Caused Pressure Rate for 2023 Offenses


The ball is snapped, the defender crashes through the line, the quarterback is put on his butt, and then the finger pointing starts. Who’s responsible for the play blowing up?

The consensus when evaluating overall numbers, at least in analytic circles, is that offensive lines are generally responsible for allowing pressure, and the quarterback is generally responsible for those pressures becoming sacks. This works as a broad-strokes assessment, but it isn’t always true. There are times when the offensive line does its job perfectly, and yet the quarterback still finds himself hurried and harried. Perhaps the quarterback held onto the ball for too long, or a free pass rusher was allowed by the alignment or blocking scheme. Either way, it wasn’t the fault of a lineman being beat – and yet, when you look at the pressure numbers, they show up the same.

This means that teams with quarterbacks who get themselves into trouble make their offensive lines look worse in their overall pressure numbers, as can teams with schemes that more frequently call for pre-snap checks or allow free rushers. Some lines, then, may be getting too much of the blame for their teams’ pass protection struggles.

To help provide some clarity, we’re introducing something we’re calling “Caused Pressure Rate”. A team’s caused pressure rate is their pressure rate only when at least one offensive lineman is charted as being responsible – blown blocks and other similar mistakes. The higher a team’s caused pressure rate, the more frequently the line was blowing assignments.

The league’s median pressure rate in 2023 was 28.4%. The median caused pressure rate was 18.4% and the median uncaused pressure rate was 11.3%. A little less than two-thirds of all pressures can be attributed to the offensive line making a mistake, and most teams fall roughly within that ratio. 28 teams saw caused pressures account for between 55% and 70% of their total numbers and 16 were between 60% and 67%; those appear to be fairly normal spreads for teams. There are a few interesting outliers, however, so let’s talk about them.

The following table lists total pressure rate, caused pressure rate and uncaused pressure rate in 2023. We also rank teams by what percentage of their overall pressures were caused by the offensive line.

Caused Pressure Rate, 2023
Team Press% Rk Caused Rk Uncaused Rk Pct Rk
MIA 21.7% 1 10.4% 1 11.3% 16 48% 32
GB 22.0% 2 13.1% 2 8.9% 5 60% 24
LAR 26.5% 9 14.7% 3 11.8% 25 55% 30
ARI 28.4% 17 14.8% 4 13.6% 32 52% 31
ATL 25.5% 6 14.9% 5 10.6% 12 58% 26
DAL 25.7% 7 15.6% 6 10.1% 8 61% 22
JAX 22.8% 3 15.7% 7 7.1% 1 69% 3
TB 26.6% 10 15.7% 9 10.9% 13 59% 25
BUF 28.0% 13 15.7% 8 12.3% 28 56% 29
IND 28.0% 14 16.0% 10 12.0% 26 57% 28
CIN 27.3% 11 16.3% 11 11.0% 15 60% 23
NO 24.8% 4 16.5% 12 8.3% 3 67% 9
LAC 28.6% 18 16.5% 13 12.1% 27 58% 27
LV 25.4% 5 16.8% 14 8.6% 4 66% 10
DET 26.4% 8 17.2% 15 9.2% 7 65% 12
HOU 28.1% 15 17.8% 16 10.3% 11 63% 16
Team Pressure Rk Caused Rk Uncaused Rk Pct Rk
PHI 30.5% 19 19.0% 17 11.5% 19 62% 19
KC 28.3% 16 19.2% 18 9.1% 6 68% 6
CLE 30.9% 20 19.2% 19 11.7% 22 62% 20
SEA 31.4% 22 19.7% 20 11.7% 23 63% 17
NE 27.5% 12 20.3% 22 7.2% 2 74% 1
MIN 33.1% 27 20.3% 21 12.8% 29 61% 21
WAS 31.7% 23 20.4% 23 11.3% 17 64% 14
NYJ 32.0% 24 20.4% 24 11.6% 21 64% 15
SF 31.0% 21 20.7% 26 10.3% 9 67% 8
BAL 32.1% 25 20.7% 25 11.4% 18 64% 13
CAR 33.2% 28 21.7% 27 11.5% 20 65% 11
PIT 32.9% 26 22.6% 29 10.3% 10 69% 4
TEN 36.1% 29 22.6% 28 13.5% 31 63% 18
CHI 36.9% 30 25.2% 30 11.7% 24 68% 5
DEN 38.9% 31 26.0% 31 12.9% 30 67% 7
NYG 39.0% 32 28.0% 32 11.0% 14 72% 2

Whenever you get a big table like this, you should look for the extremes, and my eyes are immediately drawn to the Arizona Cardinals. It is commonly accepted that the Cardinals’ line is unimpressive, at best. They were just 19th in adjusted sack rate and ESPN’s pass block win rate; 24th in Dan Fornek’s offensive line rankings from earlier this month and a horrific 31st in Mike Clay’s positional rankings. But while it would be a stretch to call them one of the league’s best units, we can at least say that their quarterbacks did not make their lives easy last season.

