Dec 23, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) runs on the field against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacon Jones Award: Chances Of A St. Louis Ram Taking Home The Hardware

 

It was announced this weekend that the NFL would be introducing a new award in 2013 in remembrance of the late, great Deacon Jones, who passed away earlier this month at 74 years of age. Jones is widely credited as the originator of the term “sack,” a statistic that did not exist at the time when the leader of the Fearsome Foursome was dominating the opposing teams’ backfield. Some believe that Jones tallied 20+ sacks in four separate season, a feat that few, if any, could replicate in today’s NFL.

The Deacon Jones Award, naturally, will be given to whomever leads the league in sacks during the regular season. While there has been an unofficially recognized “sack king,” the leader of the glory-statistic will now be honored with the rest of the “big awards” on the eve of the SuperBowl.

With Jones’ historic link to the Rams organization, it would be fitting that a member of the St. Louis Rams would be the first to take home the hardware. However, the race for the top of the sack board is always tight, with a handful of players each season posting ridiculous pass rushing numbers. Here is a list of leaders over the past 5 seasons:

Year Players Position Sacks Highest Rams Player Sacks
2012 J.J. Watt 3-4 DE 20.5 Chris Long 11.5 (9th)
2011 Jared Allen 4-3 DE 22.0 Chris Long 13.0 (7th)
2010 DeMarcus Ware 3-4 OLB 15.5 James Hall 10.5 (15th)
2009 Elvis Dumervil 3-4 OLB 17.0 Leonard Little 6.5 (32nd)
2008 DeMarcus Ware 3-4 OLB 20.0 James Hall 6.5 (29th)

The names on that list are some good company, with at least two sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famers in Jared  Allen and DeMarcus Ware. Both Dumervil and Watt are both considered Top 5 players at their position, with Watt winning the Defensive Player of the Year last season for his dominating performance. So, what are the chances that a Rams will make it to the top? There are a couple of factors that might help next season…

The new age of pass rushers are 3-4 outside linebackers, with players like Aldon Smith, Clay Matthews, and DeMarcus Ware regularly posting Top 5 sacks totals. However, the rest of that Top 5 is typically filled with 4-3 defensive ends, which may be a good sign for the Rams.

Secondly, last season, the Rams were forced into rushing four down linemen far too often as a result of sub-par play at outside linebacker. Yes, St. Louis did lead the NFL in sacks last season, but that number is somewhat misleading, with a handful of massive sack games driving up the overall total  (6.0 against Chicago; 9.0 against Arizona; 6.0 against Seattle) Even when rushing four or five players, the offense should have the upper hand, typically designating six players to blocking (in some capacity) on a majority of pass downs. With the drafting of Alec Ogletree, Tim Walton and the defense should get a little more creative with their blitz packages. That should work in the Rams’ favor…

Lastly, the most logical way to increase sacks for an individual player is by giving him more attempts. How do you get more attempts? Well, it is no surprise that the leaders in sacks typically come from teams with winning records. When an offense is trailing in the latter stages of a game, the coordinator typically shifts to a one-dimension, pass friendly attack… prime-time to shine as a pass rusher on the opposing team. If that St. Louis Rams can improve offensively (i.e. holding a lead in the 4th quarter), players like Chris Long and Robert Quinn could certainly see more opportunities to truly rush the passer.

There is no telling who will pull through next season and lead the league in sacks. However, there would be nothing sweeter than seeing a St. Louis Ram bring home the Deacon Jones Award to the organization where it all began!

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