Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers yet another of your questions:
“Lamarr Houston had the sixth most sacks of any outside linebacker last year. Playing half a season how does that not qualify as above average? — @MikeyLillo
“Houston played in all 16 games last season with two starts and was on the field for 40.4 percent of the defensive snaps after being used sparingly at the start of the season. He gained more playing time in the second half of the season when he was further removed from the ACL tear of 2014 and when Pernell McPhee missed substantial playing time with a knee injury. Houston was indeed sixth in outside linebackers with a career-high eight sacks but when you consider him in the class of edge rushers (also looking at statistics for 4-3 defensive ends) he was tied for 17th in sacks. Is that above average? Probably… [G]iven Houston’s improved production with more playing time, I’d imagine he’s in a better spot with the coaches moving forward.”
Biggs also emphasizes the need for more speed rushers at the outside linebacker spot, something I think we all agree with though pressure on the quarterback is pressure on the quarterback no matter how you do it.
Here’s the problem with Houston. Yes, he had eight sacks. But how many of them came at the end of games when everyone in the stadium knew the opponent had to pass? Under such conditions, players can pin their ears back and rush the quarterback with no consideration for having to stop the run.
Don’t get me wrong. Houston was valuable last year. But if you are going to consider how valuable you need to put the situation in context. There was a lot of what you could arguably call stat padding going on.
Bottom line, you’d like to see more of those sacks come at critical times earlier in the game when they have more of an influence in determining the outcome instead of when the outcome determines whether you get a sack or not.