2021 Defeats: T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward Making Historical past


NFL Offseason – Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones. Alan Web page and Carl Eller. Leonard Marshall and Lawrence Taylor. Jerome Brown and Reggie White. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs. Each decade within the NFL appears to have a dominant defensive lineman/edge rusher pairing, and now it is time to add Pittsburgh’s pair of Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt to that record. With 36 defeats apiece, the Steelers’ set tied for the highest spot because the NFL’s most disruptive defenders of 2021.

We have now a lot of statistics to measure quarterbacks, operating backs, huge receivers, and even kickers, however our numbers for particular person defensive gamers are much more restricted. Defeats are one solution to account for defenders who make frequent appearances on spotlight reels. A defender is credited with a defeat any time he makes one of many following performs:

  • A sort out that leads to a lack of yardage, together with sacks.
  • Any play that leads to a turnover, together with tipped passes that are then intercepted.
  • Any sort out or tipped move that results in a cease on third or fourth down.

Listed here are your leaders in defeats in 2021:

Most Defeats, All Defenders, 2021
Tm Participant Move DFT Rush DFT Whole DFT
PIT Cameron Heyward 20 16 36
PIT T.J. Watt 26 10 36
DAL Micah Parsons 23 12 35
LAR Aaron Donald 19 15 34
KC L’Jarius Sneed 24 6 30
CHI Robert Quinn 22 7 29
CHI Roquan Smith 15 13 28
BUF Tremaine Edmunds 13 15 28
BUF Matt Milano 12 16 28
ATL Deion Jones 15 12 27
NO Cameron Jordan 15 12 27
LV Maxx Crosby 17 10 27
IND Darius Leonard 13 13 26
LAC Kyzir White 10 15 25
NO Demario Davis 11 14 25
CAR Brian Burns 16 9 25
SF Nick Bosa 17 8 25
LAR Von Miller 13 12 25
SF Azeez Al-Shaair 18 6 24
CAR Haason Reddick 16 8 24
CLE Myles Garrett 19 5 24

Let’s get into what Heyward and Watt did to complete tied for first. Heyward’s 36 defeats break down like so:

  • 11 sack performs
  • 11 tackles for loss on run performs
  • 8 tackles past the road of scrimmage that led to third-/fourth-down stops
  • 4 tipped passes that led to third-/fourth-down stops
  • 1 interception
  • 1 tipped move resulting in an interception

And this is Watt’s path to 36:

  • 24 sack performs (together with 4 compelled fumbles, although every of these performs is counted simply as soon as)
  • 6 tackles for loss on run performs
  • 3 tackles past the road of scrimmage that led to third-/fourth-down stops
  • 2 tipped passes that led to third-/fourth-down stops
  • 1 compelled fumble on a run play

Watt led the NFL with 26 move defeats; Heyward’s 16 run defeats had been tied with Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano for many within the league. For the completists, we’ll word that there have been 4 performs the place Heyward and Watt had been each credited with defeats: sacks of Baker Mayfield and Ryan Tannehill, a third-down cease of Tyler Huntley, and a sort out of Alex Collins for a lack of 1.

We have now defeats information compiled again to 1997, and that is the primary time that two gamers from one workforce have completed atop the NFL. The 2007 Chiefs got here shut, with Derrick Johnson ending first with 35 and Jared Allen third with 32. The 2003 Giants additionally had two gamers within the prime three, with Micheal Barrow (36) and Michael Strahan (35) taking silver and bronze behind Ray Lewis (39). There have been 11 different cases of two teammates ending within the prime 5.

Our defeats information goes again practically 25 years, however Professional Soccer Reference tracks Approximate Worth again quite a bit farther than that—again to the start of the AFL in 1960, in truth. They credited Heyward with 16 AV and Watt with 15 final season, the second yr in a row that each gamers topped 15 AV. The season finder at PFR is just a little difficult as a result of it nonetheless makes use of the archaic DT/DE/LB place listings, however it seems that Heyward and Watt are the primary inside lineman/edge rusher combo to every prime 15 AV in a number of seasons since Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs, who did it in 2008 and 2011. Different inside/outdoors tag groups who pulled this off embody Minnesota’s Kevin Williams and Jared Allen (2008-2009); Philadelphia’s Jerome Brown and Reggie White (1990-1991); Minnesota’s Alan Web page and Carl Eller (1969-1971 and 1973); Kansas Metropolis’s Buck Buchanan and Bobby Bell (1968-1969); and the L.A. Rams’ Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones (1966-1967). That is some unique firm.

