Pass rush is an essential element of a defense to generate pressure and help other players on the back end by reducing the time an offense has to develop a play downfield. In 2020 the average number of sacks per team during the season was 33.8, and in 2021 this number rose to 38.9 sacks per team due to an extra game added for all teams.
As we inch closer to the 2022 NFL season, here we profile five teams that must see an improvement in their pass rush this year:
The Falcons only managed 18 sacks in 2021, which was last in the NFL and 11 less than the team with the second-least sacks. Dean Pees was in his first season as Defensive Coordinator in 2021 and will hope that a roster shuffle will improve the pass rush for 2022. They released Dante Fowler Jr, and double dipped at the Edge position via the draft, selecting Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone in the 2nd Round and 3rd Round respectively, and adding Lorenzo Carter via Free Agency.
The Eagles have an interesting unit heading into the 2022 season. They recorded 29 sacks in 2021 with a starting 4-3 front of Derek Barnett, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Ryan Kerrigan, but they roll into 2022 with Brandon Graham back after a ruptured Achilles ruined his 2021 season. They added Jordan Davis, the two-gapping, athletic defensive tackle from UGA via the draft to their interior rotation. Jonathan Gannon was also in his first year as defensive coordinator with the team in 2021, and the Eagles will hope another year of his scheme with these very slight personnel changes will produce more pass-rushing success.
The pass rush improvement required by the Lions is likely to come from Aidan Hutchinson in 2022. They added the home-state, University of Michigan DE to a D-line group already consisting of: Michael Brockers, Levi Onwuzurike, the Okwara brothers, and Charles Harris. There is talent on the D-line, but the Lions only managed 30 sacks during the 2021 season, under yet another first-season Defensive Coordinator and Ex-NFL Player, Aaron Glenn. They’ll hope another year of experience in a new scheme, plus the addition of Hutchinson (who racked up 14 sacks in his Senior year) will see a productive pass rush in 2022.
Kansas City Chiefs
Despite the Chiefs possessing a good pass rush on paper, they struggled to get to the QB in 2021, only managing 31 sacks. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who now has 2 Super Bowls under his belt as a coach, has been in his role since 2019 but the number of sacks achieved each season has been on the decline after 45 in 2019, 32 in 2020 and then the aforementioned 31 sacks in 2021. They added George Karlaftis via the draft, a well-built DE who’ll be a massive help in run defense but possesses great power in his hands to bullrush OTs and generate some more pressure.
The Texans have been in full-rebuild mode, trading their Franchise QB away, along with a lot of other assets to stockpile draft capital and cap space for 2022 and onwards. They managed to record 32 sacks with a starting defensive front of Whitney Mercilus, Vincent Taylor, Maliek Collins, and Jonathan Greenard. For 2022, they are projected to have a starting 4 of Jonathan Greenard (who produced well as a rookie with 8 sacks), Ross Blacklock, Maliek Collins and they signed Rasheem Green and Mario Addison as UFAs who achieved 13.5 sacks between them in 2021. This group has the potential to add a few more sacks than their 2021 total and be a productive unit if their new additions contribute pressures and sacks.