December 11, 2011; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey (94) reacts during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Quantitatively Measuring Jeremy Mincey

A lot has been said about DE Jeremy Mincey.  He is expected to be a rock for the defense and to put pressre on the passer.  These expectations have been placed on him largely because of his “breakout” season in 2011 when he racked up a team-high eight sacks.

Last season was Mincey’s fourth in the NFL.  He is an emergent player from Mel Tucker and Gene Smith’s strategy of throwing as many players in rotation at defensive end until someone stuck.  The result was a strong 16 games from Mincey in 2011.  Recently extended, the Jaguars expect him to up his game from 2011 and to justify his spot as a cornerstone for the future defense.

So, how do we measure Mincey in 2012?  A lot of fans are excited to have him back for the next season and re-signing him was a priority for the team this off season.  But eight sacks really is not that much in comparison to the top pass rushers in the league.

The top rushers in the league (based on the top ten) averaged 15.2 sacks last season – almost double what Mincey put up during his 16 games starting.  The top player, the Vikings’ Jared Allen, had 22 sacks, almost three times as many as Mincey.

I do not expect Mincey to be competing for the NFL single season sack record like Allen, but making progress closer to the Von Miller/Connor Barwin level of 11.5 should be expected if he is going to stay with the team longer.  In the modern NFL, rushing the passer is the best way to disrupt the opposing offense.  While stopping the run is important for teams in the AFC South due to the prevalence of top rushing talents like Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and Chris Johnson it is also crucially important to be competitive against other teams in the league.

This year, Mincey will get plenty of opportunities to showcase his run stopping and pass rushing abilities.  Against teams like Houston and Tennessee twice this year Mincey will be able to show that he has the responsibility and skill to limit rushers throughout games.  Much like last year when the front four limited Cam Newton from being able to put up big rushing and passing numbers, Mincey will have to be patient and work well against running threats.

However, this year Mincey will also have to work hard to justify his pass rushing pay.  The NFC North is playing the AFC South this year and with their pass happy offensive attacks it will be difficult to be successful on defense without getting to Christian Ponder, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Matt Stafford.  Three of those quarterbacks will abuse weak pass rushes for big chunks of yards.

I want to see this all game long against The Vikings! Source: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

While hurries, rushes, and hits are also important statistics for a defense to focus on, quarterbacks really get worried when they know they are going to the ground.  Stafford, Cutler, and Matt Schaub are all coming back or have a history of injuries and will be wary of strong rushers off the edge.  Similarly, Ponder was abused all season last year and is still learning the ropes at quarterback.  Andrew Luck will be in a similar situation.

With the passing focus of many teams the Jags play this season, Mincey’s role on defense takes on even bigger importance.  So, what should we expect?

Personally, I expect Mincey to get 10 sacks this season.  While it would be ideal for him to get 12+ this season, I do not think that Mincey’s skills are as up to par as the numerous first rounds and physical freaks in the top 10. Mincey has skills and is valuable for his pass rushing and run stopping abilities, but he needs to get better in order to really be in the big leagues.  Going into 2012 measuring Jeremy Mincey against the top ten players from 2011 will be invaluable when judging whether he is worth the money that was paid him this offseason.

– Luke N. Sims

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers AFC South Arian Foster Ben Tate Chris Johnson Christian Ponder Connor Barwin Jacksonville Jaguars Jared Allen Jay Cutler Jeremy Mincey Matt Schaub Matt Stafford Minnesota Vikings NFC North Von Miller

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