We will put Heyward and Watt in much more unique firm, nevertheless, by specializing in sack information. For the second straight season, Watt led the NFL in sacks, credited with 22.5 quarterback takedowns. Heyward chipped in with 10.0 of his personal. That makes Pittsburgh the primary workforce with a 20-sack participant and a 10-sack teammate for the reason that Minnesota Vikings in 1989, when Chris Doleman led the league with 21.0 sacks and Defensive Participant of the Yr Keith Millard added 18.0 from his defensive sort out spot. (That is not even counting the 11.5 Al Noga had from the left finish place reverse Doleman.) Formally, just one different workforce has ever gone 20 and 10: the 1986 Tremendous Bowl champion New York Giants, who acquired an NFL-high 20.5 sacks from league MVP Lawrence Taylor and a dozen extra from Leonard Marshall. Unofficially, Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau every had 20-plus sacks for the 1981 Jets, the one pair to ever try this. Per PFR, different 20-10 tandems embody Al Baker and John Woodcock with the 1978 Lions, Harvey Martin and Randy White with the 1977 Cowboys, and Jim Katcavage and Andy Robustelli with the 1963 Giants.

Inside Linemen

Most Defeats, Inside Linemen, 2021
Tm Participant Move DFT Rush DFT Whole DFT
PIT Cameron Heyward 20 16 36
LAR Aaron Donald 19 15 34
BUF Ed Oliver 8 13 21
PHI Javon Hargrave 11 8 19
DEN Shelby Harris 9 10 19
MIA Christian Wilkins 6 13 19
TEN Jeffery Simmons 11 7 18
CIN Larry Ogunjobi 9 8 17
IND DeForest Buckner 10 6 16
NYG Leonard Williams 9 7 16
LAR Greg Gaines 7 8 15
KC Chris Jones 12 2 14
WAS Jonathan Allen 10 4 14
LV Quinton Jefferson 7 7 14
DEN Dre’Mont Jones 7 6 13
SF D.J. Jones 4 9 13
PIT Chris Wormley 8 4 12
JAX Dawuane Smoot 8 4 12
TB Vita Vea 7 5 12
LAC Jerry Tillery 6 6 12
PHI Fletcher Cox 5 7 12
HOU Maliek Collins 5 7 12
NYG Austin Johnson 4 8 12
NYG Dexter Lawrence 4 8 12
ARI Zach Allen 4 8 12
SEA Poona Ford 3 9 12

That is the third time Heyward has completed first amongst inside linemen, and the sixth time he has made the highest 10, since he turned a starter in 2013. He knocks Aaron Donald into second place, ending a three-year stretch for Donald on the prime of those tables. (Donald and Heyward had been tied for first in 2019.) In eight NFL seasons, Donald has now completed first on the place 4 instances, second thrice, and third as soon as. The one inside linemen who’ve ever completed forward of Donald are J.J. Watt (2014 and 2015), Ndamukong Suh (2014), and Heyward (2017 and 2021). That is a reasonably good record.

Heyward led all inside linemen in each rush defeats and move defeats, with another than Donald in every class.

Edge Rushers

Most Defeats, Edge Rushers, 2021
Tm Participant Move DFT Rush DFT Whole DFT
PIT T.J. Watt 26 10 36
CHI Robert Quinn 22 7 29
NO Cameron Jordan 15 12 27
LV Maxx Crosby 17 10 27
DEN/LAR Von Miller 13 12 25
CAR Brian Burns 16 9 25
SF Nick Bosa 17 8 25
CAR Haason Reddick 16 8 24
CLE Myles Garrett 19 5 24
ARI Chandler Jones 13 10 23
PIT Alex Highsmith 8 14 22
BAL Tyus Bowser 11 11 22
LAR Leonard Floyd 14 8 22
NE Matt Judon 14 8 22
TEN Harold Landry 15 6 21
TB Shaquil Barrett 15 6 21
JAX Josh Allen 11 9 20
CIN Sam Hubbard 11 9 20
TEN Denico Autry 14 6 20
MIA Emmanuel Ogbah 15 5 20

That is the third straight yr that T.J. Watt has led all edge rushers in defeats, and the fifth time within the final decade {that a} Watt brother has led the NFL in that class. (C’mon, Derek, choose up the slack.) Watt additionally completed first on the place in move defeats, however three edge rushers managed extra rush defeats. One was—naturally—one other Steelers linebacker: Alex Highsmith, a 2020 third-round draftee out of Charlotte who blossomed in his first season as a starter. (There’s a purpose Pittsburgh made the playoffs final yr, and it wasn’t Ben Roethlisberger.) The others had been Cameron Jordan and Von Miller, who had been nonetheless excelling of their eleventh and tenth seasons as starters, respectively.


