterback are lower than those of a defensive lineman. But since I don’t have Shawne Merriman’s blitz totals on hand, I unfortunately can’t compare his opportunities to any other player.
But what I can do is compare Merriman’s number of games started versus guys like Taylor and Burgess. This will at least allow me to see the difference between starting sixteen games and having 11 sacks and starting ten games and having 11. Now, all of the sudden we arrive at an interesting statistic; something I call Sacks per Game (SPG)
Lets compare Shawne Merriman’s SPG with some of the best pass rushers in the NFL (numbers reflective of 2005-07 regular seasons):
37 starts, 38.5 sacks = 1.04 SPG
Derrick Burgess, DE/LB
42 starts, 35 sacks = 0.83 SPG
Osi Umenyiora, DE
43 starts, 33.5 sacks = 0.77 SPG
Jason Taylor, DE/LB
48 starts, 36 sacks = 0.76 SPG
Jared Allen, DE
45 starts, 34 sacks 0.75
Aaron Kampman, DE
47 starts, 34 sacks = 0.72 SPG
Shaun Phillips, LB
32 starts, 23 sacks = 0.71 SPG
Demarcus Ware, LB
48 starts, 33.5 sacks = 0.69 SPG
Merriman is the only guy in the league who averages 1 sack per game since 2005. Nobody else can claim that, although Derrick Burgess comes close. The scary thing is, Merriman only started 10 games his rookie year and also missed some time with a suspension and an injury. Imagine Shawne’s sack totals with 48 games under his belt, instead of just 37! And did you guys notice Shaun Phillips numbers compared to Demarcus Ware’s? I guess that’s a discussion for another day…
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