Nathan Shepherd
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

A look at the film demonstrates that the player credited with a sack is often not the one who was most responsible for creating it.

Recently, I went over the many reasons that sacks can be a misleading statistic when it comes to evaluating individual pass-rushers.

One of the biggest reasons is that, oftentimes, the sack was not actually created by the player who finished it to receive credit, but rather another player whose pressure opened up an easy opportunity for the eventual finisher.

Let’s look at a few examples of this phenomenon.

Aaron Donald is arguably the most destructive pass-rusher in the game, ranking second in the league in sacks (72.0) and first in quarterback hits (173) since he entered the league in 2014 – as an interior lineman.

As great as those numbers are, they still do not capture the entirety of Donald’s impact.

Donald may not have finished the sack (he was shoved by the RG, so it was almost impossible to do so), but he beat his man and penetrated the pocket so quickly that Jameis Winston had absolutely no chance of getting a throw off. Sebastian Joseph-Day chased Winston down for the solo sack credit, but the positive result for Los Angeles was entirely thanks to Donald’s pressure.

Nathan Shepherd made some plays of this ilk for the Jets in 2019. He had an excellent finish to the season as a pass-rusher upon returning from suspension, recording a 10.4% pressure rate that ranked at the 83rd percentile among qualified interior defensive linemen.

From the 1/2i-tech position on this play, Shepherd uses a long-arm move to blast the center into Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s lap, forcing him to scramble into the arms of Jordan Jenkins for a sack. It’s a great finish by Jenkins, but the sack only happens because of Shepherd.

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