Most Defeats, Linebackers, 2021
Tm Participant Move DFT Rush DFT Whole DFT
DAL Micah Parsons 23 12 35
BUF Matt Milano 12 16 28
BUF Tremaine Edmunds 13 15 28
CHI Roquan Smith 15 13 28
ATL Deion Jones 15 12 27
IND Darius Leonard 13 13 26
LAC Kyzir White 10 15 25
NO Demario Davis 11 14 25
SF Azeez Al-Shaair 18 6 24
HOU Kamu Grugier-Hill 8 15 23
ATL Foyesade Oluokun 10 13 23
SEA Jordyn Brooks 10 13 23
HOU Christian Kirksey 11 12 23
GB De’Vondre Campbell 15 8 23
CAR Shaq Thompson 15 8 23
NYJ Quincy Williams 7 14 21
NYJ C.J. Mosley 9 12 21
SEA Bobby Wagner 11 10 21
PIT Joe Schobert 12 8 20
MIA Jerome Baker 12 8 20
ARI Isaiah Simmons 14 6 20

Dallas rookie Micah Parsons runs away with the lead right here, although that comes with one thing of an asterisk as a result of the Cowboys gave him a few 60/40 cut up between snaps at linebacker and at edge rusher. That does not essentially give Parsons a bonus—defeat totals for edge rushers and linebackers are often fairly comparable—however if you wish to argue Parsons should not be listed at this place and that the defeats crown for linebackers ought to go to Chicago’s Roquan Smith (who tied for the league lead amongst all gamers in 2020) or the Buffalo combo of Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, have at it. For the document, this is the weird path Parsons took to get to his 35 defeats:

  • 14 sack performs
  • 10 tackles for loss on run performs
  • 6 tackles past the road of scrimmage that led to third-/fourth-down stops
  • 4 tackles for loss on receptions
  • 1 tipped move that led to a third-/fourth-down cease

Yet one more defeat would have moved Parsons to the highest of the NFL pile, one thing no rookie has accomplished since Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing in 2009. Cushing (37 defeats in his first season) and Colts linebacker Darius Leonard (37 in 2018) are the one rookies on document to beat Parsons’ defeats complete of 35.

Due to his odd utilization, two-thirds of Parsons defeats got here towards the move. Regardless of his dominant lead in general defeats, he did not even make the highest 10 linebackers in defeats on run performs. The chief there was Milano, who has bounced out and in of the beginning lineup in Buffalo over time however was a pressure in 2021, making 16 defeats towards the run; his teammate Edmunds was considered one of a handful of gamers tied for second place with 15. Thoughts you, Milano and Edmunds weren’t the one gamers on the Payments protection who had good years…


Most Defeats, Safeties, 2021
Tm Participant Move DFT Rush DFT Whole DFT
BUF Micah Hyde 19 4 23
DAL Jayron Kearse 14 9 23
LAC Derwin James 15 5 20
BUF Jordan Poyer 14 6 20
NYG Logan Ryan 16 3 19
CAR Jeremy Chinn 12 7 19
NE Adrian Phillips 11 8 19
SEA Jamal Adams 9 10 19
MIA Eric Rowe 15 3 18
PIT Terrell Edmunds 13 5 18
CIN Vonn Bell 12 6 18
DEN Justin Simmons 11 7 18
LV Johnathan Abram 9 9 18
TB Antoine Winfield 12 5 17
ARI Jalen Thompson 7 10 17
NYG Xavier McKinney 15 1 16
ARI Budda Baker 13 3 16
LAR Taylor Rapp 11 5 16
PIT Minkah Fitzpatrick 10 6 16
NE Kyle Dugger 8 8 16

We have now one other tie, with Buffalo’s Micah Hyde and Dallas’ Jayron Kearse dead-even on the prime spot. Hyde has been a starter for the Payments and Packers for every of the final six seasons, however his breakout at age 31 nonetheless considerably got here from out of nowhere—his earlier excessive had been 19 defeats, set again in his first yr in Buffalo in 2017, and he had solely six in 15 begins in 2020. At the least he was within the beginning lineup, although. Kearse began solely 12 video games in 5 seasons with the Lions and Vikings earlier than beginning 15 for the Cowboys in 2021. He was particularly efficient as a blitzer, with 9 tackles for loss. That is why Hyde led all safeties in move defeats, however Kearse topped him in run defeats.

