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Warning about Pass Rushing Rookies


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Don't buy into myth that rookie pass rush flops will improve

 

By Pat Kirwan | NFL.com

Senior Analyst

 

A few weeks ago, I presented what the expectations should be from rookie pass rushers in the NFL. Even the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Tamp Bay's Gerald McCoy, agrees with me that 30 tackles and three-to-four sacks is a heck of a rookie season.

 

Now it's time to look at what to expect from players entering their second year who were drafted in the first three rounds.

 

Here is a look at the sack leaders among players in their second year over the past three seasons.

 

Pressure players

Year, Leader, Total, Rookie total

2007 Mario Williams 14, 4.5

2008 LaMarr Woodley 11.5, 4

2009 Calais Campbell 7, 0

 

Many league observers believe that players take a quantum leap from their rookie season to their second season. They are comfortable in the system, don't have to deal with distractions from the draft, have experience handling money, have had a chance to work on their technique, and they are supposedly more mature.

 

Despite those advantages, however, it's not that easy to improve from being a non-productive rookie to a major second-year contributor. It doesn't matter how much money a young guy has been paid or, in some cases, how badly a guy wants to improve. I caution fans not to raise the bar too high for every second-year player hoping for a breakthough season.

 

Let's first take a look at the pass rushers from the 2009 draft. Washington's Brian Orakpo and Green Bay's Clay Matthews were outstanding in their rookie seasons with 11 and 10 sacks, respectively, but they were the only players from their class to stand out. Now the question becomes, can others take the next step in their development and deliver?

 

Eight pass rushers taken in the first three rounds last year did not record a sack as a rookie. Kansas City's Tyson Jackson started 14 games and failed to collect a single sack. What does recent history tell us about guys who don't get to the QB as a rookie and hope to get going as a second year player? What can fans expect from Jackson, Aaron Maybin, Robert Ayers, Ziggy Hood, David Veikune, Paul Kruger, Cody Brown and Tyronne McKenzie after firing a blank in 2009?

 

First let's look at the class of 2008 and see how they did in 2009.

 

Every GM in the league is hoping they have the next Calais Campbell of the Cardinals. Campbell did not record a sack as a rookie in limited action, but had seven in his second year. Campbell told me recently he credited playing with Pro Bowl DT Darnell Dockett for some of his success, but also pointed out that he could have been better if not for some near-misses. He's the success story many current second-year players will look to emulate. But for every Calais Campbell, there are four guys who don't record a sack in their second year as well.

 

Vernon Gholston, Kentwan Balmer, Chris Ellis, and Bryan Smith all went sackless in their second year, as well. The truth is, a guy without a sack as a rookie is probably headed for only one-to-two sacks as a second-year player.

 

So what is the possibility the rookies from last year who flashed some pass rush skills can double their output? Connor Barwin (4.5), Matt Shaughnessey (four) Michael Johnson (three), Larry English (two), Everette Brown (2.5), and Clint Sintim (one) are going to be asked for more in 2010. LaMarr Woodley is the poster child for some rookie production followed by a second-year explosion. Woodley grabbed four sacks a rookie, and then had 11 in his second season.

 

The reality check, though, is that in the two years leading up to 2009, 14 other rookie pass rushers did not make much improvement at all in their second season. Players like Derrick Harvey, Anthony Spencer, Turk McBride, Tim Crowder, and Quinton Moses all recorded less sacks in their follow-up campaign.

 

Studying the classes of 2007 and 2008 suggests there are far better odds a pass rusher who struggled as a rookie will be just as unproductive his second year. And here's a scary thought: Pass rushers who struggled as rookies aren't likely to even make that jump in the third year, either. Maybe the truth is that most guys just aren't talented enough to rush the quarterback, regardless of their experience level.

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I remember back to the days when people thought Strahan was a waste of space... :P . Truth is in college these guys are either bull rush strength guys or speed guys with only one technique. Just as Strahan used to say you have to develop a second move to be a good pass rusher and the elite have three moves. I doubt our boy will be the second coming of LT so he will have a rough year.

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Funny you mention this while we all sit somewhat patiently hoping the Jason Pierre-Paul experiment works out.

