Analyzing The 2010 Buffalo Bills Sack Numbers

One of the major gripes with former Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards is that he takes too many sacks. Looking back at the season, how much better was Ryan Fitzpatrick at avoiding sacks, and could you blame the offensive line for the problem?

Let's start with raw data (see charts after the jump). Edwards had 112 drop-backs in 2010, including his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Those attempts resulted in 11 sacks for a sack average of 9.8% - a hair less than once every ten drops. That number was even higher when he was with Buffalo, when he was sacked 11.9% of the times he went to pass in 2010. His average went up every season he was with the Bills, from 4.3% his rookie year to 5.8%, 11.2%, and finally 11.9%.

Fitzpatrick dropped back 465 times, resulting in 23 sacks. That's a sack rate of 5.2%, less than half of Edwards' 11.9%. For the record, Brian Brohm dropped back 26 times and was sacked three of those times for an average of 11.5%. Levi Brown wasn't sacked in his three pass attempts.

Quarterback

Pass Attempts

Sacks

Total Dropbacks

Sack Percentage

 Trent Edwards+

 52

 7

 59

 11.9%

 Ryan Fitzpatrick

 441

 24

 465

 5.2%

 Brian Brohm

 23

 3

 26

 11.5%

 Levi Brown

 3

 0

 3

 0.0%

+ - Trent Edwards' numbers are as a member of the Buffalo Bills only

But the raw numbers might not tell the whole story. Perhaps the offensive line for Edwards was worse than Fitzpatrick's. We can exclude the wide receiver corps because Fitzpatrick dealt with the same group for a majority of the season before losing Roscoe Parrish and Lee Evans to injury. The offensive line turned over a lot in 2010.

To narrow down if the offensive line was to blame, we'll look at how much time each QB had before they were sacked. JJ Cooper at NFL Fanhouse put together a chart of every QB sack in the NFL in 2010 noting how long each quarterback held onto the ball prior to being taken down.

"I chose three seconds as the demarcation line because it's a pretty fair cutoff point for where a sack can no longer be blamed on a quarterback's blockers," noted Cooper. "The median sack time in the NFL last year was 2.7 seconds, just as it was in 2009. Obviously a line should be able to hold a three-man rush back longer than a eight-man all-out blitz, but for practical purposes, three seconds is the point where a quarterback should generally know that he has to get rid of the ball."

Pulling out the three Buffalo Bills quarterbacks that took sacks in 2010 here's what the data looks like:

Quarterback

Sacks Over
3 Secs.

Sacks Under
3 Sec.

Total Sacks

3+ Sec. Sack Percentage

 Trent Edwards*

 3

 8

 11

 27%

 Ryan Fitzpatrick

 7

 16

 23

 30%

 Brian Brohm

 2

 1

 3

 66%

* - Trent Edwards' numbers include his games with the Jacksonville Jaguars

Brian Brohm held on to the ball a very long time when he played in Week 17. He was sacked three times in that game, twice when holding onto the ball for more than three seconds. It should also be noted that Brohm was playing with an injury-depleted offensive line which should have made him more likely to rid himself of the ball quicker. His sacks were by and large caused by holding onto the ball for too long.

Edwards' and Fitzpatrick's numbers are very similar. Both had between a quarter and a third of their sacks come when they held onto the ball too long. Both QBs, therefore, dealt with similar times when the opponents' pass rush was in their face in less than three seconds so that should remove it as a variable.

Fitzpatrick was clearly able to get rid of the ball rather than taking a sack. In fact he was more than twice as effective as Edwards in avoiding sacks. Both QBs were, like the majority of NFL signal callers, sacked more frequently in under three seconds than over three seconds.

The last number we're going to look at is once again courtesy of Cooper. In a separate article, he spells out how many sacks were results of "unblocked players". Some of these are designed, like play action bootlegs, while others are results of blitzes that don't get picked up by the linemen or the QB. The Bills tied with five other teams for tenth with six unblocked sacks.

Here's Cooper's entire list of QBs who hold onto the ball with Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger holding the ball for an obscene number of sacks and Peyton Manning who has a ticking clock in his head and was only sacked once when he held onto the ball for more than three seconds.

Quarterback Team Sacks Over 3 Secs. Sacks Under 3 Secs. Total Sacks
Joe Flacco Ravens 25 15 40
Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 20 12 32
Jay Cutler Bears 19 33 52
Michael Vick Eagles 19 13 32
Jason Campbell Raiders 16 18 34
Kyle Orton Broncos 15 19 34
Mark Sanchez Jets 14 13 27
Matt Cassell Chiefs 14 12 26
Phillip Rivers Chargers 13 25 38
Sam Bradford Rams 12 23 35
Brett Favre Vikings 11 11 22
Colt McCoy Browns 11 12 23
Aaron Rodgers Packers 10 21 31
Josh Freeman Buccaneers 10 9 19
Donovan McNabb Redskins 9 28 37
Matt Hasselback Seahawks 9 20 29
Matt Schaub Texans 9 23 32
Alex Smith 49ers 8 17 25
David Garrard Jaguars 8 24 32
Derek Anderson Cardinals 8 18 26
Tom Brady Patriots 8 17 25
Kevin Kolb Eagles 7 9 16
Matt Ryan Falcons 7 16 23
Ryan Fitzpatrick Bills 7 16 23
Troy Smith 49ers 7 11 18
Vince Young Titans 7 6 13
Chad Henne Dolphins 5 23 28
Drew Brees Saints 5 21 26
Jimmy Claussen Panthers 5 29 34
Jon Kitna Cowboys 5 15 20
Shaun Hill Lions 5 12 17
Carson Palmer Bengals 4 22 26
Drew Stanton Lions 4 2 6
Joe Webb Vikings 4 4 8
Charlie Whitehurst Seahawks 3 2 5
Dennis Dixon Steelers 3 2 5
Max Hall Cardinals 3 10 13
Rex Grossman Redskins 3 6 9
Seneca Wallace Browns 3 3 6
Tim Tebow Broncos 3 3 6
Tony Romo Cowboys 3 4 7
Trent Edwards Jaguars 3 8 11
Brian Brohm Bills 2 1 3
Brodie Croyle Chiefs 2 2 4
Bruce Gradkowski Raiders 2 8 10
Charlie Batch Steelers 2 2 4
Matt Flynn Packers 2 5 7
Matt Moore Panthers 2 10 12
Todd Collins Bears 2 0 2
Tyler Thigpen Dolphins 2 8 10
Bryon Leftwich Steelers 1 1 2
David Carr Texans 1 1 2
Eli Manning Giants 1 15 16
Jake Delhomme Browns 1 5 6
John Skelton Cardinals 1 8 9
Joshua Cribbs Browns 1 0 1
Josh Johnson Buccaneers 1 0 1
Kerry Collins Titans 1 12 13
Leon Washington Seahawks 1 0 1
Matt Stafford Lions 1 3 4
Peyton Manning Colts 1 14 15
Richard Bartel Cardinals 1 1 2
Tarvaris Jackson Vikings 1 5 6
Tyler Palko Chiefs 1 1 2
Brian St. Pierre Panthers 0 3 3
Caleb Hanie Bears 0 2 2
Chase Daniels Saints 0 1 1
Jordan Palmer Bengals 0 2 2
Mark Brunell Jets 0 1 1
Rusty Smith Titans 0 1 1
Stephen McGee Cowboys 0 2 2
Todd Bouman Jaguars 0 1 1
Tony Pike Panthers 0 1 1
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