Kearse was not the highest security in run defeats, nevertheless. That honor goes to 2 safeties from the NFC West who had 10 every: Arizona’s Jalen Thompson and—sure—Seattle’s Jamal Adams. Thompson solely began 13 video games in his first two seasons; he made 12 official begins in 2021, however he was on the sphere for over 90% of Arizona’s defensive snaps, so realistically he was a full-time starter. He was really tied with Chandler Jones for the workforce lead in run defeats, which might be not excellent news for the Cardinals, particularly contemplating that they spent first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 on linebackers. Adams, in the meantime, had completed first or second on the place in complete defeats for 3 years in a row earlier than falling to a tie for fifth final season. Accidents knocked him out for 5 video games, and when he did play, Seattle’s conservative protection schemes had him dropping again greater than blitzing, and his sack complete fell from 9.5 to zero. He was nonetheless among the many easiest, nevertheless, when it got here to placing operating backs on the bottom.


Most Defeats, Cornerbacks, 2021
Tm Participant Move DFT Rush DFT Whole DFT
KC L’Jarius Sneed 24 6 30
NE J.C. Jackson 21 2 23
LAR Jalen Ramsey 14 9 23
NO Marshon Lattimore 22 0 22
DAL Jourdan Lewis 20 0 20
BUF Taron Johnson 16 4 20
PHI Avonte Maddox 16 3 19
CIN Mike Hilton 14 5 19
CIN Chidobe Awuzie 16 2 18
SF Ok’Waun Williams 13 5 18
IND Kenny Moore 12 6 18
JAX Tyson Campbell 15 2 17
ATL A.J. Terrell 16 0 16
CLE Troy Hill 12 4 16
DAL Anthony Brown 15 0 15
WAS Kendall Fuller 14 1 15
MIA Xavien Howard 13 2 15
PHI Darius Slay 13 2 15
NO P.J. Williams 11 4 15
DAL Trevon Diggs 14 0 14
ATL Fabian Moreau 12 2 14

Sure, there was a second-year cornerback making extra huge performs than anybody on the place has in many years, however it’s not the one you are considering of. Apparently no person instructed Kansas Metropolis’s L’Jarius Sneed that corners aren’t presupposed to make defeats. He is solely the second cornerback in our books to hit 30 defeats in a season, and the primary since Ronde Barber had 31 for Tampa Bay method again in 2001. How did he do it? On the floor, he did not have a whole lot of splash performs—solely two interceptions and one sack (although that sack resulted in a compelled fumble and, formally, a loss of 21 yards). However he had six tackles for a loss on completions and 5 extra on runs, plus a dozen tackles past the road of scrimmage that led to third-/fourth-down stops. The Chiefs used a whole lot of dime protection (28%, second solely to Miami), and Sneed usually discovered himself in a “slot linebacker” function, chasing down ballcarriers on runs and quick passes.

Trevon Diggs, in the meantime, barely makes the highest 20 corners in defeats regardless of main the NFL with 11 interceptions, most by any participant within the final 40 years. Other than these performs, nevertheless, he solely had three different defeats all season: one defensed third-down move towards Philadelphia in Week 3, one other towards the Giants in Week 5, and a sort out on a 9-yard achieve on third-and-10 towards the Giants in Week 15. 

Sneed led all cornerbacks in defeats and move defeats, however that does not imply that he was the very best cornerback in soccer. Jalen Ramsey, then again, could properly have been the very best cornerback in soccer, and his 9 run defeats—three greater than every other nook—are an enormous purpose why. He did not get many move defeats as a result of opponents not often threw at him (he didn’t make the highest 60 corners in goal charge), however Ramsey is the uncommon nook who combines shutdown protection expertise with bodily tackling capability, and operating at him wasn’t a great technique both.

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