 

I remember back to the days when people thought Strahan was a waste of space... :P . Truth is in college these guys are either bull rush strength guys or speed guys with only one technique. Just as Strahan used to say you have to develop a second move to be a good pass rusher and the elite have three moves. I doubt our boy will be the second coming of LT so he will have a rough year.

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the title of this could be warning about "fill in position" rookies, most any rookie besides a few rb's now and then have much success, and most of those RB's go into a sophomore slump the following year, once teams starting stacking against them.

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Funny you mention this while we all sit somewhat patiently hoping the Jason Pierre-Paul experiment works out.

 

 

Yeah man... who knows what we have right now...it will be at least 2-3 years before we know if he is a pure waste of space. We were spoiled by LT thinking that a number one pick on the defensive side is supposed to redefine the position because LT did it. :P

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Yeah man... who knows what we have right now...it will be at least 2-3 years before we know if he is a pure waste of space. We were spoiled by LT thinking that a number one pick on the defensive side is supposed to redefine the position because LT did it. :P

 

I think it's just basic football... JPP was pretty much the best player on the board.. and it seems the Giants, rightly or wrongly, decided in the earlier rounds, you pick the best player available... if the small pool of best players happened to also be a need, then great... This draft didn't have any LBs.. other than McClain.. and even he looked stiff.

 

I your LT analogy is totally wrong.. I think the Giants saw their D and saw what rounds studs like Strahan were drafted in.. n decided first pick doesn't mean much (remember Ron Dayne?) I don't expect the kid to be a stud this year.. but most of us didn't think Hakeem Nicks would last year either.

 

The Giants are sitting pretty.. we're missing one LB.. not the entire staff... one linebacker people. And it's not like we'll play with one less man on the field.. nor the Giants are done signing players....

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You guys totally missed the point of the article. If JPP isn't a performer THIS year then the odds are stacked against him EVER being any good. DEs aren't like QBs.

 

Well Tree, I see the point Pat Kirwan is trying to make, but...he's cherry-picking to make it, as mild a point as it is; sometimes lousy players and busted picks still suck their 2nd & 3rd years... except for when they're good players, in which case they don't suck anymore. Thanks Pat, we really needed an unscientific study to figure that out.

 

In related news, experts say the stock market will go up or down.

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Well Tree, I see the point Pat Kirwan is trying to make, but...he's cherry-picking to make it, as mild a point as it is; sometimes lousy players and busted picks still suck their 2nd & 3rd years... except for when they're good players, in which case they don't suck anymore. Thanks Pat, we really needed an unscientific study to figure that out.

 

In related news, experts say the stock market will go up or down.

He's saying the odds are against it happening.

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I think it's just basic football... JPP was pretty much the best player on the board.. and it seems the Giants, rightly or wrongly, decided in the earlier rounds, you pick the best player available... if the small pool of best players happened to also be a need, then great... This draft didn't have any LBs.. other than McClain.. and even he looked stiff.

 

I your LT analogy is totally wrong.. I think the Giants saw their D and saw what rounds studs like Strahan were drafted in.. n decided first pick doesn't mean much (remember Ron Dayne?) I don't expect the kid to be a stud this year.. but most of us didn't think Hakeem Nicks would last year either.

 

The Giants are sitting pretty.. we're missing one LB.. not the entire staff... one linebacker people. And it's not like we'll play with one less man on the field.. nor the Giants are done signing players....

 

I think we are gonna play alot of nickel anyway next year bring in an extra DB especially when Phillips gets back on the field which I think he will, Thats the thing with JPP, he has a ton of upside, and he probably won't see that many snaps next year, but compared to other DE's like Graham and Morgan, JPP's ceiling in much higher, in 2011 we will see more of his potential, Reese thought no player is gonna make us better next year right off the bat in this draft, Weatherspoon maybe, but I am hearing Sintim is looking great, so he took the kid with the most upside.

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He's saying the odds are against it happening.

 

I know what he's saying, it just seems a worthless point to make in the absence of data.

 

Its like the meteorologist who authoritatively states after a quick glance at the radar that it probably won't rain, except where when it does.

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I know what he's saying, it just seems a worthless point to make in the absence of data.

 

Its like the meteorologist who authoritatively states after a quick glance at the radar that it probably won't rain, except where when it does.

 

I agree......if he broadened this to cover the past 30 years, we'd have a window that covers 1980 to the present....then, we could see have things graph out.

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