Beyond Sacks, Dallas Cowboys’ Greg Hardy A Quarterback Terror


By signing Greg Hardy on Wednesday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys defense launched forward as violently as their new 6’4, 275 pound defensive end will on Sundays.

Even if only wearing the star for 10 regular season games (possible 6-game suspension), the 2013 Pro Bowler immediately elevates a developing Cowboys pass rush to the next level.

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Hardy also buys much needed time to address future pass rush by later means. In 2016, Dallas finally becomes free agency contenders again.  Lofty contracts will significantly reduce or exit the books, freeing funds for high level additions.

Not to mention, two drafts classes walk through the doors before the first game Hardy may be gone.  Dallas will surely add a high caliber rookie pass rusher.

Hardy turns 27 in July, and is every bit the game changing enforcer DeMarcus Ware was at the same age (2009).   27 sacks over his last 32 games suggests slim company, yet additional pass rush statistics place him among the NFL’s elite.

So often fans get caught up only viewing sack totals when deciding a pass rusher’s worth.  All the while skipping over other key pass rush categories that greatly hamper quarterback production.

When judging a rusher’s value, it’s simply not enough to use sacks as a sole indicator. Quarterback hits must be considered as they record the times said player knocked the passer to the ground after a hastened throw.

The same goes for quarterback hurries, which accounts for a player causing the quarterback to release the ball early to avoid contact.  Many hurries result in incomplete passes, as time needed to find open receivers is cut short.

Quarterback sacks, hits, and hurries all must be taken into account to paint a clear picture of how effective a pass rusher is at disrupting quarterback success.

Thanks to the dedicated folks at Pro Football Focus, their play by play grading system provides statistics in these key pass rush categories.  The following table shows pass rushing statistics for the top eight rushers in 2013.

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Hardy was actually tied for 3rd in sacks (14) in 2013, behind Robert Quinn (19) and Robert Mathis (19).  Mathis’ combined pass rushing stats didn’t qualify for the list.

When all three pass rushing categories are totaled, Hardy was the 3rd most effective pass rusher in 2013.  Only Quinn and J.J. Watt graded above.  Watt’s total of 85 slightly topped Hardy’s 83, proving the two players are near the same elite level.

To show Hardy wasn’t a one year wonder, I included his 2012 totals at the bottom.  I also added DeMarcus Ware’s totals from his 2008 season (Defensive Player of the Year) for comparison.

Not shown on the table was Hardy’s overall performance rating given to all players. The rating grades all aspects of the position…defending the run, pass rush, coverage, tackling, penalties, etc.  His 25.6 overall grade ranked 6th among defensive ends.

This was a solid move on the Cowboys part from all angles.  Hardy was by far the best pass rusher on the market from Day One.  He has the rare ability and proven production to rank among the top-5 elite pass rushers.

The one year contact is based mostly on game by game (53-man roster) checks and sack incentives above 7.  Despite the $745,000 base salary and another $1.3 mil workout bonus, the Cowboys wisely minimized financial risk.  They are covered during time missed due to suspension or injury, and in the event he finds trouble again.

This player isn’t just another really good defensive end.  Hardy is a force, an elite player, and legitimately capable of becoming the Cowboys version of Watt.

Hardy joining this defense is a very big deal.  I do mean a deep run in the playoffs type of big deal.  Welcome to America’s Team, Mr. Hardy.  It’s time to release the “Kraken”.

Next: Dallas Cowboys Sign Troubled But Elite Pass Rusher Greg Hardy