The Cardinals jump from 17th in pressure all the way to fourth in caused pressure, with a blown block being responsible just 52% of the time. Instead, Arizona had the highest-rate of uncaused pressure in the league at 13.6% — that’s higher than Miami or Green Bay’s rate of caused pressure. Despite the line’s best efforts, their quarterbacks kept coming under fire all year long.

That’s convenient for us, because you can basically split Arizona’s season in two by quarterback, with Josh Dobbs taking the first half of the year before Kyler Murray returned for the second half. If our thesis is that pressure rates can be affected by the quarterback, then the Cardinals are a very good test case.

And, indeed, with Dobbs under center, the Cardinals’ uncaused pressure shot up to 17.6%. With Murray, it was a better-than-average 9.5%. That’s a significant dropoff, as Dobbs was a pressure magnet both in Arizona and Minnesota; only four other quarterbacks had a higher unearned pressure rate than Dobbs. That doesn’t explain all of Arizona’s drop in overall pressure rate (34.1% to 21.7%), but it’s a huge factor.

Some of that comes from Dobbs’ tendency to hold on to the ball. He had the 11th-longest time to throw at 2.95 seconds, per Next Gen Stats, and when you’re holding on to the ball forever, you’re asking your line to hold up for longer and allowing delayed blitzers the chance to blitz. Nearly 60% of Dobbs’ dropbacks took more than 2.5 seconds. More often than not, Dobbs would hold the ball until forced to make a decision, partly due to less familiarity with both of his offenses last year, and partly due to trusting his ability to move around in the pocket and make something happen; he doesn’t like settling for the checkdown or a throwaway. Murray doesn’t exactly make the throwaway part of his game, either, but he’s more content to tuck and run than Dobbs is, and he seemed to have a better command of the offense, going through his progressions faster and having a better sense of when and where to check to the hot read. That leads to fewer plays where Murray is freelancing, leading to less time for the offense to hold up, leading to fewer uncaused pressures. With Murray back for a full year in Arizona, perhaps the Cardinals can expect their pressure rate to drop accordingly, even if they get the exact same level of performance from their reshuffled offensive line.

Time to throw isn’t the only culprit behind uncaused pressures, but it sure is highly correlated with it. Atop NGS’ leaderboard, you’ll find Justin Fields, Nick Mullens and Russell Wilson, whose teams ranked 24th, 29th and 30th in unearned pressure. Meanwhile, the bottom of the unearned pressure leaderboard goes Jacksonville, New England and New Orleans, whose primary quarterbacks ranked third, second and eighth in time to throw. Trevor Lawrence may have not yet lived up to his entire promise as a prospect, but he very rarely gets himself into trouble, in large part because he’s quick and decisive in the pocket.

The Patriots being on that list is interesting as well. At first glance, their offensive line seems alright – their 27.5% pressure rate ranked 12th, after all. But they fell to 20th in adjusted sack rate and 32nd in ESPN’s pass block win rate. That 27.5% pressure rate seems a lot less impressive when you account for the fact that Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe were asked to throw the ball as quickly as possible to make up for a line that was beset by injuries, lacked depth from the start, and just wasn’t that good to begin with. Frequently operating as a sieve, the Patriots saw 72% of their pressures be blamed on a blown block on the line, easily the worst in the league in 2023. That low overall pressure rate is a mirage; one fabricated out of hot routes and screens and all manner of smoke and mirrors to try to fake a functional offense. On the few occasions the Patriots did try to drop back and let a play develop, someone on the line would inevitably lose their battles. There’s plenty to blame Jones and Zappe for, but they were given no help by the guys up front.

This is something we’ll keep tracking in future years, because the outliers can really be fascinating. With a couple years of data, we’ll get a better idea of which systems and quarterbacks are making life harder on their offensive lines.

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