During the 2021 NFL season, all Steelers and NFL fans alike were blessed with an all-time season of daredevil superstar TJ Watt, tying the record for one-season sacks of 22.5 held by Giants’ Hall Of Famer Michael Strahan. He capitalized on this historic season for the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, arguably his second or third, defeating future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald and rising star Micah Parsons.
However, according to NFL.com writer Nick Schock, Watt was not the “disruptor” or the first pass in the site’s ongoing “Next Gen Stats” series, as they use a variety of different criteria to craft their “own” list of top categories as passers-by deep, explosive runners, etc. Instead, they gave that rating to Troy Hendrickson of the band’s Bengals competitor, who finished the season with 14 bags, or 8.5 less than a watt. For some pass racers, the 8.5 sack season is a great season and they have used that as a springboard to sign lucrative deals. Look at Matthew Godon of the Patriots as an example. Previously working for Ravens, he posted to that neighborhood in 2019 with 9.5 bags and then six in 2020. New England rewarded him for his efforts with a $56 million four-year deal.
Right now, no one in Steel City should be surprised that Watt gets any kind of disdain when it comes to recognition, but how can they just ignore the season he had and relate it to the fact that he accomplished everything he did despite missing two games, most three matches? Based on their criteria for this exercise, they used rating factor such as haste, sacks, QB pressures, rate QB pressure (QB pressure) and shifts induced by QB pressure (TO-QBP) to claim their claim. Shook explained his reasons for the runner-up status for Watt below, and the first several sentences seem to invoke how ridiculous this list is. After all, who was better at disrupting the opposition to QB in 2021 than Watt?
“Watt has scored the highest sack average for a single season (6.1%) of the Next Generation Stats Era (since 2016),” Shook said, according to NFL.com. “He also has the highest sack rate (3.7%) throughout the NGS era (minimum 1,500 pass shots). He’s more efficient going home than any arrogant in Next Gen Stats history. However, he’s second on this list because a player from A contender in the division happened to record the fourth-highest pressing QB in a single season in NGS history and force five turnovers by pressing in 2021.”
Basically, it looks like he handed Hendrikson number one on Watt due to the above shifts brought about by QB pressure, as he had five while Watt “only” had three. Again, this has to be taken with a grain of salt, because without missing nearly three games, Watt would have missed the one-season sack record and would likely be placed somewhere in the 24-26 range, possibly more. One could argue that he must already be right, but a very questionable rough call on fellow All-Pro Cam Heyward canceled another sack of QB Tyler Huntley of the Ravens in the regular season finale, which obviously would have given him the only record.
Keep in mind, too, that he’s had two or more bags in a game six times, including four eliminations for QB Baker Mayfield from the Browns in a Week 17 win. So what do you think of Shook’s NGS workout? Rowing or do you think Hendrickson justifies it, based on overall health and game availability? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.