This week, we present to you the league’s top two sack leaders. They were All-Pros together in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and are both flirting with a record pace as we approach the midway point of 2011. But the similarities stop there.
Technically, they play different positions. One is a classic 4-3 defensive end, a hulk with a motor. The other is a 3-4 outside linebacker, a freak-of-nature with unique athleticism.
The former is Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings. The latter, DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys.
Both are pretty much pure pass rushers, which is why the comparison is acceptable. I realize that most 4-3 teams would probably prefer Allen, while the majority of 3-4 defenses would take Ware. But pretend for a second that your team still hasn’t picked a defensive formation — suspend your disbelief!
I also realize that Ware gets a little more love and attention. But part of the purpose of this column is to shed light on potential misconceptions. Ware was a first-round draft pick, while Allen was passed on 125 times in the draft. Ware plays in the capital of the football world, while Allen is stuck in Minnesota. Maybe, if their situations were reversed, Ware wouldn’t have been ranked 68 spots higher than Allen on the NFL Network’s recent top 100 players list.
Take a step back, look at the numbers and consider the variables. Who would you rather have on your team?
Experience: 7th season
Career stats: 102 GMS, 88 SCK, 440 TKL, 26 FF, 1 INT
Last 16 games: 15.5 SCK, 59 TKL, 2 FF, 0 INT
This season: 6 GMS, 8 SCK, 20 TKL, 1 FF, 0 INT
Playoff stats: 3 GMS, 4 SCK
All-Pro: 3 times
Experience: 8th season
Career stats: 116 GMS, 94.5 SCK, 421 TKL, 24 FF, 5 INT
Last 16 games: 21.5 SCK, 67 TKL, 3 FF, 1 INT
This season: 7 GMS, 11.5 SCK, 29 TKL, 2 FF, 1 INT
Playoff stats: 3 GMS, 3 SCK
All-Pro: 3 times
On a per-game basis, Ware has been slightly better than Allen at getting to the quarterback and making tackles in general. But dating back to midway through last season, Allen has a significant edge over Ware in terms of sacks, tackles and forced fumbles.
Now, some might argue that Ware, as a linebacker, is more versatile than Allen. But keep in mind that Ware plays with his hand in the dirt on the vast majority of snaps, and Allen actually has got his hands on twice the number of balls Ware has in their respective careers. Allen also has five interceptions, while Ware has just one.
It’s tough to tell who’s benefited more from the support they’ve received. Anthony Spencer has served as a stellar sidekick to Ware as of late, while Ray Edwards performed well in that role for Allen between 2008 and 2010 (and Tamba Hali for two years in Kansas City before that). This year, Allen hasn’t missed a beat without Edwards. And it’s probably safe to say that Ware has at least benefited from more pass-rushing depth in Dallas (think: Bradie James, Jay Ratliff, Greg Ellis, Chris Canty).
Sean Tomlinson’s take: If we’re looking for a thin edge — and we are — I’ll direct you to the amount of passes Allen has been able to get his hands on over Ware. He’s doubled Ware in passes defended (41-20), and his ball skills have improved with experience. Having five career interceptions as a defensive end is already a notable accomplishment for Allen, and four of them have come in the past three seasons. I’ll take Allen, but narrowly and uncomfortably.
Gagnon’s take: Allen is the hotter hand and has done slightly more with slightly less. I’m a bit worried about wear and tear because he’s played a year longer than Ware, but I’m still taking Allen in another close call.
So, who would you rather?
Last week’s Would You Rather: Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings?